|F E A T U R E|
The Linux Challenge
June 26, 2000
By Greg Shipley and Kevin Novak
In the past two years, Linux has infiltrated mainstream computing with a vengeance. From Red Hat's IPO to adoption by IBM Corp., Linux is making serious waves in the enterprise space. When we first studied this freely distributed software last year, the young OS was still deficient in certain areas: lack of a journalized file system, lack of strong SMP (symmetric multiprocessing) support, immature vendor support models, lack of third-party application providers and a lack of overall polish. Still, it was creeping into the enterprise from the bottom up. Although some of these problems remain, Linux's adoption is in full swing this year. Dell Computer Corp. ships Linux as one of its three core OS offerings (along with Microsoft Windows NT and Novell NetWare); Hewlett-Packard Co. says its clients have deployed applications as critical as SAP on Linux. Hosting companies like Rackspace have successfully deployed more than 1,000 Linux nodes. And Alpha Processors Inc. (API) says the focus on Linux after Microsoft decided to stop supporting the Alpha platform has contributed to the 45 percent increase API has seen in Alpha sales.
Common Linux distributions have a laundry list of features that are clearly helping to drive the storm. On the protocol front, there's support for AppleTalk, infrared, IPv4, IPv6, IPsec (IP security), IPX, USB and wireless protocols. Adding to this list is support for more than a dozen file systems, SMP, clustering, advanced routing, QoS (Quality of Service), kernel-level firewalling, NetWare emulation and Samba for Windows file sharing. In addition, developers have dozens of bundled programming languages from which to choose (for example, C, C++, Perl, Python and TCL), and now Linux distributions are shipping with applications like the Apache/SSL Web server, IBM's DB2 and Oracle8i. Could it be that Red Hat's latest Linux distribution has more applications packed into it than Windows? It sure looks that way (see "Linux and Windows: A Warped Mirror?).
But other questions remain. How well does Linux fit the enterprise? How successful have Computer Associates International, Novell, Oracle and other companies been at deploying their products on this new platform? How feasible is running Linux as a core operating system in your organization, and how well will it work?
To answer these and other questions, we heroically plunged into the open-source revolution: The Network Computing Real-World Labs® in Chicago went Linux--big time. We converted our production systems into Linux-based solutions--everything from our file and print servers to our firewalls and backup systems. We even changed over our VPN (virtual private network) devices. We took Novell's eDirectory for Linux on a test drive, integrating our Linux servers into our NDS infrastructure. We slept with Red Hat CDs and put penguins under our pillows (stuffed ones, of course). We even had a few brave souls toss away Microsoft Office and move to StarOffice on X Window. Finally, we interviewed some of the large hardware players--including Compaq Computer Corp., Dell, HP and SGI--and got their take on the Linux scene.
The result? Some surprises, some interesting trends and some painful experiences. Linux has arrived and will continue to change the corporate landscape. One thing is obvious, however: How and where you choose to deploy Linux will determine whether your colleagues will come to praise you or bury you.
|PAGE: 1 I 2 I 3 I 4 I 5 I 6 I 7 I 8 I 9 I NEXT PAGE|