Increasing adoption of Linux in offices

By : |July 29, 2005 0

By: Mr. Kiran Gaitonde, Project Manager, Global Edge Software Ltd.

Introduction

Linux is an operating system created by a young student, Linus Torvalds, at the University of Helsinki in Finland. The kernel, at the heart of all Linux systems, is developed and released under the GNU General Public License and its source code is freely available to everyone.

Linux, being constantly tweaked by developers, offers more flexibility with the programs and applications. While there is no customer service line, per se, to call if a system crashes, message board and chat rooms are always up and running.

Why Linux?

    An updated TCO study has found that a 250-seat company can end up saving 36 percent if it were to equip its users with the Linux operating system and applications that run on it. "The costing models include expenses such as workstations, servers, networking, IT staff, consultancy fees, internet service charges, file, mail and print servers, e-commerce servers, SQL and network infrastructure servers, internet and intranet servers, line-of-business software, desktop productivity applications, external training, printers as well as miscellaneous systems costs.

    Components

    Distribution:

    When it comes to choosing a Linux distribution, there are a dizzying array of choices, including de facto standard Red Hat, Mandrake, SUSE, Debian, Slackware, Fedora, etc., to build a complete, general purpose operating system exclusively from free software.

    Hardware:

    Most hardware manufacturers today support most Linux distributions. In addition, most Linux distributions today automatically detect most hardware.

    Window Manager:

    Linux supports GNOME and KDE, as well as a wide variety of window managers. While GNOME has the fewest features and is least likely to confuse users with options, KDE is more feature-rich and powerful, but is so configurable that it could need someone to spend too much time working with it.

     

    Office Suite:

    A variety of Linux based Office Suites (with integrated word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, graphics applications, etc.) are available free.

    • GNOME Office – The GNOME project has built a complete desktop environment based entirely on open-source freeware. It includes an extensive software collection, ranging from small utilities to larger applications.
    • KOffice – An integrated office suite for the K Desktop Environment (KDE) consisting of several applications like word processor, spreadsheet, database, flow charter, drawing, image editing and presentation software.
    • OpenOffice – OpenOffice.org has a set of stable and well-developed office applications: A word processor (writer), spreadsheet (calc), presentation manager (impress), and drawing program (draw); open-source databases can be easily integrated.

    Web Browser:

    Linux users can choose from variety of web browsers like Mozilla, Firefox, Opera, and Konqueror.

    Mail Client:

    Checking e-mail on a Linux operating system offers a variety of choices, from text only to graphically rich, from small and simple to groupware kitchen sink, like Pine, Evolution, Mozilla, Netscape, Kmail, Thunderbird, etc,.

    Instant Messaging:

    No major problems should arise with instant messaging as it works today, since both GAIM and Kopete are full-featured, fully compatible instant messaging clients. The instant messaging field on all platforms face the same challenges — how to enable clients on different proprietary networks to connect and share with each other.

    Database:

    Even as Linux has garnered support by all of the major commercial database vendors, the freely available open source databases like MySQL, PostgreSQL, McKoiSQL, InterbaseSQL, CQL++, Gadfly and SAP DB, have grown in sophistication and features.

     

    Multimedia:

    When it comes to video codecs, Linux is the place to be. There are several multimedia applications available such as XMMS, Xine, RealPlayer and MPlayer. A video that would take all of the computing power of a P4 2.0 Ghz under Windows Media Player would barely touch the resources of a P3 500 Mhz running Mplayer.

    Backup:

    The flexibility demonstrated with storage devices makes backup systems based on Linux valuable to many companies. As vendors move toward network-attached disk-to-disk backup devices, and disk-to-disk-to-tape, embedded Linux operating systems once again rise to the occasion.

    Enterprise backup solutions will remain under the control of the major application vendors for the next few years, but departmental and remote office backup solutions must improve. Many enterprises do a spectacularly poor job providing backup and recovery tools for remote offices and mobile users. Linux appliances designed for such operations are now on the market at affordable prices.

    For enterprise use, Linux storage devices can be leveraged as intermediate backup servers. Backup data can be gathered via disk-to-disk transfer to the Linux station, then common Linux tape backup options: mt and tar can be used.

    File sharing:

    Linux desktops can deploy Samba, an open source implementation of the SMB (Server Message Block) file sharing protocol. Samba can be installed on any Linux distribution at no cost. Yet another option is WebDAV (World Wide Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning), a set of extensions to HTTP that facilitates collaborative editing and file management between remote users.

    Web servers:

    The Linux operating system offers great support for Web servers in the home or office. Apache and Apache-SSL are the most popular flavors used as Web Server on Linux.

     

    POP3 email servers:

    Sendmail and other Linux-based email applications can provide cost-effective spam and anti-virus filtering for large numbers of users.

    Linux offers a variety of mail transfer agent applications beyond Sendmail, including Postfix, Exim, and Qmail.

    DNS, DHCP, and LDAP servers:

    The DNS services built into every Linux distribution offer improvement in following the standards well enough to interoperate with the rest of the world.

    Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) servers inhabit every router, network-attached storage, and file server box, but large networks need distributed yet coordinated DHCP. Many DHCP options exist for Linux servers, including an IPv6 version.

    LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) services power security, access to network resources, and email distribution, but remains low-profile (until it breaks). Because reliability and security rate high on the must-have list for LDAP servers, Linux options fit the bill for many companies.

    DNS, DHCP, and LDAP servers can be dropped onto a network with no changes necessary to clients using those services if the clients follow protocol standards.

    Firewall:

    Several Linux distributions provide excellent firewalls or secure routers using minimal PC hardware. Many will run on any Pentium processor with 64MB of RAM, minimal hard disk space, and two network adapters. Some of these minimal hardware firewalls are Coyote Linux Wolverine, Gibraltar firewall/router and Sentry Firewall CD.

    Storage:

    Network-attached storage (NAS) devices have become a popular departmental solution for constantly expanding content. Again, embedded Linux dominates the market in storage appliances, and they often rely on Samba.

    Flexibility has become a main selling point for Linux storage appliances. Every standard Linux distribution supports Windows SMB, Windows CIFS, AppleTalk, and NFS.

    Converting an existing file server into NAS can be done with any Linux server distribution.

    Adding Linux-based storage to an existing Windows network, using Samba or another option, has a high success rate.

    Clusters, grids, and supercomputers:

    No enterprise today believes acceptable availability means 23×6. High availability through clusters or grid computing has become increasingly important to companies in all types of business.

    IBM mainframe Linux options include clusters within a single hardware system. The Linux High Performance Computing list over 25 Linux cluster vendors waiting to supply products from a single quote form. Another source of information is the Linux Clustering Information Center.

    Stepping up from big iron, some businesses now look to supercomputers to solve business problems. Linux gets mentioned in the Top 500 Supercomputer Sites as the driving software force.

    Summary

    Linux systems are rapidly becoming part of the approved mix of technologies used to provide business services securely and cost-effectively. IT managers need cost-effective and secure platforms, and Linux provides both. Executive management needs to learn to trust Linux, and that will happen as more Linux products provide services for their company. Whether the company buys Linux "on purpose," or the Linux systems come through a more covert route, every company will learn they have Linux in place.

    Demonstrated competence for existing Linux systems will pave the way for an increasing number of Linux systems in every company over the next three years.

  • Linux is an open-source code that is freely available and can be modified by anyone in the world. The only stipulation is that engineers return the code to the public.
  • Linux’s functionality, adaptability and robustness, has made it the main alternative for proprietary operating systems. IBM, Hewlett-Packard and other giants of the computing world have embraced Linux and support its ongoing development.
  • Though Linux is being adopted worldwide, primarily, as a server platform, its use as a home and office desktop operating system is also on the rise.
  • There are now desktop management systems such as KDE and GNOME, and a wide range of applications that run on Linux.
  • There is a lot of useful high quality software that can be legally used under license by anyone, including corporations, that doesn’t need to be purchased. Such software includes many Linux distributions, the Apache web server, Perl, OpenOffice, the Firefox web browser, and Thunderbird mail client.
  • Growing percentage of Enterprise Resource Planning systems now running on Linux.
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