Thought for the day: The appliance of Linux science

Set great store by little boxes running Linux. They can keep down the costs, not to mention the complexity, of network...

Simon Moores  
Set great store by little boxes running Linux. They can keep down the costs, not to mention the complexity, of network infrastructure management, says Simon Moores.




It must have been three years ago, in Computer Weekly, when I first wrote about the arrival of Linux server appliances and how, within five years, they would start to change the face of the computing landscape.

At the time I was thinking more about cheap server appliances built around mainstream applications involving mail and database servers.

Last week, I visited Hertfordshire company Itheon. It’s not a company that many people know of, but then it works invisibly through much larger partners, such as Hewlett-Packard and Hitachi which, in turn, deploy Itheon’s magic box at customer sites as part of a larger managed services package.

What makes Itheon the subject of a recent Butler Group report on infrastructure management is that the company has developed a highly advanced set of products, the Itheon Availability Manager (iAM), which offers modular availability management for server, application storage and network infrastructure elements by squeezing the lot into an innocuous-looking box running SuSE Linux.

Network monitoring systems of one kind or another have now been around for years and, with IT services as a critical foundation for the always-on business, managing availability and network performance become priorities.

Consequently, being able to measure the pulse of an IT infrastructure by application and server, or being able to monitor quality of service by response time, becomes increasingly attractive to any large IT department with a distributed and complex environment.

The attractive part of Itheon’s work lies in the physical evidence of its "appliance of Linux", delivering an end-to-end view of business services in the network equivalent of a Linux-driven television receiver.

Tune in to what detailed diagnostics and alerts you might want from a network’s, traffic, servers, applications and storage and, much like a choice of cable television channels, Itheon’s box of tricks manages the presentation and integration of all the major infrastructure component types. It gives the business or, in most cases, a managed service provider with a detailed holistic view of a network infrastructure without the need for more complex and expensive software, hardware or even human intervention.

In an increasingly plug-and-play world, being able do away with complexity while improving the quality of both information and reporting, has to be the way forward.

What Itheon have managed to achieve with the iAM access appliance is prove that an entire spectrum of network infrastructure monitoring can be compressed into a small, open source-driven box. This, in turn, begs the question of how the spiralling complexity and cost surrounding IT can be reversed by the arrival of cheap horizontal and vertical Linux appliances attached to a network infrastructure.

What do you think?

Will small Linux devices such as the iAM catch on in a big way?  Tell us in an e-mail >> reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the website. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of leading industry analyst Dr Simon Moores of Zentelligence.

Acting globally, Zentelligence (Research) advises governments, suppliers, business and the media on the evolution, application and delivery of leading-edge technologies and specialises in the areas of eGovernment and information security.

For further information on Zentelligence and its research, presentation and analyst services visit 

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