how public and private sector companies are using Linux
for mission critical applications world-wide. by Minu
New India Assurance Company Limited (NIA) is one of
the oldest and largest non-life insurance companies
in India. The company has around 200 products across
verticals that range from insurance of bullock-carts
to insurance of satellites. It has 26 regional offices,
397 divisional offices, 649 branches, and 39 direct
agent branches. It also has operations in 23 other countries.
NIA used to run a mix of Openserver 5 and UnixWare 7
in 1,192 servers across the country and had purchased
enterprise licenses for them. The standard server configuration
was Pentium III, one CPU, and 1 GB RAM. But the enterprise
servers experienced several crashes over time. The company
needed a more stable and reliable system to run its
business applications smoothly and without failure points.
Linux on the servers
The company decided to migrate to Red Hat Linux. It
has been using Red Hat 7.1 and 7.3 for the last 15 months
and Red Hat Linux Advanced Server since July 2002. The
Linux-based servers are used to run applications like
Oracle 9i, mail and messaging, Firewall, DNS, Internet,
Intranet, e-mail, and LDAP. The Web-based Intranet is
used by 500 employees.
The company chose Linux to avoid licensing hassles.
It also felt that the OS will provide easy installation,
configuration, and administration. Basant Kerketta,
System Analyst, NIA, explained, "Since we experienced
several crashes we looked for an alternative. When we
heard of Linux, we installed Linux on a few servers,
deployed Oracle and a few business applications on them.
The servers ran very smoothly. We could generate and
print reports much faster."
The company felt that Linux is more secure than other
OSs because there are minimal open ports. The company's
Firewall runs on a Linux-based server.
NIA implemented Linux on two servers for e-mail and
added more hardware over a period of time. The severs
performed optimally and were able to handle load balancing
and fail-over across the systems.
"Most Linux functions can be installed and forgotten,"
said Basant. "The task of an administrator is simplified
and there is no need to keep constant vigil." The
servers are managed remotely with Secure Shell (SSH)
and a Web interface."
Basant said, "We feel guilty for not being able
to match our price for its performance. If we compare
the present scenario with our past experience of implementing
and maintaining other OSs, Red Hat Linux Advanced Server
performs far better than these, and it costs less than
five percent of other OSs."
The company plans to migrate the entire Unix-based platforms
to Red Hat Linux Advanced Server by the end of this
Rolta on Linux
Rolta India Limited (RIL) provides engineering solutions
and IT services to customers globally. It also offers
ISP services in Mumbai, its global headquarters. In
the competitive ISP space, the company felt it necessary
to reduce the cost-per-subscriber. The solution was
to cut down expenditure on exorbitant licensing and
AMC fees by deploying open source software as a platform
to offer Internet services.
The company deployed Red Hat 6.2 on the database, e-mail,
LDAP, and bandwidth manager servers. These servers have
dual or four-way CPUs on Xeon and Pentium II/III; and
uses 512 MB to 1 GB RAM.
RIL felt that Linux has an advantage over other OSs
because of its open source nature. The user has the
flexibility to modify the source code as per requirements
and can customize it to specific business needs. The
cost of procurement is very low. And with the level
vendor support currently offered, there is a high amount
of expertise available in the market.
The security and access control features have been developed
by the in-house team, who has a lot of technical expertise
Vinay Sawarkar, Executive Director, eServices, Rolta
said, "We continuously upgrade our infrastructure
for the ISP services. We use a load-balancing solution
where we can deploy multiple servers/processors when
required. The OS supports these changes without any
The company has developed its own network management
solution which monitors services and other hardware
processes and sends out alerts to administrators 24x7,
through e-mail and SMS. "The performance is stable
and the servers running Linux do not need to be rebooted
for years," explained Sawarkar.
The company has also built an eCompetency center where
it showcases Linux-based eSecurity products. This eCompetency
center is a Proof of Concept lab where prospective clients
can view a simulation of the product's functionalities.
Google's OS search
Google (www.google.com) needs no introduction. One of
the most widely used search engines, Google is fast,
accurate and easy to use.
Google needed a powerful solution to run its cluster
of 8,000 computers over 10,000 nodes, in a cost-effective
way. The site records millions of hits every day and
thus needs an OS that can withstand the load. The solution
also had to be powerful enough to provide in-depth searching
Linux steps in
The company decided to go in for Linux and now operates
its search engines and computing functions on a cluster
of approximately 8,000 Red Hat Linux servers. All the
Google servers are unbranded PCs that include an array
of Intel CPUs400 MHz to 533 MHz Celeron processors,
and 400 MHz to 466 MHz Pentium II processors. Each server
has at least 256 MB of memory, with some going up to
1 GB. The cluster of Red Hat servers is composed of
several sub-clusters, each comprising 200 to 300 servers.
Google.com chose Red Hat over other Unix/Linux distributions
not only because of the cost saving on license fees,
but also because the OS stood out as a mature distribution
with a package comparable to commercial Unix flavors.
Also, among the other low-cost Linux distributions like
Debian and Slackware, Red Hat Linux stood out as a more
Google is running one of the largest Linux clusters
in the worldover 8,000 systems and growing. Using
off-the-shelf, unbranded Intel-powered hardware coupled
with the Red Hat Linux operating system, Google achieved
the highest possible density at the lowest possible
The main attraction of Red Hat Linux for Google has
been the ability to maintain thousands of low-cost,
redundant servers with freely available tools like shell,
Perl, and Python scripts. The built-in flexibility of
an open source platform lent itself to the development
of more complicated search functions.
Linux on Mainframe at ER&DCI
The Electronics Research and Development Centre of India
(ER&DCI), Thiruvananthapuram, is an autonomous scientific
society of the Ministry of Communications and Information
Technology, Government of India, which develops electronic
and IT applications. Their clientele includes national
and international organizations from the government
and corporate sectors.
The company wanted to offer applications-based services
to various government departments as an ASP. This would
involve hosting various applications and databases on
individual servers in a farm.
The company used Linux as the OS platform along with
z/VM in different logical partitions and deployed IBM
DB2 Universal Database and Websphere Application server
to provide the desired application services. The hardware
used was IBM's zSeries Multiprise 3000 model 7060-H50.
The company also used Intel-based servers running Linux.
ER&DCI chose to use Linux because it saved the cost
of procuring an OS, and the source code is under constant
scrutiny by the open source community. The company did
not feel restricted to a specific vendor and was pleased
that many ISVs were developing applications for Linux.
The company also found it easy to port applications
to Linux. Linux offered ER&DCI different levels
of security and flexibility.
The system shares the memory and disk storage between
three logical partitions (LPAR). Each LPAR runs native
OSs. Linux and z/VM have been implemented as native
OSs. Under z/VM, several Linux OSs can work as guests,
presenting an environment of multiple OSs sharing the
processor, memory, and storage. Each Linux guest is
equivalent to a server, which may be configured as an
application server, Web server, or database server of
very high computing capability. The hardware has internal
security features, which add to OS security.
Traditional Linux security mechanisms like user authentication
and password protection can be utilized. Native file-system
level and file access privileges can be limited to authorized
administrators from specific consoles. Single sign-on
authentication can be extended to the applications hosted
on the OS. Session level security is enabled using Secure
The machine currently uses IBM's 7060-H50 processor.
It uses one CPU and 2 GB memory. This machine can be
upgraded to a 7060-H70 which uses two CPUs and 4 GB
memory. In this case the Linux OS does not need to be
ER&DCI claims that it's easier to manage the systems
compared to a distributed system.
IBM offers strong support for the Linux applications,
which run on its hardware.
The Center for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC)
makes supercomputers that are used for heavy-duty data
processing in jobs like oil exploration and weather
forecasting. The company needed reliable and stable
software for its high-performance computing lab in Bangalore.
So it decided to deploy Linux to fulfil its needs.
C-DAC now runs a number of Linux-based applications
like e-governance solutions, network proxy/security,
office automation, embedded systems, Indian language
products, and high-performance computing functions.
The company also uses language script tools on the OS.
R.K. Arora, Executive Director, C-DAC says, "High-performance
computing has traditionally been a domain of interest
for the scientific and engineering community. Consequently,
high-performance computing initiatives using Linux has
been in vogue. Keeping with the times C-DAC has adopted
Linux for its high-performance computing lab at Bangalore."
The company feels that Linux performs well on the security
front. There is a large community working on the Linux
code. Since the open source code is open to review and
test by an equally large number of users, coding errors
and vulnerabilities are discovered and corrected very
rapidly. For similar reasons the open source programs
can be scrutinized for security flaws on a regular basis.
C-DAC feels that Linux is very flexible and adaptable.
And these characteristics lend itself to implementation
in a variety of IT architectures. Linux allows the company
to speed integration and implementation of new applications
across its heterogeneous environments.
The use of Linux has resulted in low TCO for the company
due to aspects like reduced or no licensing fees, ability
to run on lower cost hardware, less expensive upgrades,
and easily available technical pool.
Open source software is not owned or controlled by any
one developer or vendor. Hence organizations retain
the choice of deciding on support and development partners,
from a large pool of in-house as well as external resources.
Amazon hunts for an OS
Amazon (www.Amazon.com) is one of the largest online
retailers of books, toys, music, DVDs, electronics,
houseware, and a variety of other products. It has one
of the largest data warehouses in the world which is
a central point for all its dataincluding order
data, customer data, and inventory datathat supports
The online nature of its business needs 24x7 availability
of data, and no single point of failure. The online
retailer was looking for new ways to reduce operating
costswithout affecting the positive customer experience
associated with running the user-friendly site. It decided
to use Linux as a server platform to save license costs.
The Linux prize catch
The company has deployed HP Superdome servers with the
Linux-based operating environment across its entire
global enterprise. The Oracle database and the front-end
of its data warehouse runs on these servers. The front-end
of Amazon.com's data warehouse is a collection of HP
LT6000 Intel-based Linux servers. The Linux systems
support the company's extract, transform, load processing
functions, and supports the user interface.
The hardware is in the form of thin, rack-mountable
models with Intel processors and Red Hat Linux as the
Amazon.com's key business strategy was to lower operating
costs and pass the benefits to its customers in the
form of lower prices. It found that the overall cost
of ownership including the hardware, software, staffing,
and purchasing & retirement costs are significantly
less compared to other OSs.
The company felt that the OS could be downloaded free,
or a single copy bought from a company like Red Hat
or SuSE. The OS can then be installed on any number
of computers. It comes bundled with other software for
sending Web pages to the users browser or running
The company does not have to pay extra licensing fees
for the computers that connect to Linux servers. Linux's
open-source licensing policy makes it simpler for the
company to make sure its computers are in compliance
with license restrictions. This is a benefit over other
OSs' per-seat licensing plans that can result in costly
and legally daunting audits.
The company feels that Linux involves less administrative
costs and chances of the system crashing are negligible.
There is no need to reboot the system.
HP helped Amazon migrate its customized software on
the earlier Unix servers from Sun Microsystems to the
Linux provides the reliability, affordability,
and scalability that a business needs to grow.
It is possible to setup an install of Red Hat
Linux and get a consistent machine configuration
Linux provides the ability to maintain thousands
of low-cost, redundant servers with shell, Perl,
and Python scripts.
The built-in flexibility of an open source platform
lends itself to the development of complicated
Knowledge-based and responsive support is provided
by the distribution vendors and the open source
The OS comes with the development tools necessary
to develop a high volume website.
The overall cost of ownership including the
hardware, software, staffing, purchasing, and
retirement costs is significantly low.
The companies can use numerous computers without
paying additional software license fees for
Linux is easy to manage both centrally or remotely.
It is easy to add new features without interoperability
It is possible to reuse the codes which in turn
reduce the development and debugging time.
The company does not have to bother about the
number of users, licensing policies and related
There is low maintenance cost and practically
zero cost of updates, patches and fixes.
The companies do not need to be tied to any
specific vendor as many ISVs are developing
their applications for Linux.
Sharing of memory, CPU, I/O, and other resources
to help reduce TCO and Total Cost of Computing.