Deploy Linux alongside commercial products to get the best from your firm's application portfolio.
IT departments should maintain at least one piece of commercial software within a Linux or open source stack and allow at least one company to be responsible for complex service support and integration issues.
If businesses choose not to, they must understand the risk inherent in such stacks and scrutinise open source software and applications.
High-performance computing and research or technical applications are well suited to Linux, where the rich development environment and tools help to benefit the versatile performance attractions of the Lintel (Linux on Intel) platform. High-performance computing is best deployed on Linux clusters.
Packaged applications, such as SAP, Oracle, PeopleSoft or JDE, are moving Linux deployments to development platforms or primary ports. For an IT organisation the risk relates to the application supplier's support of Linux and how aggressive the supplier is in sales, marketing and support. An increase in packaged applications on Linux will help application suppliers attain a larger share of the total project portfolio.
Similarly, packaged groupware and messaging applications, such as Lotus Notes, are subject to support and commitment to Linux from the individual supplier. However, some open source products overlap with these productivity suites (such as Open Office) and are a distraction.
Java-based home-grown applications are not as easily considered on an open source stack. Complex J2EE applications using BEA or IBM extensions, when moved to Linux platforms, are best kept on BEA or IBM respectively.
Simple J2EE applications can be considered on JBoss, but support or integration costs may offset any initial licence savings. When considering J2EE applications for Linux deployment, a reflection of overall costs is fundamental.
Proprietary applications written for a specific platform, such as Unix, with complex scripts or direct hardware access, are the least likely candidates for migration to Linux. Here, the skills and resources of the source (Unix) application-independent software supplier and the target Linux deployment are important for migration.
These open source tools are unlikely to make it into mass commercial deployments before 2006. As they mature, open source tools will become attractive for small and medium-sized businesses and gain increased acceptance.
When selecting Linux services or applications, a uniform set of criteria should be considered in the non-uniform open source environment.
IT organisations must balance the relative cost of development and integration of open source products with that of canned, proven products on commercial stacks.
Philip Dawson is senior program director in infrastructure strategies at Meta Group
How does Linux fit into the enterprise?
Web servers are a commodity, almost appliance-like in their single function. There is a simple choice for the open source world: Apache or Microsoft. Any other web server platform is a niche platform.
Application servers demand more resources from the operating system and the platform but again, these are near commodity and Linux platforms running JBoss for non-complex workloads should be considered.
Prior to the 2.6 kernel, Linux scaling as a database management system platform had been restricted to an Oracle or DB2 scale-out model. The 2.6 release increased scaling, threading and input/output capabilities benefiting DBMS deployments. Open source DBMS software such as MySQL or maxDB is now being considered for small workloads.
File and print
File provisioning is best done under network-attached storage or a storage area network within an enterprise service portfolio. These services can be fulfilled by Linux and open source products, but they are immature and dependent on directory services in either an open environment (DNS and LDap) or Microsoft Active Directory.
Directory services are not well established on Linux or for open source in complex enterprise deployments. These services will mature in 2005, following Linux kernel changes that will enhance parallelism and input/output scaling.
The bottom line
When selecting Linux services or applications, you need to balance the relative cost of development and integration of open source products with that of canned, proven products on commercial stacks.