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Linux: the management challenge.

A workplace furniture manufacturer uses e-support solutions to resolve IT problems.

Linux-based operating systems have been the fastest growing server-operating environment for the past two years. According to one research report, the Linux market will grow an additional 154% during 2001, matching growth rates experienced in 2000. Another survey found that 52% of respondents said Linux would be a viable alternative to Windows in small and midsize companies within the next 12 months. Forty-five percent of respondents said Linux would be a viable alternative to Windows in the enterprise in the same period.

The large number of PCs (both Linux and otherwise) and the growing number of important business applications that run on them have created a support problem of significant scale. As organizations come to rely more on employee access to information, productivity applications, enterprise and interenterprise business systems, they are forced to devote more resources to PC support, updating and configuration management in order to deliver needed service levels.

In recent years, IT managers have had to use more support staff for these problems, increasing help desk staffing, and deploying more troubleshooters and installers. Unless IT departments invest in solving them soon, PC support problems are likely to become even more burdensome. Greater support centralization using remote, over-the-network tools is critical to delivering timely, cost-effective support.

Although Web-based business service delivery creates more IT challenges, it also provides the key to the solution--e-support. E-support is not a specific product, but more a support process built around proactive service and automated return of an inoperable system to a working condition. This ensures that users can easily apply consistent resolutions to common problems. E-support's Web-based delivery allows anytime, anywhere support over the Internet or intranet. IT can therefore provide more support options at all times without increasing manual support costs.

One of the benefits of e-support for Linux implementation is that it reduces the need for a large number of Linux-trained technicians for systems maintenance. More than 30% of respondents in one study found support to be their biggest challenge, followed by lack of qualified people to work with Linux. In fact, Linux technicians ban be expected to cost companies up to five times the amount of other technicians.

This limited supply of Linux technicians can be expected to change dramatically over the next two or three years, but--in the meantime--the availability and cost of Linux technicians are having a negative effect on the manageability, if not the adoption, of Linux.

Enterprises are turning to e-support solutions to manage their Linux systems. For example, HON Industries, one of the world's largest manufacturers of office furniture, has 300 wireless industrial touchscreen PCs across 18 locations, ranging from a dozen to more than 30 systems per location. The multistate spread of the network made management an arduous task.

"We had to have a management tool that could manage all the computers at a specific location as a discrete unit," says John Syvertson, Unix systems manager at HON. To solve the problem, HON turned to Caldera's system management solution, Caldera Volution, for software management, software inventory and system health monitoring. Using Volution, HON can manage its network using profiles and policies, without having to individually configure each system.

Syvertson estimates implementing the solution will save HON the cost and time of about half an employee in ongoing support. An even bigger advantage, though, is that it allows the company to maintain consistency across all the systems, something that would be difficult were the management done manually.

As PC implementation and dependency increases and Linux usage expands, IT support will continue to be an ever-present necessity. Fortunately, support-specific solutions are becoming more available and are providing uniformity and ease of use across entire enterprise systems. The expansion of business support infrastructure required for the migration from bricks to clicks forces IT personnel to look to remote management, hardware and software inventorying, and software distribution as ways to contain costs and increase productivity.

The solution is found in the problem itself: technology. The adoption of three technologies--inventory tools, electronic software distribution tools and remote control tools--can assist in cost control and lowering the total cost of ownership.

Hughes is director of product marketing for Caldera Systems, Orem, UT.

www.caldera.com

Circle 263 for more information from Caldera
COPYRIGHT 2001 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Technology Information
Author:Hughes, Erik
Publication:Communications News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2001
Words:713
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