Mailbag: Linux management

* Readers weigh in on management of Linux environments

I recently invited readers to share their thoughts and experiences regarding the management of Linux, and today’s column will feature the feedback that we’ve received.

Interestingly, I received a variety of perspectives, which reflects the diversity of Linux as a platform.

One reader reports that they are running Red Hat Linux on most of their boxes, with some Windows and Macs. The Linux boxes replaced DEC and Sun workstations and servers, and they have found that the Red Hat operating system enables them “to manage many more machines with much less administrative tasks. The Red Hat Linux systems have made us more effective systems administrators. Even with the increase in hack and spam activity, our network and machines are more secure. Even special applications for scientists build faster and work in Red Hat… As you can tell, I’m very satisfied with the Red Hat systems we have.”

“In our processing environment,” reports another reader, “Linux in a production role is supported by the CA enterprise management tool suite. In our less formal hosting environment, only basic tools are used.” So they are using two different approaches for managing Linux, depending on the environment.

Another reader says, “The thing that pushed me over the edge to a purchased management solution was the cost of my time. I’m a one-man show, running a Linux hosting business. As I added (and dropped) clients, the manual management of all the systems was becoming quite a pain. I had checklists and scripts that I had developed to help with most of these tasks, but still my time was being consumed by just keeping the thing chugging along. I needed to spend more time on promoting and consulting.”

He goes on to say, “Then I came across an ad for a hosting management product (HSPcomplete by SW-Soft). Not only did it give me one-stop management of all my services, but it also provided for a Web storefront, customer management and credit card processing for the services. At the time it was expensive, but what I gained is truly astounding. A customer can now come to the Web site, browse my hosting offerings, sign up for a hosting account, pay with a credit card; the system will build their server, assign it an IP address and have them running in a matter of minutes. I get an e-mail from the system that I have a new paying customer.”

A reader who runs the IT department in a rural school district laments that there is no money for IT to do things the right way, and the money isn’t there to complete projects that were approved to begin. With that in mind, he says, “Free Linux management tools that work - and integrate with Novell’s eDirectory, Apple’s Open Directory, or the LDAP implementation of FreeBSD, Red Hat/Fedora - would be a tremendous boon to IT shops like mine. Most smaller IT shops have the hodge-podge of operating systems, hardware and vendors that comes with trying to get decent stuff for the lowest price. Free or low-cost alternatives are what keep us little guys (and gals) in business.”

And yet another reader questioned why Linux is an alternative platform. He doesn’t think that Windows is used for serious server applications. Then he posits his own question, “You really should ask: ‘Why are you not using Solaris?’”

And finally, another reader wrote in to say, “It is the fact that I can modify and adapt code that interests me. And it is not the ‘price’ that draws me. My labour must cost many times the price of shrink-wrap packages. It is the control over the risk that I will have to ‘upgrade’ to - for my needs - non-functional software. That is, I am controlling the risk cost rather than the acquisition cost.”

As I started out the article saying, we have several very different and interesting perspectives represented here. Many thanks to our readers who shared their thoughts and experiences.

I end this article with a fond farewell to my readers, who have been great to share their thoughts and opinions with me over the years. I’m moving on to other things, and this is the last of my articles that will appear in this column, but keep watching this newsletter for Dennis’ weekly articles. And I sign off with a heartfelt thanks to our loyal readers!


Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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