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Linux at the (Server)Beach
Automation and Tux Walking Down the Shore
June 11, 2003
It is somewhat interesting to watch the slow ebb of enthusiasm the Linux community has recently started showing for the continuing adoption of Linux in the enterprise arena. With each new announcement, the excitement seems to dim, as Linux's advance in the corporate world continues its slow, inexorable advances.
So the reader can be forgiven for not getting too excited when learning that Linux is being used by one of the biggest consumer-level Internet Server Providers out there today. After all, Linux (with Apache) is rather synonymous with the Internet servers of the world.
And yet, when ServerBeach makes such a claim, it actually does go a bit beyond the ho-hum, another day, another Tux convert. Because what this ISP is doing with Linux realizes some of the full potential of the operating system not just as a network administration platform but also as a configurable resource.
ServerBeach is a company that is a logical outgrowth of the high-end ISP Rackspace Managed Hosting, a mission-critical colocator that services some fairly high-end clientele. The founder of Rackspace, Richard Yoo, came to the conclusion one day that there was also a real need for customers who needed reliable service for their non-mission-critical Web sites and applications. To that end, Yoo left the company he founded and struck out on his own again, this time creating an ISP that services customers who need strong Web services, but not so much that they have to pay the high premiums associated with such services. This, then, is ServerBeach.
When you click around the ServerBeach site, you can see that, like many other ISPs in this space, they offer Web hosting on Linux and Windows, giving their customers what has become a pretty standard choice in the marketplace. According to Yoo, there used to be only the Linux choice--the Windows 2000 platforms were only added later to the customer portfolio.
But in the ServerBeach backend, Yoo explained, the choice is still all pure Linux, something which has allowed Yoo and his team to offer some features to all of his customers.
The latest such feature is RapidReboot, an automation system for ServerBeach customers that allows them, if need be, to instantly reboot their colocated systems should a problem arise with their Web server. By tapping into the over-arching Linux control systems, ServerBeach's programmers have devised a system that lets customers by-pass a process that might take 10-15 minutes if handled by human beings over the phone.
Giving control of such a simple process are remote rebooting may not seem like such a big deal, but having this control is great for the end-user, Yoo explained. Particularly, one would assume, if the end-user was using a Windows server.
The RapidReboot tool is one part of ServerBeach's BeachBall Automation System, a conglomorate of custom tools built around the Red Hat Linux system ServerBeach uses to maintain its daily operations. Such an automation system keeps with Yoo's business philosophy to "allow consistency with little to no margins."
The malleability of Linux is a big draw for its use at ServerBeach. "It's customizable," Yoo said, "and it's been a huge benefit to us."
Yoo believes that customizability, though, may be one of Linux's tripping points.