Linux TCO

Contrary to common belief, manageability and not initial purchase cost is the primary component of total cost of ownership (TCO). Improving the overall manageability of your solutions will lower your customer’s TCO considerably. Even though Linux is free, most companies have come to understand

that the most profound financial benefits of using Linux come from its ease of administration, the wealth of tools available, and its flexibility.

By building management components from true open standards and protocols, the collective work of many hundreds of open source projects developed over the years can be utilized to let you choose the most appropriate suite of management capabilities. Manageability features that customers can benefit from in their solutions include:

LDAP – allows centralized directory services. Fully compliant with X.500 and other directory servers, it greatly simplifies name services

Terminal Servers – allows the use of thin clients in client/server configurations. Clients can make the best use of server resources (processing, disk, RAM, etc.) so that they can be deployed on inexpensive hardware, and inherit standardized configuration and updates.

Scripting Capabilities – allows the use of common interpreters such as the Bourne shell, Perl, Python, or PHP to control complex management attributes of the operating system as well as the solution Expanded Interoperability Improves Efficiency and Reliability

The ability to interoperate within heterogeneous environments is becoming more important as large, complex systems are built using components from different commercial sources. Such systems often link existing legacy subsystems that transcend geographic boundaries.

Linux has added or enhanced many cross-operating-system integration features including:

  • X/Open;
  • LDAP;
  • Telnet;
  • RC4;
  • DHCP;
  • RIP;
  • 802.1p;
  • TCP/IP;
  • SNMP;
  • POSIX;
  • Diffserv;
  • OSPF;
  • Radius RFC2138;
  • IPX;
  • SAMBA;
  • PAP;
  • IAS;
  • NAT;
  • FTP;
  • H.323;
  • DNS;
  • IGMP;
  • SAP;
  • NFS; and
  • IP V6.

Linux development has focused on building a cohesive strategy for the heterogeneous enterprise and service provider environments that are becoming increasingly important in the world of converged communications. The convergence of code bases can only improve efficiencies within your organization apart from improving the overall reliability of your solutions.

Plug and Play

The Linux plug and play capability improves system availability by minimizing the configuration required when new hardware is introduced, or when failed hardware is removed from a system. If the hardware also supports hot swap, then changes can be made without shutting down the system or halting applications.

The new Linux hardware detection tool, “Kudzu,” can be used to resolve conflicts when new hardware is introduced intothe system. This wizard resolves many conflicts automatically and, if necessary, provides an easy-to-use interface that walks system administrators through the steps required to resolve conflicts manually.

Enhanced Globalization Features

If you’re looking to increase your global account opportunities,; then globalization, or the modification of software for localization in specific geographical areas or dialects, becomes important. Although not all user interfaces (UI) warrant globalization, it is likely that some need to be localized. The pressure to modify software for local use will grow more as software developers make the most of the tools in products like Linux, and as customers get used to this capability. For example, although English is the most commonly used UI for system administration, solutions often benefit when end-user interfaces are localized. With Linux, you can build on such features right away.

Other Miscellaneous Functionalities of Linux

Linux also provides the following miscellaneous functionalities that can be of assistance, depending on your specific solution:

Disk Quotas and Dynamic Volume Creation is great for bounding Call Data Records, billing data, voice mail files, and trace dumps, so that overflows don’t crash your system File encryption allows disk-based files to be encrypted so that intruders who manage to get through your customer’s firewall can not view data stored on disk HTML Help is portable across Windows and Unix, and provides a standard look and feel for all online documentation, which can be kept up-to-date via hyperlinks to Internet-based sources

When And How Can I Get Started On My Linux Migration?

Once you’ve decided that a Linux-based solution is right for you, the decision of when to migrate to Linux will depend, in part, on the current phase of your solution’s life cycle. There are four phases:

Development Phase – solutions that are still in the planning and development stage Enablement Phase – solutions that have started limited deployment, usually via beta trials and limited customer releases Presence Phase – solutions that have been made generally available and are competing for market share Volume Phase – solutions already in the field that are shipping in large volumes

Since the journey from Development Phase to Presence Phase normally takes between one and two years, those of you with products in the Development or Enablement phase are likely to want to capitalize on the features and added robustness of Linux as soon as possible. This will help you compete with established solutions and breathe new life into your existing product lifecycle. Since Linux has been in widespread use for a number of years, it is possible that many of you are already using it in your labs, incorporating it into the design of your future solutions/versions.

You can also switch to Linux at a later point in your product’s life cycle as pressure mounts from competing products that are using Linux, or from customers who have heard about the features of Linux and are demanding increased reliability, scalability, or manageability. Linux adds a new dimension on which you can differentiate your solution from that of your competitors.

Assessing Your Individual Needs

Each product manager needs to make his or her own assessment about migrating to Linux, taking into account the unique needs of the solution, the architecture, and your specific customers. It is vital that you review the changes outlined above in light of your own unique needs. Changes to your existing solutions will require some effort even if you are just planning to utilize the out-of-the-box benefits of the operating system. You will need to retest your solution and you may also need to modify your packaging, training, and documentation.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  • When do my solutions require added robustness?
  • How critical is lowering the TCO of my solutions?
  • At what point is it strategic to leapfrog the competition by providing advanced features?
  • Can I capitalize on the interest and excitement generated by a new operating system?
  • What dependencies do the other software packages that make up my solution place on Linux?

Let’s consider an example of this last item. With all of the major database vendors such as Oracle, Informix, and IBM supporting Linux, often at a much more aggressive price point than that charged for other platforms, an application that heavily uses database technology can be very cost-effectively deployed on Linux, with a much greater level of reliability to boot.

Linux Is Making It Easier

Linux makes it financially very easy to migrate to onto this platform. Prices are effectively non-existent for the operating system and there are no costly “Client Access Licenses” (CALs). As indicated earlier, an unlimited number of users and/or other client connections can tap any Linux server without incurring additional costs.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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