Red Hat Satellite Review

A good product for managing patches and updates that could be more robust and up-to-date


What is our primary use case?

Red Hat is an operating system. It has been out since 1995 or 1996 and went through a few iterations before it became a true enterprise solution. Basically, they changed their name and changed the version name back between about 2003 to 2005 when they came to that point.  

Satellite is a package management solution most commonly used to maintain patch levels and security updates. It is something like what SCCM (System Center Configuration Manager) does on Windows servers and Windows workstations.  

What is most valuable?

Red Hat Satellite ties in with the Ansible Tower (software provisioning, configuration management, and application deployment). Ansible Tower is part of the Red Hat automation suite. Ansible is a pre-solution open-source product that allows you to automate the building and deployment of something similar to what you get with Amazon when you go to order a server. Basically it is like cloud technology. It allows the developer to order a custom server using a playbook. It could be Windows or Red Hat or a couple of other different platform distributions. The Red Hat Satellite stores all of the packages — or it is mainly Satellite which stores the packages. It is a deployment tool. It can deploy updates and various other solutions. It is scriptable using Python scripting, and Perl scripting, those being the base languages.  

Satellite can automate most of your update solutions. It also gives the administrators the ability to target deployments and only send out the updates or provision updates to certain groups. Microsoft puts out brand new patches every month and that sort of frequency needs to be managed. With Satellite, you can say you want to deploy these brand new patches to your development boxes and see if it breaks anything before you do any damage in production. If it does not break anything, then the patches or updates can go on to QA for testing. If everything works fine there, then you can group promote it and automate it out to production. Satellite helps manage these deployment processes in a logical fashion.  

What needs improvement?

I do not really notice anything in the product that is a glaring omission or that absolutely needs to be added. There is always room for improvement, no matter what software package you are using. I would say the room for improvement to me would be to include more diversity in what it can deploy. Right now, it is specifically for Red Hat products. Being able to deploy other products would be a benefit. For example, say if you have Ubuntu running in your network. Being able to deploy packages for Ubuntu with Red Hat Satellite for that product would be nice and would give you more of a single pane of glass solution. Having a centralized repository for your Windows patching would be nice. SCCM is a much more expensive solution than Satellite. You have got the licensing issues and all that wonderful stuff to go through. Satellite is a pretty robust solution in handling its responsibilities. Although I really have not gone through it enough to tell you all the little quirks, it would be nice to see its capabilities expanded.  

For how long have I used the solution?

I am not positive for exactly how long the company has been using the solution. Myself, I have used it quite a few times over the years. 

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

I think that Satellite is a pretty stable product. You download your repositories, check the versions you are running, download your packages, and then deploy them to your servers. The upgrades are really not a problem and the whole system is pretty controlled and stable.  

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Satellite is a scalable solution. It actually makes life a lot easier on your administrators. When you have a small company that has only about 50 to 100 Red Hat servers it may not be so valuable and that will depend on your management and your team. But in an environment where you have, say, 500 to 1000 servers, it cuts down significantly on the administrative time it takes to patch all those systems. I am talking about the number of servers and not the number of users. Because you can deploy the patches straight from Satellite, allowing for more automation, it does a good job and it is an efficient and dedicated tool.  

The biggest upgrade you could talk about and the one thing I would like to see added to Red Hat Satellite is demonstrated by how Oracle Linux handles upgrades. I am not a huge fan of Oracle Linux in general, but the method they use for applying patches is one feature that Oracle does use that is really nice. It allows a case splice. Basically that creates a scenario where it allows patches and kernel upgrades to be applied to the server without forcing a reboot. If Red Hat Satellite could implement something like that it would improve the product.  

In our environment, there are maybe three or four people who are generally used to maintain the solution or deploy the updates. That accounts for the total number of Red Hat administrators.  

How are customer service and technical support?

On a scale of one to ten where ten is the best, I would say that I would give Red Hat support about an eight. The high-end of eight out of ten. Say eight-point-five or eight-point-seven. Tech support across the board with tech companies is kind of spotty. For example, I have dealt with Microsoft in the past. I have been both in discussions with Windows systems engineers and Red Hat systems engineers. My experience with Microsoft is that I actually did more in finding my own solutions that I felt I had to share with the Microsoft tech support team because they had no clue. It did not really bolster my confidence with them when I was supporting the support team. With Red Hat, you can go out to forums and user groups and find out a lot of information before you even contact tech support. When you contact tech support, they usually have an answer.  

Red Hat support is clearly better and has more knowledgeable people than Microsoft. That might not be much of an endorsement, but I am happy with the way they support their product.  

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup for the product was pretty much straightforward. As long as you get an enterprise-level license using a proper subscription, you really do not have any problem with the installation and getting the system up and running.  

What about the implementation team?

The installation is pretty much straightforward. If you have dealt with Linux — and in particular with Red Hat — it is a pretty easy deal to do. The more difficult part of the deployment is just a matter of registering all your servers to Satellite. That can be a bit of a pain. It is not too bad. If you have already registered the servers with the Red Hat subscription service — as you would through their internet-based subscription — changing that can be daunting sometimes. If you are not really familiar with the scripting languages it is not so easy to do.  

As far as how long it took to do, I was not here when they initially set it up. I was not present for the original deployment at this company and all my experience as far as the setup is based on my prior experience and studying it by myself. I did that a while ago so some things may have changed.  

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Satellite is usually bundled with the Red Hat premium-level support. So you can figure — depending on the number of servers — it can be from a couple of thousand dollars per year to over $100000 per year. It is absolutely dependent on how many servers you are using.  

The effect is that there are additional costs for the support and all that stuff but the license itself comes as a single total cost. That is the license being a total cost for Red Hat servers bundled in with premium support.  

If you have more than 50 servers, I would say using Satellite would be a boon. Depending on the number of administrators you have hired and the number of servers you are using, it can be cost-effective or not. But that goes with almost any software solution that you use, across the board.  

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

SCCM is a package management solution most commonly used to maintain patch levels and security updates on Windows servers and Windows workstations. It is not really the same thing as Satellite but it is a similar product category piece offered by Microsoft to do a similar thing that is comparable to what Satellite does. It just does it for another platform that more people are probably familiar with.  

What other advice do I have?

On a scale from one to ten where one is the worst and ten is the best, I would rate Red Hat Satellite as about a seven or seven-and-a-half out of ten. It could probably be a bit more robust in some areas. They have not, to my knowledge, done a major revision update in a while. So I would say about a seven or seven-and-a-half is fair.  

Red Hat has been moving toward an Ansible solution more than the Satellite solution in recent years. That is not really a problem for me. It is just that I would like to see the Satellite server product more updated than it has been. It is a good product for what it does. It is just out-of-date.  

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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