Click here to close now.


Linux Containers Authors: Derek Weeks, PagerDuty Blog, Dana Gardner, Elizabeth White, Tim Hinds

Related Topics: Linux Containers

Linux Containers: Article

Is Linux Enterprise Ready?

Making the move

No doubt this topic has been debated to death; however, as I have a different perspective on this issue, I reckon it's worth writing down.

Over the past few weeks I've been involved with one of our local customers who, after a lot of consideration, has decided to make the jump to Linux. This was no quick decision, mind you, and was more than a "I'm tired of paying Microsoft for licenses" thing.

Why the Move?
Linux made its way into the organization when I chose to use it as a desktop system while I was still consulting for the customer as a DBA and J2EE developer. (Yeah, I know, a weird combo, but I've never liked scripting languages that much, so I chose Java/J2EE for my DBA tools.) I got pretty uptight when Eclipse and Windows (the company standard) decided to crash or hang on me every few hours, and I moved back to Linux.

As a DBA, you tend to get involved with all sorts of issues, mainly because in the case of a reasonably large or busy application, the database is normally the first thing that takes the blame in the case of a performance dip. On one of my investigations, I found that the database had trouble sending data back to the client applications (network waits). The networking guys were just laughing at me and said that the database shouldn't send so much data back. (!?!)

There were some variables involved: all of the servers (application, Web, database, mail) were hosted at a different site, and all traffic (including Web traffic) was being routed to (through) the offsite location (a local ISP). My theory was that some people were misusing the Web, as my investigation pointed out that HTTP traffic was extremely high.

This was really the first case in which I could implement Linux with a direct business benefit. After numerous consultations with the client (a Windows-only type), I decided to take an older PC that was sitting around in the storeroom, slap some SCSI drives into it, and install Mandrake Linux on it. My reasoning here was that Mandrake is a pretty friendly O/S for a Windows-skilled "LANnie" to pick up. I then went for Squid proxy and installed a Web reporting tool (squint) onto the "proxy server," as it was called. This allowed us to report, per user, the amount of time spent on Web sites, the amount of data downloaded, site details, etc. We could basically pinpoint exactly who was surfing, for how long, and what sites they were viewing. We had to change some of the client browser settings to point to the proxy (you change firewall rules to allow only HTTP traffic from the proxy server, and point all client browsers to the proxy).

We gathered statistics for two or three days, and our first report proved that my hunch was correct. Some guy in the admin department was using up a lot of our much-needed bandwidth by downloading, well, porn; some other people were using the Web for audio streaming, and others were downloading MP3s and games, etc. Now, in South Africa, bandwidth is expensive and slow. We only have one provider of leased or other telco lines (changing in 2006), and 3G isn't what it should be (yet).

We blocked some sites; the client issued some final warnings; and, by the next day, the system was flying again. I started using our "proxy server" for more things, to see how much we could get out of a simple PC (about 128MB RAM, 40GB disk space, 1 GHz Pentium, 3 CPU). We implemented CVS, an open source version control tool. We gave users in the operations department a home directory to back up documents. We set up some print queues.

The CIO was pretty happy with what we managed to squeeze out of the PC. The key thing to realize here is that Linux could significantly benefit the business by doing small things very well, at a low cost. The question was: Could it take over critical operations in the enterprise system?

To me, the best place for Linux today is with the most "invisible" part of the business: the data. A database should do one thing very well: store data and provide easy and efficient access to it. It doesn't need fancy GUIs. It doesn't need wizards, graphs, reporting, and other things associated with client applications. The database is a storage engine (with a few twists). Linux on the desktop hasn't been successful so far for many reasons, which I'll address in my next article. But for database, application, Web, and mail servers? If configured correctly (on any operating system), they tend to run in lights-off mode most of the time, or they should.

One of the issues in the environment was that you had to reboot the Windows servers pretty regular, especially the database server. The database engine uses a lot of resources and was pushing the box to the limit. I felt that a Linux O/S would be a better database server than Windows could be; you have more flexibility in tuning Linux, and I perceive the Linux O/S to be more stable than Windows, after years of working with both environments, especially for a RDBMS.

While we were contemplating the shift, the Windows O/S did its best to help us make a decision. One night, I received a call at 3 a.m. from the network admin and was told that they couldn't boot any of their servers. A virus had managed to corrupt the ntoskernel.dll file (or something like that), and the O/S had to be recovered. (At least backups were complete....) Something went wrong on the recovery. By the time I arrived on site, I was told that the O/S had to be trashed and we would have to revert to backup. We lost about four days, due to wait time for hardware and O/S configuration. After that, the writing was on the wall - we were going Linux, wherever we could. As a matter of fact, we already had two Linux servers in the rack: our integration server and a server that was responsible for client communications (generated PDF documents and mailed it out).

Even before this happened I presented a greater Linux strategy to the customer. Here is a high level:

1.  Move the database servers to Linux.
This is the lowest risk, because the users aren't affected at all, except maybe we expected more uptime and better scalability. In effect, we didn't anticipate too much of a performance boost - moving to Linux on the same 32-bit hardware wouldn't make too much of an outright performance change, but we were expecting a small improvement.

2.  Move the Web server (IIS) to Apache or Tomcat.
Most Web servers in the world run Apache, and it gets rid of having to pay licenses for a commodity. Another thing to mention is that the customer's enterprise application runs a J2EE Webapp, and it was felt that we should standardize the corporate Website to something like JSP, which could be supported by more than one person and can run on multiple environments.

3.  Move the application server to Linux.
This should've been easy, but it wasn't. The early application developers used the PowerBuilder DataWindow in their J2EE app, and we weren't convinced that the move would be seamless. So we left this until last.

4.  Convert all remaining client/server apps to thin client, browser-based apps.
A browser-based app would mean that the end users could use any OS and browser they felt comfortable with. Also, it puts the business in a position to test out Desktop Linux, and do this at their own pace. Why would they want to? The most significant savings to be made out of a corporate Linux shift is at the desktop level for application users. Power users may still want to run Windows, but for the person who comes to work in the morning, switches on his PC, and fires up his e-mail client and the application he requires to do his work, he could use any operating system - Mac, Linux, Windows, Solaris.

Even better, you probably don't need the "enterprise" version of Linux at the desktop level, meaning that the O/S won't cost you a cent. Now, calculate this for an organization with 500 users. And remember to add up Office and any other Windows license, etc.

5.  Desktop Linux, where it makes sense.
More of the above. There are some good articles on the Web from various authors who point out that most Windows fans are really Office fans. Microsoft Outlook is the de facto standard for organizations because of the integrated collaboration. However, the largest percentage of employees in a standard-sized organization probably use about 15% of Office. It makes sense for these users to try out OpenOffice. The tactic here was to install OpenOffice on Windows, swap the mail client to something like Thunderbird, and do proper UAT to see how that goes.

6.  Mail servers.
Depending on the business and how the organization uses the Outlook Calendaring (if they use Outlook at all), this could be an easy or difficult shift. In this case, about 30% of the users in the organization uses Outlook with calendaring, so it's not practical yet. How do we do this? In this case, it doesn't really matter. Windows and Linux can co-exist pretty easily in the environment, and I would never advocate a "rip and replace" strategy. The best strategy we can think of now is to go for a CRM (the client needs and wants to implement CRM) that integrates collaboration. First choices for now: SugarCRM and possibly Compiere.

The customer was ready for phases one, two, and three. When we started strategizing the Linux shift, an interesting question came up, and it's one that comes up quite a lot now: While we're doing this move, how about investigating 64-bit architecture? Surely this will also make a massive difference? Our initial test showed that we would get a 10-15% performance increase by using our same hardware, but that's fairly insignificant. Sooner or later we would run into hardware limitations. The Linux shift would extend the use of the current hardware to about eight months, and this seemed to be a short-sighted strategy.

The customer asked what was needed for a "significant" performance improvement at the database level, and how can we ensure that our hardware lasts us for the next five years? The key thing about a database is that it's only as fast as the amount of I/O requests it can process. Generally, disk writes and reads are very expensive and slow I/O operations. To offset this, you throw RAM at the problem and increase the database cache so that it doesn't have to do as many direct disk reads and writes. There's a lot more to this, but that's the basic rule. This is especially true if you are sure that the database engine has been properly configured to use the machine resources efficiently, and that all of the queries thrown at the server are optimized.

More Stories By Rudi Leibbrandt

Rudi Leibbrandt works at Sybase South Africa managing the Sybase development toolset.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

@ThingsExpo Stories
Continuous processes around the development and deployment of applications are both impacted by -- and a benefit to -- the Internet of Things trend. To help better understand the relationship between DevOps and a plethora of new end-devices and data please welcome Gary Gruver, consultant, author and a former IT executive who has led many large-scale IT transformation projects, and John Jeremiah, Technology Evangelist at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), on Twitter at @j_jeremiah. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
With all the incredible momentum behind the Internet of Things (IoT) industry, it is easy to forget that not a single CEO wakes up and wonders if “my IoT is broken.” What they wonder is if they are making the right decisions to do all they can to increase revenue, decrease costs, and improve customer experience – effectively the same challenges they have always had in growing their business. The exciting thing about the IoT industry is now these decisions can be better, faster, and smarter. Now all corporate assets – people, objects, and spaces – can share information about themselves and thei...
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound effect on the world, and what should we expect to see over the next couple of years.
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Day 2 Keynote at 17th Cloud Expo, Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, wil...
PubNub has announced the release of BLOCKS, a set of customizable microservices that give developers a simple way to add code and deploy features for realtime apps.PubNub BLOCKS executes business logic directly on the data streaming through PubNub’s network without splitting it off to an intermediary server controlled by the customer. This revolutionary approach streamlines app development, reduces endpoint-to-endpoint latency, and allows apps to better leverage the enormous scalability of PubNub’s Data Stream Network.
Discussions of cloud computing have evolved in recent years from a focus on specific types of cloud, to a world of hybrid cloud, and to a world dominated by the APIs that make today's multi-cloud environments and hybrid clouds possible. In this Power Panel at 17th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the importance of customers being able to use the specific technologies they need, through environments and ecosystems that expose their APIs to make true change and transformation possible.
Microservices are a very exciting architectural approach that many organizations are looking to as a way to accelerate innovation. Microservices promise to allow teams to move away from monolithic "ball of mud" systems, but the reality is that, in the vast majority of organizations, different projects and technologies will continue to be developed at different speeds. How to handle the dependencies between these disparate systems with different iteration cycles? Consider the "canoncial problem" in this scenario: microservice A (releases daily) depends on a couple of additions to backend B (re...
I recently attended and was a speaker at the 4th International Internet of @ThingsExpo at the Santa Clara Convention Center. I also had the opportunity to attend this event last year and I wrote a blog from that show talking about how the “Enterprise Impact of IoT” was a key theme of last year’s show. I was curious to see if the same theme would still resonate 365 days later and what, if any, changes I would see in the content presented.
Apps and devices shouldn't stop working when there's limited or no network connectivity. Learn how to bring data stored in a cloud database to the edge of the network (and back again) whenever an Internet connection is available. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Ben Perlmutter, a Sales Engineer with IBM Cloudant, demonstrated techniques for replicating cloud databases with devices in order to build offline-first mobile or Internet of Things (IoT) apps that can provide a better, faster user experience, both offline and online. The focus of this talk was on IBM Cloudant, Apache CouchDB, and ...
Container technology is shaping the future of DevOps and it’s also changing the way organizations think about application development. With the rise of mobile applications in the enterprise, businesses are abandoning year-long development cycles and embracing technologies that enable rapid development and continuous deployment of apps. In his session at DevOps Summit, Kurt Collins, Developer Evangelist at, examined how Docker has evolved into a highly effective tool for application delivery by allowing increasingly popular Mobile Backend-as-a-Service (mBaaS) platforms to quickly crea...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York and Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound cha...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 7-9, 2016 at Javits Center, New York City and Nov 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 18th International @CloudExpo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo New York Call for Papers is now open.
The cloud. Like a comic book superhero, there seems to be no problem it can’t fix or cost it can’t slash. Yet making the transition is not always easy and production environments are still largely on premise. Taking some practical and sensible steps to reduce risk can also help provide a basis for a successful cloud transition. A plethora of surveys from the likes of IDG and Gartner show that more than 70 percent of enterprises have deployed at least one or more cloud application or workload. Yet a closer inspection at the data reveals less than half of these cloud projects involve production...
Cloud computing delivers on-demand resources that provide businesses with flexibility and cost-savings. The challenge in moving workloads to the cloud has been the cost and complexity of ensuring the initial and ongoing security and regulatory (PCI, HIPAA, FFIEC) compliance across private and public clouds. Manual security compliance is slow, prone to human error, and represents over 50% of the cost of managing cloud applications. Determining how to automate cloud security compliance is critical to maintaining positive ROI. Raxak Protect is an automated security compliance SaaS platform and ma...
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
Today air travel is a minefield of delays, hassles and customer disappointment. Airlines struggle to revitalize the experience. GE and M2Mi will demonstrate practical examples of how IoT solutions are helping airlines bring back personalization, reduce trip time and improve reliability. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Dr. Sarah Cooper, M2Mi’s VP Business Development and Engineering, explored the IoT cloud-based platform technologies driving this change including privacy controls, data transparency and integration of real time context with p...
There are over 120 breakout sessions in all, with Keynotes, General Sessions, and Power Panels adding to three days of incredibly rich presentations and content. Join @ThingsExpo conference chair Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040), June 7-9, 2016 in New York City, for three days of intense 'Internet of Things' discussion and focus, including Big Data's indespensable role in IoT, Smart Grids and Industrial Internet of Things, Wearables and Consumer IoT, as well as (new) IoT's use in Vertical Markets.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data shows "less than 10 percent of IoT developers are making enough to support a reasonably sized team....
We all know that data growth is exploding and storage budgets are shrinking. Instead of showing you charts on about how much data there is, in his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Scott Cleland, Senior Director of Product Marketing at HGST, showed how to capture all of your data in one place. After you have your data under control, you can then analyze it in one place, saving time and resources.