Linux ‘not ready’ for enterprise IT

Linux is best deployed as a point solution and is not yet ready for mission-critical enterprise IT, according to delegates at this year’s SAGE-AU (System Administrators Guild of Australia) conference in Hobart.

Andrew Whyte, corporate systems administrator at Central Queensland University (CQU), said Linux is not ready to run high-end systems because of the lack of vendor support and frequent kernel updates.

“Our experience with Linux was problematic due to the lack of vendor software updates,” Whyte said. “We are missing out on the latest Linux features because the commercial software we are using can’t keep up with the kernel development. Hence, we are locked in to older versions.”

CQU has a mixture of Alpha-, UltraSparc-, and Intel-based servers to run its central business systems. Early this year, two production Linux systems were deployed as a means of avoiding more expensive Sun hardware and to “test the water” with an emerging technology, Whyte said.

“The choice to move to Linux from Sun was prompted partly due to cost and the applications – Blackboard (an online course content system) and the Veritas clustering software – both run on Solaris so at least there would no wasted knowledge investment if we needed to migrate back,” he said. “It took me two weeks to build the Linux clusters which would have taken two days with Solaris.”

Whyte said Linux is ideal for individual solutions such as mail and DNS because these tasks have less of a reliance on commercial software and support.

“A lot of systems administrators tend to find Linux popping up in the enterprise as ‘glue’ between systems because it is cheap to do this,” he said. “Linux is being targeted at the enterprise when it’s really an SMB operating system. This is similar to Microsoft’s enterprise approach with Windows: ‘let’s aim for the top of the tree but it doesn’t matter if we fall to the ground’.”

Although agreeable to Whyte’s argument of low vendor support, Mark Suter, systems administrator with Miju Systems, said Linux does offer enterprises the benefits of flexibility over commercial software.

“By using Linux we are able to do exactly what we want in a solution,” Suter said. “With commercial software, enterprises are limited by the vendor in what they can use.”

Suter said it is only a matter of time before Linux becomes a mainstream option for central business IT.

CQU’s roadmap is to now decide whether to keep Linux where it is or migrate the applications onto Solaris and use the Intel servers to run Windows.

“Although the TCO may have been the same, with Linux we need to deal with two vendors,” he said. “With Sun you can deal with one vendor for both hardware and software.”

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