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Linux Enterprise Computing

Sitting Penguin This page attempts to survey Linux in a corporate, commercial enterprise setting from a programmers' or technicians' perspective. If you are looking for information about the technologies and building blocks for building e-commerce sites, small and large servers, and complex custom commercial systems, I believe you will find this page useful. Topics currently covered include: system and network management, databases, high-availability & fault-tolerance, e-commerce, project management tools, as well as a few wish lists.

Anyone new to Linux should dip a toe in the vast ocean of the Linux Documentation Project, including the Linux Links page. There are a large number of HOWTO's for most of the common administrative and technical questions about Linux. Monthly, weekly and daily news updates can be had at the Linux Journal, Linux Weekly News, Slashdot and Linux Today. Extensive listings of all varieties of applications can be found on the Linux Applications and Utilities Page and the Scientific Applications on Linux site. The latest bleeding-edge cuts can be found on freshmeat.net. There are many desktops; two popular ones are KDE and Gnome. Reviews of office apps include word processors, spreadsheets, and financial software. Last but not least, t-shirts and coffee mugs from ThinkGeek.

The Next Few Decades of Computing reviews the various technologies whose flowering will determine the nature of networking and computing in the future.

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Linux in Business
Linux is used widely in the business world, and its use is growing rapidly. If you are uncertain about the commercial viability of Linux, or want to gather material to support a pitch to management, the links below should help.

Databases
A good industrial-strength database server should offer transaction support, two-phase commit and rollback, automatic check-pointing, hardware and/or power-failure recovery, hot backups and replication, just for starters. But to put these features to use, one needs Report Generators, Query Tools, Web-to-Database Gateways, and sophisticated Administration Interfaces.

Bug Tracking, Asset Management, Help-Desk Automation, Workflow and Project Management
There are a variety of commercial and Open Source packages available for Linux that help automate both internal and customer or channel relationship processes. There is a broad spectrum of systems with similar-but-different function, ranging trouble-ticketing systems, automated FAQ's and chat systems, to asset management, to workflow systems and project management systems, to ERP systems (yes, Linux now has nascent ERP software). The Bug-Tracking, Help-Desk Automation and Project Management page provides a glossary of the terms, followed by a long list of some of the available packages.

Intrusion Detection and Access Control
A listing of security and access control tools has been moved to the Linux Security page.

Data Mirroring, Replication and File Synchronization
An increasingly common request from business management to system administrators is the ability to mirror/copy data across multiple systems (possibly geographically separated). This eliminates the single point of failure when a file server breaks down (or is stolen, burns in a fire, etc). Data mirroring is also useful for distributing files to a set of web servers. It also helps solve the problem of needing fast access over a slow network connection: by copying files to a local server, the speed of the network connection is no longer a bottleneck for remote file access.

There are a variety of data mirroring/ file synchronization solutions available. Note that they generally fall into one of two classes: real-time mirroring tools, and file synchronization tools. Note that real-time mirroring is difficult/impossible with a synchronization tool, since you would have to run it every few seconds, and that would overload the system. Note that the synchronization of laptops is hard for a mirroring tool, because most of the time, the laptop is not connnected to the net, and thus can't be updated.

Note also that the word "replication" is usually used in conjunction with the word "database", and if you need database replication, you should check up on databases.

Note that there are a number of tools specifically aimed at mirroring web sites. These are not listed below, there are too many of these, and they really belong in thier own category, because they have a different set of features and user requirements.

Version Control, Configuration Management, and Automated Software Distribution
Document management systems are vital for controlling a collection of documents, managing web sites, managing changes and revisions to software, and updating the software & config files on large networks of computers. The venerable RCS, CVS and rdist systems can do a fraction of these tasks, but there are other tools as well, often better suited to particular tasks. The Version Control page lists some of these.

Network Management
See the Linux Network Management Systems Page; primarily focused on SNMP based tools.

IBM 370/390 Mainframe Support
Would you like to run Linux on a mainframe partition?

RAS - Reliability, Availability, Serviceability
Large server installations are concerned with issues such as 'failover' and 'high-availability (HA)', which are just two buzzwords for setting up and managing systems that are extremely reliable, and are never 'down', even while a repairman is replacing a failed piece of hardware (disk drive, power supply, ethernet card ...). The buzzword 'serviceable' just means that an 'ordinary' system operator can easily keep the system up and running even while the repairman (the 'service' guy) is taking things apart with a screwdriver. 'Clusters' are usually collections of machines that are configured to work together with each other, frequently (but not always) set up with redundancy and failover ('fault tolerance') in mind.

Please note Caldera is pursuing X/Open UNIX 95 (Spec 1170) branding for Linux. This includes POSIX.1 (FIPS 151-2) and XPG4 Base 95 (POSIX.2, FIPS 186).

RAID
There are several options for RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) for Linux, from pure-software disk striping and mirroring, to RAID-capable SCSI controllers and outboard boxes. Storage management software is another issue. I've slapped together a quick survey.

Clusters and SMP
Clustering interfaces -- a way of hooking up multiple CPU's for single-system login, load-balanced web-serving, load-balanced database queries.

LAN Networking
Any realistic deployment of Linux on the LAN requires peaceful co-existence of Linux with Windows (SMB/LAN-Manager, Netware 3.x and Netware NDS) and Macintosh boxes (Appletalk). A variety of well-known tools are available: see the KKI Reference and the Linux Services for Mac and Windows Users page. These include SMB clients and servers, NFS to SMB protocol converters, Netware and NDS servers and clients, and an Appletalk server.

Routers, WAN Inter-Networking, VPN's
Linux offers a variety of inter-networking possibilities. Routers and firewalls can be built with Ethernet, frame-relay, ATM and X.25 cards. The cost of long-distance leased lines can be avoided by deploying software VPN solutions. Security can be provided with a variety of encryption schemes.

DCOM, CORBA, DCE, Messaging, TP
There is a rich selection of implementations of CORBA for Linux, including one that is focused on real-time operation, and another on fault-tolerance. If these features are not important to you, but Microsoft's name is, then take a look at DCOM & ActiveX for Linux. Yep, its available! For the true enterprise-scale developer who sees the promise of CORBA but needs a secure and reliable infrastructure today, DCE is available. FreeDCE is in beta test now. Look Here for listing of packages plus a quickie install & interop report.

Electronic Commerce, Ecommerce
Ecommerce is an unfortunately broad term. Some people mean 'web content management systems', others mean 'web based accounting systems', while yet others think 'shopping carts'. Implementing Ecommerce reviews some of these technologies.

Content Management Systems
A list of server applications for publishing and maitaining sophisticated web sites and/or managing a large amount of content.

Search Engines
So you want to have a small search engine at your website? Many website servers, application servers, etc. have built in search engines. But sometimes these are not adequate, or are too specialized. Here are some stand-alone engines:

Chat, Groupware, Shared Whiteboard
An important part of running a business is allowing your employees to efficiently communicate with each other. This is particularly important when many of your employees are spread out geographically in many cities, states or countries. The old standards are of course e-mail and the telephone, but, for some people and personalities, this may not be the best way to communicate. 'Groupware', and in particular, chat and shared whiteboards are good technologies for those who can't afford or don't want to spend all day on th phone, or may want to exchange freehand drawings a bit more easily than the fax allows.

On the other hand, it must be argued that some groupware functions are in fact better addressed by installing and maintaining good email configurations and flexible email clients, setting up news (nntp) servers, and setting up NFS/Samba servers in a way that is actually useful, rather than restricitve, to the users. By encouraging the use of some of the more traditional unix technology, some of the scalability and administrative problems of some groupware packages can be avoided.

(Danger: the list below is very very incomplete, there's lots of good stuff out there I haven't found yet.)

LDAP
Pre-compiled versions of the standard UMich LDAP Lightweight Directory Access Protocol tools can be down-loaded from:
ftp://ftp.redhat.com/pub/contrib/i386/ldap-3.3-2.i386.rpm
ftp://ftp.redhat.com/pub/contrib/i386/ldap-devel-3.3-2.i386.rpm
ftp://ftp.redhat.com/pub/contrib/i386/ldap-3.3-2.src.rpm

Graphical System Management
Graphical/menu-driven system management tools -- configure disks, add devices, configure modems, SLIP/PPP, set up IP, mbone, firewalls, etc. from a menu.

Encryption
The more well-known, widely available Linux encryption packages listed below can be found on many Linux sites. A good set of encryption-related links can be found in the Free S/WAN documentation link page See also the Free S/WAN Glossary for the definition of a many security-related terms.

ECAD/CAE/EDA
A very very limited list of electronics design and engineering tools, including PC Board Layout tools, Verilog simulators and the like, are listed here. There may be more, but I don't know of them.

Performance
Accredited performance benchmarks are needed. Until then we will have to live with claims that Linux provides the fastest Ethernet on planet Earth, period, or that Linux beats SunOSTM and SolarisTM in performance, running natively on SparcTM hardware. Data on the BYTE Magazine UNIX Benchmark is available from Silkroad. It would be nice to see TPM-A B and C figures ...

Graphing Tools
(OK this has nothing to do with enterprise computing, but this page is still under construction).

The Linux Graphics Mini-HOWTO lists the different packages available for plotting, graphing, 2D, 3D, etc. See also the faq from comp.graphics, or http://wusarchive.wustl.edu/graphics/graphics/

Odds & Ends
An assortment of stuff that caught my eye:

Wish Lists
I wish that Linux supported these things:

Multimedia
Links to various audio/video sites

Laptops
Linux Laptop Center provides the most extensive coverage of links and info for hundreds of different laptops and notebooks. Some sample miscellaneous links below:


History

Last updated June 2002 by Linas Vepstas (linas@linas.org)

Copyright (c) 1996-2002 Linas Vepstas.

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included at the URL http://www.linas.org/fdl.html, the web page titled "GNU Free Documentation License".

The phrase 'Enterprise Linux' is a trademark of Linas Vepstas.
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