Migrating to Linux in the data center

Open-source advocates pulled out all the plugs to push Linux in the data center during last week's LinuxWorld conference. Some of the testimonials from those who've already migrated to Linux was enough to reassure many a potential migrant.

BOSTON –Almost all potential open-source migrants have cost savings on their minds—and why not? There are big benefits to moving to Linux. But IT pros attending LinuxWorld last week aren't only thinking about what it will save them in terms of money. They want to know, is Linux a safe bet for their company?

They wanted to know, for example, how Linux fares in terms of migration and security issues, how well it plays with others in a heterogeneous data center and how painful a migration to open-source software can be.

I think the use of Intel or commodity-type servers within large corporate data centers is going to be part of the new wave, and I think Linux is going to be part of that.
Carmine Iannace
Manager of IT architectureWelch's Foods

To Egenera Inc. CTO Vern Brownell, moderator of the session "Linux in the Data Center – Enquiring Minds Want to Know," the answer was simple: Not only is Linux is cheaper, it's better from box to wire – and here to stay. Perhaps not a necessarily a neutral position given Brownell is one of the most vocal corporate Linux advocates around, but some of his points were indeed compelling.

One of the biggest fears IT managers express, he said, is how will migrating to Linux affect their current staff. But teaching newbies Linux is much easier than people think.

"Ninety percent of the people who've moved forward have discovered that it has been a pleasant surprise, that it hasn't been that complicated. People are finding that transition to be very straight forward," said Brownell.

And there were certainly testimonials to back him up.

Panelist Myles Trachtenberg, CTO of Fresh Direct, a New York-based company that manufactures, prepares and distributes over one million food items a week, moved to Linux in the fall of 2004 after three months of testing and migration. It now uses open-source software on a Unix box for its IT operations. According to Trachtenberg, Linux has been scalable, reliable and available 24/7 for mission critical issues. He hasn't had any problems with either service or support.

"Every dollar that's processed comes through our system. It can't go down," said Trachtenberg. "We've seen a tremendous impact in the scalability of the system. We're very impressed with the platform."

Attendee Carmine Iannace, manager of IT architecture at Welch's Foods, is in the midst of a migration from IBM and DB2 to Dell servers running Oracle on Linux.

For More Information:

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Iannace was the point man in convincing Welch's execs to shift to Linux after 30 years of using IBM for all its IT needs. He has minor concerns about the maturity of some of the Linux operating systems in terms of customization, but is one of the many IT professionals drinking the "Linux Kool-aid," so to speak, and is more than happy to do so.

"It's encouraging [that] people are buying more and more into the idea of open source and Linux," said Iannace. "I think the use of Intel or commodity-type servers within large corporate data centers is going to be part of the new wave, and I think Linux is going to be part of that. It's a very exciting time to break free of vendor lock-in."

One of the conceivable problems open-source migrants might find in moving from a proprietary system is whether all of their software can come with them. Although vendors have been focusing on developing open-source software for the past eight years, the market is not yet universal. But if the momentum generated by Linux keeps moving at its current pace, Brownell says it won't be long before that issue becomes moot.

"Customers have a huge influence in moving their ISV's forward. That was the tipping point for Linux, when early customers said, 'We want products running in a Linux environment.' They had a lot of influence in making that happen, and it is helping the Linux community," said Brownell.

Brownell says that none of the CIOs he deals with think strategically about proprietary Unix anymore, which he points to as a sure sign that Linux is the wave of the future.

"The proprietary Unix market is very large, and it will go away," Brownell said. "I don't think there's any reason for anybody to buy any pro Unix platform from any of these vendors. That whole business will shift to Linux over the next few years and [it will] probably be one of the most dramatic changes in the data center environment in an awful long time."

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Luke Meredith, News Writer

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