Typical Organization

We use Acme as an example of an organization that is quite large (more than 1,000 users). Acme is heterogeneous, as are most organizations, with multiple sites and a DR policy. After all, if Acme loses its data, it loses its business; it does sell the best widgets in the world, and its customer lists, stock database, and distributors are all core to their business process. See Figure 27-1 for an example of Acme's worldwide architecture.


Acme's worldwide architecture






We will look at how Acme's technical organization is arranged and delve into specifics on where Linux can be used. We also take a further look into how Linux can be configured based on what we know from previous chapters.

We first delve into how Linux is used at one of Acme's offices — we'll use the London office as our prime example. We can assume that the other offices are very similar in their makeup. Acme is an open source embracer, as many enterprises over the past few years have been.

Where Can Linux Be Used?

Most IT directors ask this question first. The case for using Linux has already been made in the popular IT press, and organizations understand that Linux is now a viable option when anything Unix needs to be deployed.

The Datacenter

Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) now see Linux as a Tier 1 (primary) platform for their software, and we are not talking about a group of coders in a dark room. The big boys are at it, too — Oracle, IBM, SAP, and SAS to name a few. They see Linux as a platform that they can market and successfully sell upon, and the figures prove this, too.

Take Oracle as an example. Its primary development platform is Linux. Oracle now ships its own Linux version (Oracle Unbreakable Linux, based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux). Oracle also supports and certifies RHEL and SLES. Other ports are secondary to this strategy. Linux will always see a new release of Oracle, just like the other major OS players (Microsoft, Sun, IBM, and so on). Oracle has made its database products available on many hardware platforms, including Intel (32/64-bit), PowerPC (PPC), and IBM zSeries (discussed later in this chapter).

This part of the market is called the datacenter and is where Linux is growing the fastest at the moment. We have seen many customers using Linux to run critical Oracle databases over the past few years; IBM software is also very strong in this space.


Linux has traditionally been strong in this space, and it encompasses what organizations see as a core part of their IT infrastructure. Domain Name System (DNS), intranet, extranet, firewalls, e-mail, file services, and print services all fall under this section of the enterprise. Market results have shown that Apache on Linux is extremely strong. And many organizations run their DNS on Linux without upper management even knowing.

| r - - r This is a very important point. It is fine asking MIS directors where they use Linux , •-■ - ..-r . in their organization, but they might not even know that some of the people with their feet on the floor are implementing Linux in a stealth move to save money when budgets have been cut. Linux is very, very good in this space as this workflow is something that has been a known quantity by developers and distributions alike.

Embedded Systems

This may be something you overlook in your organization, but Linux is already embedded in a lot of the systems within the enterprise.

While many people have questioned just how secure Linux is and its security continues to be a matter of great speculation, Linux is nevertheless known for its stability and its security. In reality, the security of any operating system is dictated by two things:

■ The configuration and administrative actions that take place to secure the operating system out of the box

■ The quality of the code that encompasses the operating system itself

Linux is not the be-all and end-all of operating system security. However, given that the code is open and under constant security, it comes pretty close to it. The AppArmor security system in SLES is easy to deploy and provides a security wrapper around applications. This means that the system as a whole is protected from any exploits that target a particular application.

Because of this security, Linux has been used in many embedded systems and you may not even know about it. (That includes many home router devices and set-top boxes.) Many firewall appliances run Linux, and the fiber switches in IBM BladeCenter run on embedded Linux.

Running embedded Linux in an organization is not usually one of choice, but one of indirect choice when you buy a product for its feature set, not for the operating system that it runs. This is where embedded systems prove their worth in the marketplace, when the features of the appliance sell the product, and the operating system under the hood helps this with stability and provides the features that the user sees.

I Know Where, but How?

It used to be difficult selling Linux to the masses. In recent years, this hurdle has been overcome with Linux proving itself time and again. The problem that the industry now faces is how to deploy it.

With Novell's acquisition of SUSE, this has been less of a problem. Novell has traditionally done very well in large rollouts because of its management features. Novell Linux Desktop will help with bringing Linux to the arena of user presentation, and the bundling of the Novell network tools on the Linux kernel will help to provide the solid infrastructure needed to manage your infrastructure in a heterogeneous environment.

This is a SUSE book, but that is not to say that the other Linux vendors are not aware of the management and deployment issues facing the industry. With this in mind, nearly every distributor offers unattended installations, package management, and also configuration from a central location. This may seem trivial, but consider a 1,000-seat organization where all machines are running Linux (unlikely in the current Linux market). Unless you have deep pockets to fill your support infrastructure, you will want some way of controlling your Linux infrastructure. You would not do it yourself in a Microsoft environment, and you no longer have to do it yourself in a Linux environment.

No longer are organizations worried about support and maintenance from the Linux vendors. The major players are now offering supportable distributions, first-, second-, and third-line support, and professional services. IBM and Hewlett-Packard (HP) offer all of this, too, as well as the army of vendor business partners (BPs). With so much choice, there is no excuse for customers to worry about the supportability of their Linux infrastructure.

The business partner community is very important to SUSE, HP, and IBM as they provide an extension of the services the vendors can offer. Business partners usually employ technical resources that have had experience with the vendor in question (as has happened for us). You will find that a business partner is able to provide an unbiased outlook on the remedy for a problem, whereas the vendors will, of course, push for their products to fill that void.

Fulfilling Your Staff Requirements

With the support of an industry player behind you, the choice of whether to use your existing technology specialist or to call on a vendor/BP may be threatening to some. It is very common that organizations employ this community to implement new technology and then train their staff to maintain and grow their infrastructure.

Existing Unix specialists are the easiest to train on Linux as their background fits well with the Linux methodology. For other specialists (MCSE, CCNA, and so on), it proves more difficult. All vendors offer a well-defined training migration strategy for the enterprise customers, as well as individuals to follow to bring them up to speed and get certified on the technology. As Linux is essentially free, the accessibility of the software for new users is not an issue and helps to spread the use and knowledge of Linux in both the enterprise and home. In other words, getting internal staff proficient in Linux is the other issue new customers moving to Linux may have that can be crossed off the list.

Linux is now well established in the enterprise. The growth in the strength of Linux in the enterprise has been largely at the expense of traditional Unix. Recent moves by Sun (towards the x86 and x86_64 platform, certifying third-party hardware, and the launch ot OpenSolaris as an open source project) may be construed as fighting back by Sun against Linux.

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