Linux Means Business: Linux for Internet Business Applications

A look at how one company is moving ahead by using Linux to provide Internet services to its clients.
Keeping Current

Keeping daemons and applications up to date on a production server is an important part of security and standards adherence. The widespread availability of Linux news and resources has helped us greatly in this regard. We often found when working with other departments that servers based on other operating systems tended to suffer from version lag. Some NT servers were not patched to protect against the rampant teardrop denial-of-service attack, and we found that a mission-critical HP 9000 box was running daemons from 1994, including Sendmail, which is often a hacker target. Most of the time, the reason for the lag was that updates are not easy to keep track of or even apply for such environments as NT and HP-UX. To some extent it is a matter of system administrator vigilance, but the Linux community makes it exceptionally easy to stay responsible.

However, we recently decided that keeping up the aging RPM set from Caldera OpenLinux 1.1 files was becoming an excessive chore. Our tests had shown some advantages to the features of the GNU glibc library, so we upgraded all of our Linux machines to Red Hat 5.0. Besides problems with Disk Druid and the strange fact that the install doesn't set up the /etc/hosts and in.ftpd files properly, we've been very satisfied with the new distribution. The disadvantage is that we lose the benefit of Caldera's Novell Directory Services client, just as the rest of our organization is migrating to Novell Intranetware.

In all, Ruppman has proven a remarkable test case for the suitability of Linux in real business applications. The exceptional robustness of Linux has enabled us to maintain a high service level within our group, and its flexibility and broad toolset have enabled us to quickly solve a wide variety of problems that would require a lengthy research and a significant investment under other platforms. The most common reservation about Linux from IT types involves technical support, but in almost a year, we have never had to call Caldera or Red Hat. We solved almost every one of our problems with a query on http://www.dejanews.com/, an excellent Usenet archive and search engine. While I have been very lucky to receive little management interference with my technology choices, I am convinced that if Linux advocates can sneak our favorite OS into a moderately visible application, its low cost and high performance will begin breaking down barriers to its acceptance. I hope my experiences at Ruppman provide some inspiration in that direction.

Uche Ogbuji is currently co-founder of and consultant for FourThought LLC (fourthought.com/), specializing in developing open technology-based solutions for enterprises. Before that, he was the Internet Services Manager at Ruppman Marketing Technologies. He is at heart, though, a Coke-'n-pizza programmer and a formalist writer. His passions run from soccer and snowboarding to Latin and Ezra Pound to artificial life and Linux. He can be reached at uche.ogbuji@fourthought.com.

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