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Where Linux could fit in your Microsoft shop

Mar 10, 20043 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsLinuxMicrosoft

* Considering Linux for simple services

Last issue, we looked at where Linux came from and considered briefly what it might be able to do to improve your network. Today we’ll examine that in a bit more detail.

Linux is much less resource-intensive than Windows servers – it needs less RAM, less disk, slower bus and CPU power, and fewer video resources to do the same thing a Windows server does. So why not simply switch? We don’t switch because it’s the applications that matter the most, and in the large majority of enterprises, it’s applications such as Microsoft Office, Exchange Server and SQLServer that drive the choice of operating system platform. While there are Linux-based alternatives for Office, they aren’t as full featured nor as user-friendly and (at least today) really only appeal to those who prefer an ABM (Anyone But Microsoft) strategy.

Still, Exchange can be almost more trouble than it’s worth. It takes a large investment in hardware for it to be an effective mail system because it adds all sorts of other services and applets to basic e-mail. If all you want is e-mail, an inexpensive Linux box running one of the open source mail services, such as Sendmail (see, will show a much faster return on investment at a much lower total cost of ownership (TCO) than Exchange.

You probably run a number of different database applications in your enterprise, also. Some of these come with proprietary databases and some use any standard SQL database (such as Bill Gates’ SQLServer or Larry Ellison’s Oracle server). You may also have in-house written apps that use a SQL database or something else such as Microsoft Access, dBase, etc. Many of these could be hosted on a Linux platform running an open source database system such as MySQL (

When you have Oracle or SQLServer, the incremental cost of adding a second or third hardware server (with all of the operating system and database licenses you’d need) could be astronomical. But throwing up a low-priced Linux server running MySQL can almost be done out of petty cash. While you wouldn’t initially want to run the company financials on it, an inventory system or a sales system could be fairly easily run up and would have the additional benefit of reducing the load on your major systems, such as the company financials.

Quicker ROI, lower TCO, better performance from the reduced load on your Windows boxes – it sounds to me like this option is at least worth exploring. But what is “open source” software, anyway? Come back next time and we’ll explain it all.