|Date:|| Thu, 19 Jul 2001 14:27:37 -0500 (CDT)||Subject:|| Linux clears scalability, security hurdles (fwd)
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Date: Thu, 19 Jul 2001 12:06:05 -0400 (EDT)
From: TechTarget.com <TechTarget-B09F30FF7B8BB779@lists.techtarget.com>
To: TechTarget <TechTarget@lists.techtarget.com>
Subject: Linux clears scalability, security hurdles
TECHTARGET.COM: The Information Architect
Builders of 21st century IT Infrastructure, a weekly TechTarget.com
July 19, 2001
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Scalability: Linux clears scalability, security hurdles
Does Linux have what is takes to accommodate e-businesses in terms
of scalability, applications availability, and security? Companies
like Weather.com are saying yes.
by Edward Hurley, Assistant News Editor
About a year and a half ago, officials at Weather.com wanted to move
away from its Unix-based Sun servers in favor of Intel-based boxes.
Linux was their answer.
"We looked at both NT and Linux and decided on the latter because we
already had quite a bit of Unix experience in-house," said Ian
Rushton, Weather.com's chief architect. Saving money on hardware
rather than software license fees was the motivator for moving to
Intel-based servers, Rushton said.
There was a trade-off with Linux, namely the investment in training
for Weather.com's IT staff so they could handle any outages, he
said. By year's end, Weather.com could be "totally Linux," Rushton
said, noting there are still a few major hurdles, including the need
for a journaling file system.
Can Linux scale enough to accommodate my business? What about the
availability of applications? What are the security risks of using
open source software? These are all questions CIOs and IT managers
have to consider when contemplating Linux.
Trusting the business to open source
Linux has proven scalable enough for Weather.com, one of the Web's
most visited sites. The site does between 10 and 15 million page
views a day.
Weather.com's migration to Linux was incremental. A few servers were
brought online for such things as Web serving. Eventually,
Weather.com began running application and database servers on Linux.
About a quarter of the site's database needs are now on Linux boxes,
which handle the workload of the previous Unix boxes, Rushton said.
However, Linux does have a way to go in terms of actual symmetric
multiprocessing beyond two processors, said Peter Honeyman, director
of the Center for Information Technology Integration at the
University of Michigan. Such a situation does make sense as many of
the early Linux developers were focused on desktop systems, not
Honeyman's center has been conducting a project on increasing Linux
scalability by examining algorithms and data structures within the
operating system. Truly increasing Linux scalability to handle 4, 8,
or 16-way symmetric multiprocessing is a major undertaking, he said.
Yet Honeyman dismisses suggestions that scalability is a huge hurdle
for Linux when compared to Windows 2000 "which isn't greatly
scalable itself," he said. The difference between Linux and Windows
is more a marketing and perceptual issue than a technical one, he
said. "Companies are spending a lot of money to make Linux look bad
and Linux guys are not meeting the challenge," he said.
Open source curse: Applications and security?
Another major common concern of Linux is application availability.
Why would software vendors develop or port applications for Linux?
Well, for starters, Linux offers a common development platform for
several servers. Everything from small, single-processor Intel boxes
up to huge, multiprocessor IBM mainframes can run Linux. IBM and
other technology juggernauts have pledged literally billions of
dollars to support Linux.
The open source nature of Linux offers companies a great deal of
flexibility and control over their software, said Timothy Witham,
lab director of the Open Source Development Lab in Beaverton, Ore.
For example, developers can change your source code for your
requirements. By contrast, proprietary vendors may charge you a lot
and not support the resulting product, or not do it all because they
can't sell enough copies of it to justify the effort, he said.
The one aspect of Linux that people have trouble understanding is
the security aspect. Doesn't open source software mean anyone can
learn the security vulnerabilities of it and hence leave the user
"Open source software has proven less of a risk because security
weaknesses are found before it is ever deployed," said Brian
Stevens, CTO, Mission Critical Linux of Lowell, Mass. "And if a
security vulnerability does get out, it is usually resolved
Conversely, with proprietary software, said Darren Davis, vice
president of technology strategy and evangelism for Caldera Systems,
"you may never know if there are back doors since security experts
can't look at (the source code)."
MORE INFORMATION ON THIS TOPIC:
>> SearchEnterpriseServers has a section on Linux Decision Criteria
>> Search390 includes extensive Web links about Linux at