• United States

FedEx Freight delivers with Linux Web server migration

Nov 18, 20024 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsLinux

MEMPHIS, TENN. – FedEx Freight recently put a new face on its Web operations, and so far the company likes what it sees.

The large-volume trucking division of FedEx recently installed 15 Red Hat Linux 7.2 and 7.3 servers running Apache Web server to act as a front end to its customer service application, used by businesses that hire Freight to deliver multitruckload shipments of goods across the country.

“We’ve been looking toward the Linux platform for some time” as an alternative operating system, says John Boreni, managing director of computer services.

The servers replaced a dozen Windows NT machines running Microsoft Internet Information Server as a Web server application.

The advantages of the move include improved security and lower cost of software licensing, Boreni says.

“We’ve observed that, out of the box, the Linux servers have [a high level] of security . . . with things like built-in firewall capabilities,” he says.

Boreni also anticipates seeing reliability improvements, although he has no data yet to compare Linux and Windows.

“Since we installed the Linux servers” in June, Boreni says, “we’ve had only two failures, and neither of them was related to the operating system.”

Porting the Java-based applications used by the Web servers to make database calls to back-end systems was painless when the Linux swap was done, Boreni says. FedEx Freight loaded the Linux servers with a version of the Tomcat Java application server, which runs on top of Red Hat Linux. By installing the Tomcat application server, FedEx Freight was able to support the Java-based applications it had been running on the Windows Web servers – now replaced with Linux servers – without having to rewrite its applications.

Boreni adds that the move to Linux would have been more complex, and possibly cost-prohibitive, if it had been necessary to convert his applications from Windows to Linux.

“Java made that an easy transition,” he says, considering the applications run exactly the same on any platform with Java application server support.

While migrating the Web servers to Linux was part of a strategic decision that Boreni and other IT executives at FedEx Freight outlined, Linux had proliferated in the company’s network over the past few years. Boreni says Linux has been used on a spot basis for file servers, DNS services and as information kiosks.

The knowledge base of Linux among his staff was tapped for the Web server project, as Boreni and his staff decided to install the Linux servers in-house on “a few extra servers,” rather than purchase new pre-installed Linux machines from a vendor, such as IBM, Dell or Hewlett-Packard.

“We’ve had some people who have been interested in Linux,” Boreni says, and “our staff has had some training in Linux. The [server software] installation itself is pretty straightforward.” In the future, though, he says he would purchase prebuilt Linux servers from a vendor to save time on larger server deployments.

“Today, we have about 5% of our Intel servers on Linux,” Boreni says. “I’d expect in six to 12 months to have that number in the 15% to 20% range.”

One area of Linux expansion at FedEx Freight includes a server consolidation project Boreni and his team are planning. The company intends to consolidate 40 to 50 servers – including file, print and other applications – onto 20 to 25 “virtual” Linux server instances running on one four-processor Intel box.

FedEx Freight is using software from VMWare to break down the Intel box into logical partitions, or Lpars, as in the mainframe world, on which separate operating systems can be run.

“We expect to achieve some pretty significant cost reduction, mainly on the hardware side,” Boreni says.

Staff Writer Denise Dubie contributed to this story.