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The growth of Linux in the data center. (Internet).

Linux evolution remains true to its open source roots while expanding the base of customers that it serves. The latest trend focuses on enterprise stability and manageability. Products such as Red Hat Linux Advanced Server now provide customers with a Linux distribution that combines enterprise capabilities, such as clustering, with a more traditional deployment model. With releases scheduled every 12 to 18 months, Advanced Server provides a stable, supportable platform for running enterprise solutions. The industry continues to provide distributions, such as Red Hat Linux Professional, for those customers wanting the latest community updates and the ability to tweak the operating system. Both offerings further demonstrate the flexibility of this open source platform.

When Linux first entered the commercial sector, use of the operating system occurred on the edge of the enterprise--on Web servers, for example. From there, Linux moved into the infrastructure for deployments such as file-and-print servers. Today, Linux is moving deeper into the data center--a growing trend among many medium- and large-size businesses, organizations and research institutions.

That movement is occurring in conjunction with the evolution of hardware-based solutions, such as clustering. Now organizations are looking not just at an individual server, but at a combination of servers, storage, high-speed interconnects and switches that together can handle very complex computing problems and mission-critical processes. Many of these environments use the Linux OS.

We're seeing a displacement of RISC-based machines, even in the data center, by standard hardware and software. We're only in the early stages of this transition, and I believe this trend will really start to take root during the next year.

Evolution of Linux as a Business Platform

The development of open source software to support enterprise applications, the flexibility for customers to purchase systems pre-installed with Linux, and the growth of Linux enterprise applications and services are all factors that helped drive the acceptance of the Linux OS as a business-computing platform.

A critical initial step in getting Linux up and running as a platform for business computing was the availability of open source drivers, so that the peripherals used in the enterprise would be available in Linux. For example, Dell contributes 100 percent of the drivers that it has developed for its Linux-based systems to the Open Source community and continues to demand that its Linux software suppliers deliver their components under the GPL license. Commercial requirements ensured the GPL availability of many device drivers that would not normally be open source.

Second, vendors began shipping systems with Linux factory-installed. Factory installations give customers greater choice and can speed system deployment in their particular environment. In 1999, for example, customers could order factory-installed Red Hat Linux on servers and workstations from Dell.

Finally, supportability is a key requirement in the adoption of any platform or solution. One of the first enterprise offerings available on Linux was the Web server. Solutions such as Web servers and more complex cluster solutions such as Oracle 9i Real Application Clusters (RAC) and HPCC are providing practical value today. Furthermore, the supportive software and applications that an enterprise needs to have a full complement of applications and infrastructure in its environment are now available on Linux. For example, the Dell/EMC partnership recently released EMC PowerPath software for Linux to provide full redundant storage and access to storage, which currently is not available in Linux. Customers can now leverage the end-to-end expertise of vendors for Linux solutions as well as hardware and software technical support. The Red Hat One Source Alliance program, which includes Red Hat, Oracle and Dell, offers a full portfolio of life-cycle services, comprising assessment services, planning and proof-of-c oncept services and application porting and implementation services. The program's goal is to get more companies in the industry to fully embrace Linux over proprietary Unix-based platforms.

Linux Applications in Enterprise Computing Environments

Customers today are deploying Linux in three key areas: migrating from proprietary Unix to Linux environments, industry-standard high-performance computing clusters, and low-cost platforms running Oracle database solutions.

The move away from proprietary platforms and technology to industry and open standards is meeting new cost, efficiency and flexibility requirements of CIO/CTOs today. This area will continue to grow as economic conditions improve and customers look to replace older legacy RISC platforms moving forward. Standardized architectures provide customers with increased flexibility, optimized availability, high performance, simplified manageability, and high returns on investment and value. With the power of standards-based processors such as Intel Xeon chips, the high availability and reliability of today's server platforms, the new capabilities of Red Hat Linux Advanced server and the development of enterprise applications such as Oracle9i Database and Oracle 9i RAC, Linux platforms can provide all of the same capabilities as proprietary Unix and RISC systems--but at a fraction of the cost.

HPCC can be used to solve complex problems in data-intensive environments such as scientific, financial, and commercial industries. Organizations that previously could not take advantage of high performance computing because of the up-front costs of a proprietary supercomputer, can now deploy HPCC solutions quickly and easily by starting small and adding nodes as their needs grow. Today, HPC clusters can now achieve similar results at approximately 10 percent of the total cost for certain applications.

Standards-based servers running Oracle 9i RAC deliver state-of-the-art database technology by combining a highly scalable and highly available parallel database cluster. Customers can scale out by adding processors or memory to existing server nodes or by adding a node. For example, the Dell architecture of Oracle 9i RAC on PowerEdge rack servers running Red Hat Linux can lower acquisition and production costs by as much as 41 percent and increase performance by as much as 89 percent, compared to a proprietary RISC-based single system. This type of clustering can significantly reduce total costs of ownership by deploying standards-based technology to replace expensive proprietary platforms. The ability for organizations to run Oracle software on Linux platforms should further broaden the acceptance of Linux as an enterprise OS.

Good Candidates for Linux Deployments

Linux significantly lowers the up-front acquisition costs because it runs on standard hardware. When an organization can maintain its knowledge base, it can achieve as big a win--or bigger--in the lifecycle management cost.

Two fundamental decision points usually influence the deployment of an OS: one is the applications and the ability to move these applications to the new OS. The other is the IT culture.

The best candidates for Linux in the enterprise are organizations that can leverage their existing knowledge base. If a company has a large installed base of Unix machines, almost any application in that environment is a candidate. IT professionals can leverage the knowledge they've gained from administering Unix applications. They don't need to learn something new, and they can begin deploying their applications on a more cost-effective infrastructure.

Advantages of Linux-based Systems

The most important advantages for deploying standards-based Linux systems are flexibility, scalability and price/performance.

Standards provide flexibility. Systems built on industry-standard components are not locked into a specific, proprietary vendor implementation. Building solutions and services based on industry standard platforms can help increase customers' flexibility and their ability to react to changing business conditions, for improved efficiency. This results in increased revenue and better-utilized resources. Today's industry-standar servers running Linux deliver high data availability for access to business-critical applications and data with flexible choice of service and support options to help maximize system uptime. The standards-based platforms help customers simplify and standardize on operational procedures through their overall system design and time-saving automated management tools.

Second, companies can expand and deploy their data centers, as needed and on demand. In proprietary Unix deployments, organizations often must buy capacity in bulk, ahead of their demand. Yet when the capacity is needed, it might not be the right size or fit. As a result, the investment becomes obsolete much quicker. Linux running on standards-based hardware gives organizations much better utilization of the technology that they're buying.

By recompiling the code and running on a new platform, organizations can gain more horsepower, realize a higher return on investment (ROI) and achieve better performance. That's really the value proposition. The difference inprice/performance between running Linux on industry-standard systems and running Unix on a proprietary system is significant--Linux running on standards-based platforms is much less expensive and offers excellent performance.

Pete Morowski is vice president of software at Dell Computer (Austin, Texas)
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Author:Morowski, Pete
Publication:Computer Technology Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2003
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