Guest Blogger: Tucker Oldham, Business Development Manager / Technology Consultant at NDS (www.ndsit.net)
These are the traditional arguments IT personnel have wrestled with for years. For the majority of businesses, the answer has always been Microsoft. Although the ability to reduce cost has been intriguing, the thought of putting mission critical data on an operating system with poor or no support is simply not realistic for most IT directors of a small to medium business.
Still, in the corner of the data center there is the IP phone system that runs on a hardened version of Linux. 95% of the server environment is virtualized and runs on VMware using Linux. The firewall has a proprietary version of Linux running IPS/IDS.
“If some of the best technologies in my datacenter already run on a version of it, why can’t I take better advantage?” It is the question most IT directors ask as they spin up another Microsoft server and apply untold numbers of patches and wonder what on earth they are getting for their licensing, CAL and assurance fees.
When you consider looking at implementing open source solutions, I’d recommend using the following check list.
- It’s not a rip and replace scenario. When considering an open source platform, don’t think of it as a forklift upgrade of your OS. There is a reason Microsoft is the operating system leader in the server world. Active Directory is an excellent solution for maintaining controls of your users and your environment. Many of your applications may not even be able to run on a Linux platform.
- Think stability and security. There are reasons your firewall, phone system, and hypervisor is running on Linux. Some of the biggest are stability and security. Taking advantage of the open source community, Linux tends to be more stable, have less vulnerabilities, and patches come faster when vulnerabilities are discovered. At a minimum, when considering a new application, ask the vendor if they have a Linux version. If they do, chances are the security and stability of the application will be improved.
- The cloud changes everything. In November 2015, Microsoft announced support for Red Hat Linux on its Azure Cloud platform. It followed that announcement with an announcement in the spring of 2016 that SQL would be supported on Linux. Red Hat and Linux enthusiasts will tell stories that this is because Microsoft is finally admitting an open source platform is secure and stable. The reality is Microsoft understands that the future is not at the OS layer because you won’t be hosting the OS. The OS will be simply a part of the cloud service you purchase mitigating its importance. The reality is the days of a single OS are numbered. The future has a mixture of both.
- Think about the solution not the operating system. Apple recently moved from VMware to Red Hat’s virtualization platform reducing the costs of hypervisor licensing. Casio Computer’s implemented Red Hat’s storage solution to reduce the cost of its backup solution. E*Trade used Red Hat’s JBoss middleware to develop its high volume trading solution. Each of these enterprise companies did not start the process with “I want to look at Linux to reduce costs.” Each started with the idea of “what’s the right solution for the problem I’m having.”
- Stop thinking it’s free. Even if the costs may be less, it’s not going to be worth it if the solution doesn’t work. The popular misconception is open source = free. To implement correctly in a business environment, the correct approach is using a Linux vendor, like Red Hat. These vendors supply you a tested and hardened version of Linux. They supply technical support, updates and upgrades on a regular basis. They also provide your application vendors an operating system that can be certified for their software.
Because these solutions are subscription vs. license and maintenance based, they are often times cheaper. This doesn’t necessarily mean the overall solution is guaranteed to be cheaper. The savings your enterprise gains on the middleware side may be better utilized on the hardware side when implementing the solution. After all, it’s all about giving your enterprise and end users an even better experience through a faster more stable solution. Every IT Director knows the solution never just stops on the software side of things. Don’t get caught up in the idea that just because the software, middleware or operating system was less expensive that you can cut corners on the hardware its running on.
Tucker Oldham, firstname.lastname@example.org