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Show shines light on desktop Linux

By Phil Hochmuth, Network World
February 21, 2005 12:12 AM ET

Page 2 of 2

But the real payoff with Linux still appears to be in large Unix-to-Linux data center server migrations, according to other show attendees.

Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA), a network of three hospitals and more than 20 healthcare facilities in the Boston area, is turning to Linux for most of the new server applications it acquires. The healthcare group previously ran an almost all-Windows shop, with a few Unix servers supporting a large outpatient management application in clinics. When the time came to upgrade the Unix-based system a year ago, Linux was considered.

CHA took time to demonstrate the stability of the new application on Red Hat Linux to senior management. But what caught the eye of the CHA brass was the savings: The cost for Intel-based hardware and software support for Linux was about half of similar systems based on Unix and proprietary chip hardware.

"When a new vendor comes in the door and talks about an application, we've been putting the screws to them: If you want our business, you should have a Linux offering," says Seth Sladek, manager of systems engineering at CHA.

A different firm that found savings by migrating older applications to Linux was FreshDirect, a Long Island, N.Y., food distributor. The company migrated its back-end order processing system, hosted on Sun Solaris servers, to Red Hat Linux, running on hardware from Egenera, whose blade servers support virtualization across pooled hardware resources, such as processors and memory.

The benefits of the Unix-to-Linux swap were obvious, says Myles Trachtenberg, CTO of FreshDirect. With 13 dual-processor Egenera blades, FreshDirect replaced 200 Sun servers and improved the company's core application average response time from 8 seconds to 1. Trachtenberg also estimates that the company will save close to $2 million in hardware costs.

"There is no reason to stay on Unix," Trachtenberg says. "The price/performance and the stability are there with Linux." But users interested in migrating applications to Linux should be aware of the pitfalls.

"The issues are usually not with Linux itself, but in getting two or more products working together on Linux," he says.

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.

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