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Is Linux ready for the enterprise?

A ten-plus year is a decent amount of time for any OS to mature. Linux, the open source Unix variant and the much-hyped 'Windows killer', has been around for 10 years now, but unfortunately, till recently, Linux was considered to be geek-centric an OS for geeks and by geeks.

But now, with the likes of IBM, HP, Intel and Oracle announcing support for Linux with some already porting their existing applications to Linux the free OS is making a serious run at the enterprise level. When I say 'enterprise', I don't mean just Web servers or mail servers; today Linux is also about relational databases, clustering and other management features that makes it a killer choice for enterprise apps.

But most Indian enterprises don't seem to have realized this you'll find many Indian enterprises running their mail or Web servers on Linux (and many more joining in), but that is something you can hardly define as mission critical.

Rarely, if ever, will you find a company migrating all its mission critical applications to Linux. And this in spite of the facts Linux exhibits quite a few benefits when compared with other OSs in terms of scalability, reliability and stability. And of course, it's free. Also, it's evolved with time; it now features easy installation modules and a GUI interface that makes it simple to manage.

But truth be said, Linux has its negative side too. Most enterprises look for a strong support backbone, something that other enterprise OSs like Windows NT/ 2000 or various Unix clones score on, but which is practically non-existent when it comes to Linux in India. Applications are another area where Linux lags behind Windows or Unix. But again, more applications are coming in on Linux, and the situation is already changing, thanks to Oracle, Corel, IBM and many others migrating their existing Windows/Unix applications to Linux.

Consider Oracle for instance. The company has already ported Oracle 8i and Oracle 9i Application Server on Linux. Ditto with IBM. Also, thanks to the open source movement there are plenty of applications available for free.

At Network Magazine, we decided to put the facts together, clean out the hype and explore the true potential Linux holds as an enterprise OS.

For starters, there's a brief overview of Linux and its features. From here we move on to the various Linux distributions, and help you decide which is the right flavour for your enterprise. We spoke to various India Linux User Groups (ILUGs), as also with the guys at Red Hat, Silicon Graphics, Oracle, etc, to find out where Linux is headed in India. Lastly, we've topped it all up with a few case studies on Linux implementations that inform you about the issues you'll face when migrating to this free OS.

So, Will Linux be a dominant server OS in India? If IDC is to be believed, it is very likely to overtake Windows NT/2000 in the not too distant feature. Whatever the soothsayers may predict, the success of Linux will largely depend on how fast it is adopted by the enterprise, or how many companies migrate their existing mission critical applications onto Linux. We hope this issue will be of help if you're thinking along these lines. If not, it'll give you something to think about anyway.

Sandeep Ajgaonkar Assistant Editor
sandeepa@vsnl.com

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