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Linux answers some messaging challenges

Escaping enterprise messaging application and services lock-in isn't impossible, not if you exchange Exchange for Linux. So says Julie Hanna Farris, whose faith in Linux and open source software is so strong that she founded an alternative messaging solutions company, Scalix. Corp. And, as a new expert adviser for, she's also offering IT pros the benefit of her 15 years' experience as a messaging solutions pioneer.

Not only does the Linux platform offer choice and flexibility, it can deliver greater price-performance and higher levels of reliability at a fraction of the cost of proprietary systems, Farris said. In this installment of our interview, she elaborates on Linux's advantages over Exchange. In part two, she lists her favorite open source messaging tools. She also describes how to decide if Linux-based e-mail is right for your company.

How does Linux expand a company's messaging horizons?
With Linux, you get the benefit of openness, which means you have a wide variety of options. For storage management architectures, you can work with SAN or NAS architectures. Also, you can do real-time backups by leveraging things like Logical Volume Manager, which gives you a snapshot of the file system and allows you to do real-time backups.

Storage is particularly key for the mail application. One of the big things that customers are grappling with is how to keep their mail system up. One big reason for downtime is having to take the system down to do backup. Leveraging Logical Volume Manager, you can now keep the system running while you do real-time backups. That is just one advantage you get with Linux.

Read part two of this interview Thursday.

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Can you elaborate on how Exchange might limit application and services options?
As I said, if customers are running an Exchange environment, they have to use Active Directory, limiting their choice of other directories, like Novell's eDirectory or OpenLAP, for example. Customers are also limited to the antispam and antivirus products supported by that platform and by the storage architecture supported by the product.

Customers have told us that when they were running on a [Microsoft Windows] NT-based platform, they had to go out and buy commercial products to solve problems. With Linux, they can leverage [free or low-cost] open source components and avoid having to buy commercial products. How have CIOs' concerns about Exchange played out?
Forty percent of Exchange users have not upgraded to Exchange 2000 yet, after four years. Many tell us that they don't want to go to Active Directory. Others fear the cost and the complexity of that move. So that market has stalled around this issue and the desire to avoid lock-in. At the same time, Linux has proven to be a powerful platform that offers customers more choice and flexibility, helping them avoid this lock-in. What role do Linux's open source roots play in its rising popularity as a messaging platform?
If you look at companies that are really grappling today with e-mail and how to move forward, one of the big challenges is that some e-mail systems limit their platform, applications and services choices.

CIOs have become quite open about their concerns with technology and licensing lock-ins. That issue is driving them to take a hard look at Linux, not only on the server level, but at the desktop level as well. Messaging has been and is being used as a way of locking in customers to a vendor's whole ecosystem. For example, if customers use Exchange, they have no choice but to use and take on the cost and complexity of Active Directory. CIOs see this as a slippery slope that limits their choice and flexibility.

CIOs have become quite open about their concerns with technology and licensing lock-ins. That issue is driving them to take a hard look at Linux.
Julie Hanna Farris
FounderScalix Corp.
Why are companies taking a look at Linux as a messaging platform?
When talking to CIOs of large companies, I found many who were moving Unix-based applications over to Linux and getting unbelievable price-performance advantages. That really created demand and interest among customers to look and identify more applications that they could move to Linux. Some customers have had such success that they want to move their entire infrastructure over to Linux. And they're methodically going down the list of applications.

Near the top of that list is messaging, where there are some pain points that need to be alleviated. As e-mail becomes more and more mission-critical, its cost and complexity have gone up. Also, on some platforms other than Linux, reliability is not where it needs to be for a mission-critical application.

So, those CIOs are looking at Linux-based messaging solutions, with its advantages of lower cost of ownership, better reliability and lower complexity.

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