Readers of this column who read earlier pieces drawing their attention to the coming changes to Microsoft’s licensing and thire autumn 2001 deadline may want to review the licensing and schedule changes that the company made in response to customer feedback. Microsoft has revised the licenses (Open License 6.0, Select License 6.0, Enterprise Agreement 6.0, and Enterprise Subscription Agreement 6.0) and extended the deadline to 31 July 2002. The current guide to their terms and complexities begins at http://www.microsoft.com/licensing/Default.asp. Concern about the new terms and higher prices has caused many firms and governments to look harder at Linux as an desktop alternative.
There are now even more options for businesses interested in replacing other systems with Linux. Because any vendor has access to the source code of Linux, an increasing number of vendors are finding new ways to work with it. This month we look at solutions that substitute Linux for other operating systems, not by keeping the client/server hardware model, but by keeping all the desktops and all the servers in a company on a single machine. Depending on your situation, this can lead to large savings.
Business and Linux are Finding More to Like About Each Other
The January-February 2002 LinuxWorld show in New York City (run simultaneously with the show in Paris) demonstrated how much Linux has grown up. Like European shows, the New York event did not have the ear-shattering noise generated by countless competing booths at Windows shows, but this calm approach is nothing new for Linux shows. What marked the new maturity was the passing of the get-rich over-excitement of the dot.com era, and the show’s intense concentration on networked systems suitable for businesses. The show floor was full of vendors--many of them small companies--selling hardware (and some software) aimed at system administrators and other behind-the-scenes technical buyers.
The visitor to the show could find two very different approaches to the question of implementing Linux on a network and maintaining central control. One approach comes from the Linux community, has been around for a while, and is free. The other is brand new, comes from a major corporation, and costs money.
The Linux Terminal Server Project and its Friends
The Linux community has a number of projects aimed at enabling client machines to be run from servers. This practice enables companies not only to use older, smaller hardware that could not mount newer software, it also enables centralized administration of many users. In typical Linux community fashion, these projects tend to overlap, both in function and in contributors.
The EtherBoot project (http://etherboot.sourceforge.net/) enables the booting of diskless PC’s by connecting them to a network. It takes advantage of the fact that many network cards contain a socket for an EPROM that can contain the boot image. The boot image can be delivered to the EPROM over the network; this enables all machines to boot with a standardized (and updateable) version of an operating system.
For those who seek the boot code to place in the EPROM, the ROM-o-matic project, sponsored by Thinguin.org and hosted at http://rom-o-matic.net/ will generate EtherBoot images for you, based on your hardware.
Finally, the Linux Terminal Server Project (LSTP, now in version 3.0) will give you the code to create a server to run the thin clients (go to http://www.ltsp.org/index.php). This thin-client niche provides another example of a business founded on Linux: DisklessWorkstations.com (http://www.DisklessWorkstations.com) will sell you a CD containing the LSTP code, and hardware such as code-containing PROMs for your network cards, the network cards themselves, and support and service for these systems. The LSTP software is now certified to run on all IBM systems.
Linux Servers on a Mainframe
This certification on IBM is no accident--it fits in with IBM’s plans to promote Linux as a way of enabling its customers to move from older IBM operating systems and machines. But the strategy also includes taking business away from competitors. The IBM strategy of server consolidation (generally onto mainframes), enables customers to shut down their server farms of dozens or hundreds (or thousands) of NT, Solaris, or HP-UX servers and instead run them as virtual instances of Linux servers on an IBM mainframe. And to enable smaller companies to take advantage of this architecture, IBM has introduced a new smaller mainframe, Raptor, costing less than US $400,000. At sufficient scale, this solution can save a customer money (see http://www.consultingtimes.com/Serverheist.html for an analysis of costs and savings). Balanced against the mainframe cost are the savings in space, electricity, personnel, hardware, and licensing fees.
It should be possible, then, for a company to make its desktops reside on a single mainframe (for instance, in the form of LTSP), and its servers to sit on the same machine. Furthermore, the mainframe functions of the company can also be run on the same machine. This is an IBM-centric solution to computing, of course, but it should be cost-effective for many companies, and the surge in mainframe sales is beginning. Smaller companies can take advantage of the same functionality in the IBM iServers, which are Intel boxes that can run Linux, UNIX, and Windows servers in virtual mode, taking care of firewall, file and print servers, mail server, and Web server. The entire IBM line is ready to run Linux as part of server consolidation, from the S/390, to the iSeries (AS/400) and pSeries (RS/6000).
But What About Outlook?
Many companies like the idea of server consolidation and the benefits of running all-Linux systems, but worry about the missing piece: employees use Microsoft Outlook for e-mail, scheduling, and especially for arranging meetings among persons whose schedules are available on the network. There are client solutions to the problem, such as Ximian Connector, but these require a Microsoft Exchange server on the network. The Exchange server, and every client connected with it, require expensive licenses.
The good news is that you can now replace your Exchange server and save about 80% on the licensing costs by purchasing the Bynari InsightServer and the client piece for it, InsightConnector (http://bynari.net/). InsightConnector sits on your Windows client and enables all the functionality of Outlook without the necessity of having an Exchange server. The InsightServer will run on any IBM machine, from Intel up to a S/390 mainframe.
This conversion and savings in costs results from adherence to open standards, in this case IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol), used by mail servers around the world). Microsoft’s Exchange Server runs on its own standard, MAPI (Messaging Application Program Interface). Proprietary standards and interfaces lock customers into higher costs, while open standards promote competition, lower costs, and customer choice.
Copyright © 2002 by Donald K. Rosenberg, Stromian Technologies (http://www.stromian.com)
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