Lead Image © Kitsadakron Pongha, 123RF.com

Lead Image © Kitsadakron Pongha, 123RF.com

Managing Ubuntu with Canonical Landscape

Landscape Gardener

Article from ADMIN 30/2015
Canonical's Landscape management environment is an admin's friend when Ubuntu systems need patching, updating, and provisioning.

Canonical implemented a management solution for its Ubuntu operating systems at an early stage and integrated it deeply within the system. After all, most Ubuntu devices run without direct intervention in data centers. However, the freely available Ubuntu desktop is also very popular. To manage all of your devices – whether servers or desktop systems – you need a solution that helps when patching the operating system and when updating software. Landscape [1] fits the bill.

As a Service

The Ubuntu Advantage packages, which target enterprise users, include Landscape, a proprietary Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) management solution from Canonical. You need an Ubuntu One account for the cloud service (i.e., a user account for access to all Ubuntu services).

For use in larger environments and, in particular, for provisioning, delivering, and setting up new machines, Canonical also offers a Metal-as-a-Service (MaaS) implementation, in which Landscape runs on a dedicated server that accesses the same network as the computers you need to set up.

In this article, I look at the SaaS solution. To create an account, you only need an email address, which is verified by the system. After registering with Ubuntu One, you can register your Ubuntu Advantage pack, which then gives you access to Landscape.

Safe Access with Access Keys

The next step is to set up and register the computers you want to manage. To safeguard logging in to your Landscape account with a computer, you first need to create an access key in your account settings. Without this key, any Landscape client that knows your account name could log in to your account. To begin, log into an Ubuntu Server, which needs an Internet connection, and update the packages (Listing 1). The next commands install and set up the client.

Listing 1

Setting Up Landscape

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install landscape-client
sudo landscape-config --computer-title designation --account-name your_account_name

The value that follows the computer-title variable is the designation as you will see it in Landscape. To continue, confirm the prompt asking you whether you want the software to add the client to the boot process by saying Yes .

Further along the line, the setup script asks you for the access key you created previously. Without generating the key, the prompt would not occur. You can then enter an HTTP and HTTPS proxy, if needed.

The next prompt asks you to decide whether to allow scripts to run. This option is disabled as a general rule, but depending on your administrative tasks in Landscape, it might be necessary to enable running scripts (e.g., if you need to launch installation or configuration scripts). Your best bet is to allow the function.

The next setting lets you create local users who are allowed to run scripts. You can also define this restriction at the group level. Finally, you can add mnemonics for the server, which will let you assign, search for, or filter devices in Landscape. You can do this for server and desktop systems whether virtual or physical.


Back on the Landscape front end, the dashboard shows you that new computers have been registered and are waiting for authorization (Figure 1). Open the list of newly registered computers and select individual computers. You can now assign tags if you did not do this during the configuration and assign the computers to a group.

Figure 1: The dashboard gives you a full set of important information at a glance.

Of course, you will need to set up the group first under the Access groups menu item. Then, confirm the registration of each computer. Luckily, you can edit multiple computers at the same time and assign individual values to each. The Landscape client transfers all the required information to the host system after a few minutes.

From this point on, the dashboard is your port of call. This is where the system shows you the required tasks. For example, after a couple of minutes you will see that the security updates have not been installed and that general package upgrades exist (Figure 2). Landscape identified this in our lab for all Ubuntu systems we used from 10.04, through 11.x and 12.x, to 14.04.

Figure 2: Overview of pending security updates.

To install the updates on offer on your servers using Landscape, just click on the text of the message to open a window with a list of the packages to update. If you expand the individual lines, you will see the computers on which Landscape wants to update the package in question. You now have the option of selecting individual packages on specific computers or selecting all packages. If you only want to update individual computers, type the name in the search box to filter the list.

You can then define when to run the update. Confirm the details by pressing Apply changes . This queues the actions that perform the requested updates as per your schedule. The activity window shows the update progress. If an action is still in the queue, or not completed, you can cancel the pending update at this point, roll it back, or run it again.

Landscape output warning messages in the lab environment telling me that a computer needed to reboot. Again, you can do this remotely via Landscape. To do so, change to the computer list, which will show you the computer that needs to reboot. An info window shows the packages that necessitated the reboot. Select the computer and press the Reboot/Shutdown button.

A pop-up window asks whether you want to do this immediately or choose a date and time. For a timed restart, enter a time and press Restart ; then, log out of Landscape and close the browser. A glance at the server that needed rebooting shows that it shutdown at the defined time. Beforehand, you will see a message on the computer's screen telling you how many minutes are left until the reboot.

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