MORE BUSINESSES ADOPTING OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE

May 2002

Samba and Your Servers

If you have not yet performed a software audit as suggested earlier in these columns, you might want to think again about doing it. By July 31st users of Microsoft software will have to decide whether to sign on to the subscription plans or to pay full (and higher) prices for upgrading their operating systems. This issue was also addressed in earlier columns.

Your file and print servers are good places to begin, and you will find that with Linux you can run both from the same machine. And you can convert them to Linux even if the rest of your operation is running Windows. Samba is a piece of Open Source software (and it's free, see http://samba.org/) that will make your Linux machine appear to be running Windows, enabling it to work with the rest of your Windows system.

The latest version, Samba 2.2.3, has been tested by reviewers who claim that it "can handle four times as many client systems as Windows 2000 before performance begins to drop off" (http://www.vnunet.com/News/1131114). An additional benefit is that Samba can stand in for the Windows NT 4.0 Primary Domain Controller (PDC) Server, saving you additional money. Although Windows Active Directory is still beyond the reach of the current Samba, version 3.0 is expected to handle this directory system as well.

Mail Servers and Winnebago Industries Inc.

Winnebago, the American motor home manufacturer, had already put its Web and file servers and domain name servers on Linux, running them as virtual servers on an IBM S/390 mainframe (for more on this Linux-on-mainframe strategy, see the February column). Next came the mail servers. Faced with the need to upgrade its 700-user mail system to Exchange 2000, the company discovered that it would cost US$150,000 for hardware and software. The solution was to use the Bynari Inc. Insight Server Enterprise Edition 3.0 (http://www.eweek.com/article/0,3658,s=25200&a=24535,00.asp) and SuSE 7.0 Linux on the old hardware, for a total cost of only US$26,000. By using InsightConnector on the clients, Winnebago was able to save paying for Exchange client licenses, while still enjoying all the functionality of Microsoft Outlook. Details on how this all works are at (http://www-1.ibm.com/linux/linuxline/apr02/partnernews.shtml). While the old Intel mail server hardware is running fine, Winnebago will eventually shift the mail server software onto the IBM mainframe as well. IBM reports that Linux is on about 11% of the mainframe capacity it ships.

Banking and Wall Street Brokerage Houses

Among the most impressive adopters of Linux are the financial houses that insist on a) uptime b) reliability for meeting government-imposed standards of reporting c) scalability to high numbers of transactions and d) the most value for the money. These are not sentimental Penguin fans.

Merrill Lynch is a typical example of the brokerage houses that are improving their financial positions by adopting Linux software on a large scale. Some, like Credit Suisse First Boston, are gradually replacing UNIX installations with Linux, but Merrill Lynch is the first brokerage to move the entire company, not just some operations, over to Linux (http://www.forbes.com/home/2002/03/27/0327linux.html). Unlike UNIX, applications written for Linux will run with only small changes on everything from mainframes to PCs, and on minicomputers and hand-held devices, too. Porting applications from UNIX to Linux is often very easy, and Merrill Lynch looks forward to enormous savings by adopting Linux across the board; they hope to save "tens of millions of dollars annually within three to five years."

Some banks switching to Linux include New Zealand's TSB Bank, Italy's Banca Commerciale Italiana, and the Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB) operation mentioned above: "The system handles some 35 million global and 25 million US transactions per day" (http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1104-887961.html).

Linux Supercomputers

The banks scale up their computing power by clustering the Intel processors running Linux. There are said to be some 15 banks in London running Linux clusters right now, but they have still not announced themselves.

One supercomputing project that has made a loud noise recently is the U.S. Department of Energy's $24.5 million contract with Hewlett-Packard for a Linux supercomputer running 1400 Intel chips (McKinley and Madison) at the Molecular Science Computing Facility in the state of Washington (http://www.pnl.gov/news/2002/computer.htm). Expected to be online in early 2003, the supercomputer will run at 8.3 teraflops. That is 30 times faster than the current supercomputer at the laboratory (it seems to be a Cray), or 8,300 times faster than an up-to-date personal computer. The rest of the system matches: 1.8 terabytes of RAM and 53 terabytes of Network Attached Storage.

More Office Software

In a recent interview (http://www.softwaremarketsolution.com), I suggested that the time was ripe for someone to commercialize the free office suite software available in Open Source. Well, it has already happened.

StarOffice, the popular German office suite, was purchased a while back by Sun Microsystems. Sun released the source code as the free OpenOffice suite (URL), and sells a StarOffice version containing additional (proprietary) software. OpenOffice is a free download.

Now SOT Finnish Software Engineering Ltd. (http://www.sot.com/) has repackaged OpenOffice as SOT Office. The software is available as a free download, but can also be purchased on a CD in a colorful box. Support contracts are also available; this means that there is commercial support available now for companies that want to adopt the OpenOffice suite.

One sign of the rapid progress of Open Source software is that all of the items referred to above made the news in the past month. And the pace should increase from now on.

About Your Software Auditů

You might look over your software licenses and see whether you are subject to audit by Microsoft or the Business Software Association (BSA). If you are, it would be a good idea to audit yourself and see whether you can show licenses and proof of purchase for all the software.

The audit tools favored by Microsoft and the BSA come from Belarc, Inc. of Maynard, Massachusetts (http://belarc.com/). The cheaper of the two tools is advertised as "Very cost effective at $19.95 per PC per year. Minimum cost of $399.00, allowing for 20 PCs." If you would like to experiment, Belarc makes available a free download of their Belarc Advisor tool; it comes with a license that allows its use on a single PC, and forbids its use on multiple PCs within a company. With the Advisor you can try an audit on a single PC and gain a small idea of how close you would come to passing.

When Microsoft approached the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (the prison system) in December 2000 with an offer to sell them an "enterprise license" for several million dollars, the Department declined, and then conducted its own internal software audit. Microsoft consulted its own sales records, and after some discussion presented the Department with a bill for $1.5 million to cover some 2,100 "licensing shortfalls" (http://www.austin360.com/aas/metro/041202/12prison.html). The Department does not agree with Microsoft's findings, and is trying to negotiate the differences, but Microsoft is losing patience and has said it will conduct an external audit (by Microsoft or the BSA, and allowable under the current licensing) to settle the amount owed. After the Department has already gone to the trouble and expensive of its own internal audit, it will have to pay for the installation of Microsoft-approved audit software on its 11,000 machines (the price is given above), the time of the auditors, any software licenses found missing or unable to prove they have been purchased, and heavy penalties for having unlicensed software. Check your software licenses now, and see whether you can save with Samba, Apache, and all the other Open Source software out there.

Copyright © 2002 by Donald K. Rosenberg, Stromian Technologies (http://www.stromian.com)

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