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Using Linux as Network Glue
July 20, 1999
Recently a number of staff at my company, including myself, were asked to set up a department specialising in e-commerce. To start with, we tried to do everything the Microsoft way. We were running MS IIS as our webserver, MS DNS server, and Post Office from Software.com for email all on NT servers. We developed a small java class on our web server that enabled it to talk to our Unix-based backoffice systems, and thus to present information from the backoffice and accept information into the backoffice in realtime.
The next step was to connect the webserver to the internet so that our websites were accessible to the world. To do this securely we wanted the Unix box running the backoffice system to sit behind a firewall.
At first we had a powerful Intel box and tried installing AltaVista Firewall 98 for NT. We couldn't get it to do what we wanted, as it rigidly defined internal, external, and de-militarized zones, and we wanted a machine in the external zone to talk to a machine in the internal zone, which didn't seem to be simple to achieve. After a bit of head scratching I suggested we try installing Linux, as I gathered it had some sort of free firewalling.