Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Karyn Jeffery, Pat Romanski, Yeshim Deniz

Related Topics: Linux Containers

Linux Containers: Article

Huge Savings with OpenNMS for Managed Hosting Company

Supporting open source deployment

When Rackspace Managed Hosting started in 1998 to lease Internet colocated servers to customers, they went with Linux almost everywhere in an effort to keep costs down. In fact, heavy use of Linux was standard in the low-margin managed hosting sector. According to IT manager Eric Evans, "people would be surprised by how much they would save if they went with Linux."

Linux Servers and a Mix of Desktops

Evans supports a little under 200 servers for internal company use. Evans put all of the internal services that he could on Linux servers, including e-mail, file servers, print servers, DNS, and network monitoring. Only the financial application server and the sales force automation server remain on Windows, because the vendors don't have Linux versions yet. Linux comprises about 80% of internal servers.

Of the approximately 9,000 customer servers, Evans estimates that 60% are Linux, reflecting demand for cheaper Web solutions. Some customer services that Rackspace provides, such as domain registration and a customer portal, are also on Linux servers. The mandate to use open source whenever possible extends to the service provider role as well. Rackspace only uses Windows servers for applications that don't have an open source substitute.

According to Evans, more attention is paid to IT expenditures now that Linux has shown its value to the organization. "Anytime we need to deploy Windows, we choke on the price, and have to work harder to get the approval. Open source deployments are typically time, hardware, and that's about it."

Rackspace employs a large support department, so a sizable percentage of desktop users are technology-savvy. Although the officially supported desktop is Windows XP, employees are permitted to install whatever they want on their desktops as long as they give up support from the IT department. As a result of the loose rules, many technical employees have installed Linux. The IT department ensures that basic services will work for both operating systems, resulting in a hybrid desktop environment.

Everyone in engineering runs Microsoft Office on Crossover Office, an emulator for a subset of Windows applications. According to Evans, "Crossover Office is nearly flawless, and it's about as close as you can get to natively running Microsoft Office on a Linux workstation. I bought the plug-in first to play Quicktime videos, although I was skeptical. But it worked great, so I spent $60 on it for the full version." Evans likes it better than OpenOffice.org because he has absolute compatibility with Windows users now and in the future. And he was surprised that Microsoft Office is faster on Crossover running on Linux than it is on Windows.

Most nontechnical employees run Windows XP. Evans doesn't run Microsoft Active Directory though. Instead, he uses a Samba primary domain controller, backed by openLDAP as a Windows domain controller. A Linux server is used for all authentication. Evans concedes that he probably sacrificed some functionality with this choice, but found that it didn't actually matter for Rackspace. The bells and whistles that were sacrificed were not really needed. Evans and his staff also know that they can authenticate anything against LDAP, since it's an open standard. Whenever possible, open standards have always been preferred at Rackspace, to keep options open in the long term.

OpenNMS Saves Big

Rackspace doesn't have exact figures on how much a Linux migration saved, because they didn't migrate. But they are very aware of how much can be saved with specialized tools that run on Linux. OpenNMS, an open source network monitoring tool, is used internally for the approximately 200 company servers.

The cost savings are huge. Evans looked at OpenView, a proprietary competitor to openNMS from HP. But OpenView can cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the installation. For Rackspace's needs, this product would cost about $200,000-$250,000 just for internal network monitoring and reporting, with $10,000 per year in maintenance costs. To use OpenView for their customers' servers was simply out of the question because the costs were too high. OpenNMS is a comparable open source free network monitoring tool. Rackspace purchases support from Blast Internet Services, the maintainers of OpenNMS, for just a few thousand dollars per year. Overall, the savings are quite dramatic.

There is a tradeoff for the savings, however. The HP product requires less ongoing administrative effort. Evans expects automation to improve as more administration tools are added to openNMS. The positive side is that Rackspace has some influence over what goes into the product. His staff is working now to expand openNMS so they can use it for network monitoring of their customers' servers. Their efforts will be incorporated into future versions of openNMS. Their code will help other users of the product, but the incorporation also benefits Rackspace by removing the burden of supporting the enhanced code.

Supporting Open Source Deployments

Evans finds that they have far lower administrative overhead with Linux than with Windows. "It's part of the Unix paradigm. We've seen as high as a 50-1 effective server-to-system-administrator ratio with Linux, but only 20-1 for Windows. Our average has probably been 35-1 or 40-1 on Linux."

Evans hasn't had much of a problem finding Linux expertise. "When I received applications, they came from monster.com and our Web site job postings. Rackspace is known as a desirable place to work because it is a startup, and employees have some freedom to run Linux on the desktop. Linux enthusiasts are happy to be here."

When asked what advice he has for IT managers thinking about a move to Linux, his basic message is that it's not as hard as you may think. "People overestimate the complexity of migrating to Linux. FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) would have it that Linux is extremely complicated to set up and use, but that's just not the case. Even good Windows or network administrators pick it up. Linux is becoming more mainstream and mature, and is a perfectly capable platform for infrastructure, databases, etc. Don't fear it."

.  .  .

(This article is excerpted from the author's upcoming book, The Manager's Guide to Open Source, Manning Publications, September 2004.)

SIDEBAR

Rackspace Managed Hosting saved over $200,000 by using OpenNMS for network monitoring rather than a proprietary product. They continue to save several thousand dollars per year in support.

Open Source Products Used

  • Red Hat Linux
  • OpenNMS for network monitoring
  • BIND 9 for DNS
  • Sendmail and Postfix e-mail servers
  • Samba primary domain controller
  • OpenLDAP for Windows domain controller
  • Crossover Office (proprietary product) to run Microsoft Office on Linux

More Stories By Maria Winslow

Maria Winslow is the author of The Practical Manager's Guide to Open Source, available at http://www.lulu.com/practicalGuide and can be contacted at [email protected]

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
Smart Cities are here to stay, but for their promise to be delivered, the data they produce must not be put in new siloes. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mathias Herberts, Co-founder and CTO of Cityzen Data, will deep dive into best practices that will ensure a successful smart city journey.
19th Cloud Expo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, 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 enterpri...
Businesses are struggling to manage the information flow and interactions between all of these new devices and things jumping on their network, and the apps and IT systems they control. The data businesses gather is only helpful if they can do something with it. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Witeck, Principal Technology Strategist at Citrix, will discuss how different the impact of IoT will be for large businesses, expanding how IoT will allow large organizations to make their legacy ap...
Why do your mobile transformations need to happen today? Mobile is the strategy that enterprise transformation centers on to drive customer engagement. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Roger Woods, Director, Mobile Product & Strategy – Adobe Marketing Cloud, covered key IoT and mobile trends that are forcing mobile transformation, key components of a solid mobile strategy and explored how brands are effectively driving mobile change throughout the enterprise.
From wearable activity trackers to fantasy e-sports, data and technology are transforming the way athletes train for the game and fans engage with their teams. In his session at @ThingsExpo, will present key data findings from leading sports organizations San Francisco 49ers, Orlando Magic NBA team. By utilizing data analytics these sports orgs have recognized new revenue streams, doubled its fan base and streamlined costs at its stadiums. John Paul is the CEO and Founder of VenueNext. Prior ...
“We're a global managed hosting provider. Our core customer set is a U.S.-based customer that is looking to go global,” explained Adam Rogers, Managing Director at ANEXIA, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 19th 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 and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - comp...
What does it look like when you have access to cloud infrastructure and platform under the same roof? Let’s talk about the different layers of Technology as a Service: who cares, what runs where, and how does it all fit together. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Phil Jackson, Lead Technology Evangelist at SoftLayer, an IBM company, spoke about the picture being painted by IBM Cloud and how the tools being crafted can help fill the gaps in your IT infrastructure.
Developing software for the Internet of Things (IoT) comes with its own set of challenges. Security, privacy, and unified standards are a few key issues. In addition, each IoT product is comprised of (at least) three separate application components: the software embedded in the device, the back-end service, and the mobile application for the end user’s controls. Each component is developed by a different team, using different technologies and practices, and deployed to a different stack/target –...
One of biggest questions about Big Data is “How do we harness all that information for business use quickly and effectively?” Geographic Information Systems (GIS) or spatial technology is about more than making maps, but adding critical context and meaning to data of all types, coming from all different channels – even sensors. In his session at @ThingsExpo, William (Bill) Meehan, director of utility solutions for Esri, will take a closer look at the current state of spatial technology and ar...
According to Forrester Research, every business will become either a digital predator or digital prey by 2020. To avoid demise, organizations must rapidly create new sources of value in their end-to-end customer experiences. True digital predators also must break down information and process silos and extend digital transformation initiatives to empower employees with the digital resources needed to win, serve, and retain customers.
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, wh...
Ask someone to architect an Internet of Things (IoT) solution and you are guaranteed to see a reference to the cloud. This would lead you to believe that IoT requires the cloud to exist. However, there are many IoT use cases where the cloud is not feasible or desirable. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation, will discuss the strategies that exist to extend intelligence directly to IoT devices and sensors, freeing them from the constraints of ...
Complete Internet of Things (IoT) embedded device security is not just about the device but involves the entire product’s identity, data and control integrity, and services traversing the cloud. A device can no longer be looked at as an island; it is a part of a system. In fact, given the cross-domain interactions enabled by IoT it could be a part of many systems. Also, depending on where the device is deployed, for example, in the office building versus a factory floor or oil field, security ha...
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lea...
24Notion is full-service global creative digital marketing, technology and lifestyle agency that combines strategic ideas with customized tactical execution. With a broad understand of the art of traditional marketing, new media, communications and social influence, 24Notion uniquely understands how to connect your brand strategy with the right consumer. 24Notion ranked #12 on Corporate Social Responsibility - Book of List.
Why do your mobile transformations need to happen today? Mobile is the strategy that enterprise transformation centers on to drive customer engagement. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Roger Woods, Director, Mobile Product & Strategy – Adobe Marketing Cloud, covered key IoT and mobile trends that are forcing mobile transformation, key components of a solid mobile strategy and explored how brands are effectively driving mobile change throughout the enterprise.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CDS Global Cloud, an Infrastructure as a Service provider, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CDS Global Cloud is an IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) provider specializing in solutions for e-commerce, internet gaming, online education and other internet applications. With a growing number of data centers and network points around the world, ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that LeaseWeb USA, a cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. LeaseWeb is one of the world's largest hosting brands. The company helps customers define, develop and deploy IT infrastructure tailored to their exact business needs, by combining various kinds cloud solutions.
Technology vendors and analysts are eager to paint a rosy picture of how wonderful IoT is and why your deployment will be great with the use of their products and services. While it is easy to showcase successful IoT solutions, identifying IoT systems that missed the mark or failed can often provide more in the way of key lessons learned. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Peter Vanderminden, Principal Industry Analyst for IoT & Digital Supply Chain to Flatiron Strategies, will focus on how IoT de...