February 23, 2019

From the Data Center to the Desktop: Linux Grows Up - page 2

From Humble Beginnings

  • November 4, 2003
  • By Amy Newman

As Linux matures, not only have the players in the arena become fewer, but the arena itself has become smaller. For with maturation has come specialization, and the realization Linux cannot be all things for all enterprises.

For example, one area in which Linux does not stack up well compared to Unix is scalability. Although it's much-improved, and the yet-to-be-released but oft referred to 2.6 kernel will offer up to 16-way SMP with support for 32-way (and Red Hat's just released Enterprise Linux 3 scales to 16-way), Linux is no match for a Unix configuration that can scale up to 256 processors.

And although Linux has found a home on the mainframe, most notably on the IBM zSeries, it typically follows a "scaling out" model even there, Eunice said.

While scaling up is not among its strong suits, Linux's modularity makes it a good candidate for infrastructures that scale out, Mike Balma, Hewlett-Packard's Linux strategist told ServerWatch.

This modularity works particularly well in a security environment, where the option to not allow certain privileges (e.g., FTP) is key, Balma said. This advantage has not been overlooked by the financial services community, where Linux is now well-entrenched.

This pattern is not a unique one. Unix flavors, such as VMS and MVS, also conquered scaling out before scaling up and cut their teeth in the financial services community, Eunice said.

Enterprises that opt for Linux often end up with more, smaller systems rather than fewer large systems, trading in, for example, a 16-way for several 4-way or 8-way systems. In some cases, Balma said, an 8-way could replace a 16-way if the new system is more robust.

Balma believes that Linux will eventually dominate in the Web and high-performance computing space, but Unix will remain king in the database and application server space. Eunice believes that Linux, and by extension open source, is perfect for application developers and for deployment in network services and infrastructure, general utility computing, LAN servers, and scientific and technical computation.

Eunice added that he would not recommend Linux for "a full-board desktop solution or a very high-scale database with high transaction applications," as the databases and middleware that support Linux don't have the speed, functionality, and ease-of-use most users require. In general, however, "in places where there isn't a substantial advantage in a proprietary offering, open source is the way to go."

Balma believes enterprises considering Linux should ask the following two questions: 1) what is the application that it will be running, and 2) what management tools are available? The management software is often the most vital component, and HP's management software (OpenView, Insight Manager, and Rapid Deployment Pack), he claims, scales well horizontally.

With so many hardware vendors investing heavily in Linux, it stands to reason that migrating platforms and operating systems often go hand in hand, an assumption with which Balma concurs.

Oftentimes hardware savings are the driver for an enterprise-level Linux migration, Balma said. Windows-to-Linux migrations on the same hardware usually stem from a security issue, he added.

HP has become a staunch proponent of Linux, to the degree that its road map replicates that of the Open Source Development Lab (OSDL). Blalma said that the among HP's servers, the ProLiant line is typically the hardware of choice for Linux deployments. This supports the general consensus about where Linux's strengths lie.

Balma offered some statistics to illustrate Linux's presence in HP's hardware sales. According to IDC's latest figures, 80 percent of Itanium-based systems that ship with Linux are from HP's Integrity line. To put the number in perspective, however, sales of Linux on Integrity servers comprise slightly more than 15 percent of all Integrity sales.

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