Linux still missing enterprise components

While suppliers are saying Linux is ready for big business, the reactions from potential customers are mixed.

While suppliers are saying Linux is ready for big business, the reactions from potential customers are mixed.

The buzz from the industry at the LinuxWorld conference and expo is that the open source operating system is a truly viable, reliable and cost-effective option. It is ready for use in large business operations.

Linux could play an important role in the future of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), depending on the results of a test bed project being carried out at the FAA's Atlantic City Technical Centre in New Jersey, according to computer specialist Craig Gerace.

For the FAA, Gerace said, the promise of Linux includes an all-important reduction in costs over its existing Unix-based LynxOS. This system runs the centre's flight tracking backbone for a 64-mile radius. Linux could provide the FAA with easier application portability and offer better availability of network drivers.

Linux could increase the system's backbone from an existing 10Mbyte network to a gigabit network, which would result in an increase in capacity and performance at less cost.

The applications used by the centre have been cross-compiled for Linux and are running on the test bed, a PowerPC system operating alongside the existing LynxOS system. This is used to monitor the performance, stability and reliability of Linux.

Gerace said that so far, the system shows promise and could eventually be expanded to FAA facilities across the nation if the testing is successful.

Although this illustrates the promise of Linux, some questions remain for some users, like Daniel Killingsworth, a local-area network manager for paper products company SCA North America. He said his company was looking to improve its backbone services by moving to Linux but some elements were missing from the open source system.

His company is also considering a possible move away from Microsoft Exchange Server to a Linux-based e-mail system because of security concerns with the Microsoft servers.

Thomas Re, a technical assistant at Nassau Community College in Garden City in New York, said that while Linux offers cost savings at the college through continued deployments and the reuse of older Intel-based hardware for desktop servers, niggling issues remain.

He pointed out that there is a need to install Linux security patches individually, instead of as a package, like Sun Microsystems's Solaris 8. When there are a lot of machines to patch, the process can be time consuming, he said.

Alstom Power, a company that designs and builds power plants is another Linux user. Steven Rinaldi, a senior systems engineer at the company said Linux was being deployed in parallel computing configurations for design and flow analysis. He said the company would continues to look for new ways to cut costs and increase efficiencies using Linux but certain element of the system were missing.

"There's a lot of things over time we'd like to see implemented." Rinaldi said. Among the missing components are Linux disc management systems that would allow the company to change disks on the fly, he said.

In spite of the incomplete set of features within Linux, Rinaldi said the transition at some businesses toward Linux has been intriguing. If IBM has its way, the operating system and its hardware and applications will continue their rise, Rinaldi said. "It's amazing."

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