Click here to close now.

Welcome!

Linux Authors: Carmen Gonzalez, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, AppDynamics Blog

Related Topics: Linux

Linux: 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
17th Cloud Expo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterprises are using some form of XaaS – software, platform, and infrastructure as a service.
Sensor-enabled things are becoming more commonplace, precursors to a larger and more complex framework that most consider the ultimate promise of the IoT: things connecting, interacting, sharing, storing, and over time perhaps learning and predicting based on habits, behaviors, location, preferences, purchases and more. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tom Wesselman, Director of Communications Ecosystem Architecture at Plantronics, will examine the still nascent IoT as it is coalescing, including what it is today, what it might ultimately be, the role of wearable tech, and technology gaps stil...
The explosion of connected devices / sensors is creating an ever-expanding set of new and valuable data. In parallel the emerging capability of Big Data technologies to store, access, analyze, and react to this data is producing changes in business models under the umbrella of the Internet of Things (IoT). In particular within the Insurance industry, IoT appears positioned to enable deep changes by altering relationships between insurers, distributors, and the insured. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Sick, a Senior Manager and Big Data Architect within Ernst and Young's Financial Servi...
The Workspace-as-a-Service (WaaS) market will grow to $6.4B by 2018. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Seth Bostock, CEO of IndependenceIT, will begin by walking the audience through the evolution of Workspace as-a-Service, where it is now vs. where it going. To look beyond the desktop we must understand exactly what WaaS is, who the users are, and where it is going in the future. IT departments, ISVs and service providers must look to workflow and automation capabilities to adapt to growing demand and the rapidly changing workspace model.
Since 2008 and for the first time in history, more than half of humans live in urban areas, urging cities to become “smart.” Today, cities can leverage the wide availability of smartphones combined with new technologies such as Beacons or NFC to connect their urban furniture and environment to create citizen-first services that improve transportation, way-finding and information delivery. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Laetitia Gazel-Anthoine, CEO of Connecthings, will focus on successful use cases.
One of the biggest impacts of the Internet of Things is and will continue to be on data; specifically data volume, management and usage. Companies are scrambling to adapt to this new and unpredictable data reality with legacy infrastructure that cannot handle the speed and volume of data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and president of Infobright, will discuss how companies need to rethink their data infrastructure to participate in the IoT, including: Data storage: Understanding the kinds of data: structured, unstructured, big/small? Analytics: What kinds and how responsiv...
Building low-cost wearable devices can enhance the quality of our lives. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Sai Yamanoor, Embedded Software Engineer at Altschool, provided an example of putting together a small keychain within a $50 budget that educates the user about the air quality in their surroundings. He also provided examples such as building a wearable device that provides transit or recreational information. He then reviewed the resources available to build wearable devices at home including open source hardware, the raw materials required and the options available to power s...
DevOps tends to focus on the relationship between Dev and Ops, putting an emphasis on the ops and application infrastructure. But that’s changing with microservices architectures. In her session at DevOps Summit, Lori MacVittie, Evangelist for F5 Networks, will focus on how microservices are changing the underlying architectures needed to scale, secure and deliver applications based on highly distributed (micro) services and why that means an expansion into “the network” for DevOps.
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it's a mix of architectural styles ...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo in 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 change in personal an...
We’re no longer looking to the future for the IoT wave. It’s no longer a distant dream but a reality that has arrived. It’s now time to make sure the industry is in alignment to meet the IoT growing pains – cooperate and collaborate as well as innovate. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, will examine the key ingredients to IoT success and identify solutions to challenges the industry is facing. The deep industry expertise behind this presentation will provide attendees with a leading edge view of rapidly emerging IoT oppor...
The 3rd International @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo – to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY – is now accepting Hackathon proposals. Hackathon sponsorship benefits include general brand exposure and increasing engagement with the developer ecosystem. At Cloud Expo 2014 Silicon Valley, IBM held the Bluemix Developer Playground on November 5 and ElasticBox held the DevOps Hackathon on November 6. Both events took place on the expo floor. The Bluemix Developer Playground, for developers of all levels, highlighted the ease of use of...
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics is e...
We certainly live in interesting technological times. And no more interesting than the current competing IoT standards for connectivity. Various standards bodies, approaches, and ecosystems are vying for mindshare and positioning for a competitive edge. It is clear that when the dust settles, we will have new protocols, evolved protocols, that will change the way we interact with devices and infrastructure. We will also have evolved web protocols, like HTTP/2, that will be changing the very core of our infrastructures. At the same time, we have old approaches made new again like micro-services...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built to optimize Microsoft workloads, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Gridstore™ is the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built for Microsoft workloads and designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Gridstore’s hyper-converged infrastructure is the industry’s first all flash version of HyperConverged Appliances that include both compute and storag...
For years, we’ve relied too heavily on individual network functions or simplistic cloud controllers. However, they are no longer enough for today’s modern cloud data center. Businesses need a comprehensive platform architecture in order to deliver a complete networking suite for IoT environment based on OpenStack. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dhiraj Sehgal from PLUMgrid will discuss what a holistic networking solution should really entail, and how to build a complete platform that is scalable, secure, agile and automated.
The industrial software market has treated data with the mentality of “collect everything now, worry about how to use it later.” We now find ourselves buried in data, with the pervasive connectivity of the (Industrial) Internet of Things only piling on more numbers. There’s too much data and not enough information. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Bob Gates, Global Marketing Director, GE’s Intelligent Platforms business, to discuss how realizing the power of IoT, software developers are now focused on understanding how industrial data can create intelligence for industrial operations. Imagine ...
Hadoop as a Service (as offered by handful of niche vendors now) is a cloud computing solution that makes medium and large-scale data processing accessible, easy, fast and inexpensive. In his session at Big Data Expo, Kumar Ramamurthy, Vice President and Chief Technologist, EIM & Big Data, at Virtusa, will discuss how this is achieved by eliminating the operational challenges of running Hadoop, so one can focus on business growth. The fragmented Hadoop distribution world and various PaaS solutions that provide a Hadoop flavor either make choices for customers very flexible in the name of opti...
In the consumer IoT, everything is new, and the IT world of bits and bytes holds sway. But industrial and commercial realms encompass operational technology (OT) that has been around for 25 or 50 years. This grittier, pre-IP, more hands-on world has much to gain from Industrial IoT (IIoT) applications and principles. But adding sensors and wireless connectivity won’t work in environments that demand unwavering reliability and performance. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ron Sege, CEO of Echelon, will discuss how as enterprise IT embraces other IoT-related technology trends, enterprises with i...
Wearable devices have come of age. The primary applications of wearables so far have been "the Quantified Self" or the tracking of one's fitness and health status. We propose the evolution of wearables into social and emotional communication devices. Our BE(tm) sensor uses light to visualize the skin conductance response. Our sensors are very inexpensive and can be massively distributed to audiences or groups of any size, in order to gauge reactions to performances, video, or any kind of presentation. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Jocelyn Scheirer, CEO & Founder of Bionolux, will discuss ho...