by August 1, 2000 0 comments

In the past few years, the popularity of Linux has grown
tremendously. So much so, that now many IT managers in large corporations are
looking at Linux more seriously and are actually deploying it.

There are many things that can be said in favor of Linux and
why they are choosing it, but what stands out the most is its reliability and
stability. Large corporations are looking for 24×7 operations, and that’s
where they find that Linux really holds its ground against most other operating
systems. Its ability to run on leaner hardware than that demanded by most other
operating systems has also helped.

So does this mean that it’s time for you to dump everything
else and switch to Linux? No not really, the best path to take is coexistence.
Whether you have Novell, Win NT or any other flavor of Unix as your enterprise
network operating system, you can very comfortably add a Linux server to the
lot. So, introduce a Linux server to do a few functions and once you are
satisfied with its performance, deploy it full time. We have seen this happening
in many organizations and it seems to work quite well.

A good starting point for a Linux server would be as a mail
server or as an Internet gateway. Although it can also do the job of a file and
print server without any trouble, your current servers would be doing that
rather well too. Where Linux really shines is in the Internet- or intranet-based
applications.

PCQ has for the last few years been writing about what you
can do with Linux, and on a regular basis, been giving out a distribution as
well. From the comments and reports our readers have sent, we have found that
several of them have done exactly what we’ve recommended. Started using Linux
primarily for e-mail for their organization and slowly expanded the services it
provides.

Setting up a Linux server for e-mail and other Internet
services is not all that difficult, and the hands-on guides for this have been
provided by PCQ at several stages. The CD with the July issue even had all the
articles covered so far on Linux in PCQ. But for those of you, who missed the
issue for any reason, they are also available at the PCQ Website at
www.pcquest.com/linux.

The basic advantages of using a Linux server for Internet
services is the fact that all the services required are a native part of the
operating system, and most work out of the box. For e-mail, most distributions
provide sendmail as the basic e-mail engine. Some Linux distributions also
provide Qmail for this purpose and it seems to be gaining popularity.

The single biggest complaint that we receive about Linux is
that it’s not user-friendly and that everything can only be done using a
command line interface (CLI). This is probably the biggest myth about Linux, and
has been doing the rounds for a long time now. Linux has had very good graphics
interfaces, not just one, but several of them. These days, the most common way
to provide access to system management functions is via a Web browser. And Linux
really excels at this now. There are several tools for managing your Linux
system via a Web browser and there is almost no task that can’t be handled.

Red Hat Linux, which PC Quest has been distributing for
sometime now, uses a tool called linuxconf that lets you control virtually the
entire system. This tool has a text-based interface, a very nice graphics-based
interface and of course a Web-based interface too. So, you can choose your own
level of comfort.

Apart from tools like linuxconf, you can also download and
install additional tools like WebMin. With the additional support from a tool
like webmin, you probably will never need to go near your server again. Yes, we’ve
seen this happen too, with the Linux server finding its place in that narrow
little nook under the stairway, with no monitor or keyboard. Only in the event
of a physical breakdown, does someone need to find the machine. Everything else
is done remotely.

As an enterprise manager, it may be difficult to convince
your boss or management that they can get all these great things that a Linux
server can do for free! Yes, being free is one of its biggest problems, in terms
of corporate acceptance. But fortunately, that has changed over the years. So,
you can get an IBM or an Oracle to sell you Linux and Linux-based services, if
that’s the way you want to go.

Another issue is a misplaced security concern. Some tend to
shy away from Linux, since they feel that the entire source code being open is a
problem. The fear is that any amateur cracker can get into the system and do
damage since he would know what to do. But the actual fact is the reverse. You
can’t have "security by obscurity". That is, just because you have
no idea what’s in the operating system, you can’t assume it’s secure. Can
you? In fact, available evidence says that security works the other way around.
The more the people who know the innards of the system, the more secure and
robust it’s likely to be.

What about Linux on the desktop? To the stability and the
ability to run on leaner machines, add the excellent set of developer tools that
are available on Linux, and you can easily understand why many development
houses use Linux desktops in a big way. And at least one company, we know, even
as we write this, is considering moving completely to StarOffice and Linux as
their choice for the desktop, just because of the cost savings involved. For all
we know, many may have made the transition already.

Kishore Bhargava

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