Originally Published: Monday, 4 June 2001 Author: Marcelo Pham
Published to: develop_articles/Development Articles Page: 3/3 - [Printable]

Introduction to Cross Platform Integration in the Enterprise (Part 1 of 2)

Marcelo Pham returns to Linux.com for an in-depth look at platform integration and networking with Linux. In part one of this two part series Marcelo takes use through installing Samba and other enterprise networking technologies.

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2.d. Other connectivity projects

There are other packages that allow Linux to see and to be seen by different platforms:

  • AFPS: If you are a SCO Unix user (Unixware or OpenServer), you might want to use AFPS (Advanced File and Print Server). It has the same functionality as Samba, it is quite stable and easy to configure. You can try AFPS by using the free single license version that comes in the operating system CD.
  • Sharity Light: Another open source project is Sharity Light, which takes advantage of the SMBFS implementation on Linux and runs as a separate module. You can find out more in the Sharity website.
  • Amiga: If you still have an old Commodore Amiga somewhere in the attic, visit the AmigaSamba website. I had myself a Commodore 64 back in 1986 and I used to crack games on it... it was pretty fun. Those M68000 based computers were quite powerful, considering that they only had 64 Kb of RAM (Operating system and Basic interpreter included!).

2.e. Linux roles in an enterprise network

We described Linux as a file server as an example. A Linux box can play any of these roles in a mixed network, using free or very cheap proprietary software:

Print server: You can add Linux boxes and make them work as printer servers. To find out more, please browse our How-To pages. With Samba, Linux can also use Windows printers and allow connected local printers usage to Windows clients as well.

Firewall: A not-so-powerful PC that you have archived in your locker can be a great network guardian if you install Linux and some firewall software. Find out more about firewalls in our How-To pages or download a free copy of Merilus Gateway Guardian for personal use. You can also take a look at PMFirewall.

Mail Server: Why pay for mail software if Linux includes modules that can make it act as a perfect mail server? Stable, robust and fast, you can use qmail or sendmail, and users can retrieve email no matter what email client program or operating system they use. Again, read our How-To useful texts.

Backup Server: When not so many files have to be backed up a cheap and quick solution is to use the crontab scheduler combined with the tar command (I have a customer with Unix and 100 users, 1 Gb in enterprise software + 5 Gb of enterprise data -still growing-, and I have used tar/crontab -with a DAT tape- for over 2 years, with no problems at all so far, even when the Kernel panicked a couple of times). If you're not familiar with the crontab file syntax, you may download a version of Gcrontab.

But if the volume of data is big, the information is critical or compression and speed are needed, you should use BRU (Backup and Restore Utility) or Lone-Tar.

Web Server: Apache is a free implementation of a web server. Apache is being used in about 70% of the web hosting companies all over the world, so you should have no doubt about its stability and reliability. Apache comes with every single Linux distribution and can be easily configured through your favorite Linux administration tool (linuxconf for RedHat, yast2 for SuSe, etc.). But if you want to become a Apache master, once again, go to our How-To pages, or simply download Mohawk, a powerful Apache configuration tool.

Proxy Server: Want to provide Internet access to all workstations with a single ISDN or DSL connection? Linux can easily become a Proxy server. You may also want to download a version of Squid.

Application Server: Depending on the programming tool you choose, your Linux box can be utilized as an Application Server with free software. Perl, PHP, Python with a stable database engine can satisfy any kind of hosted application. If you work for a big company, you might want to look for business critical solutions, like Oracle Application Server.

Database Server: There are a couple of reliable GPL databases out there to install on your Linux server and convert it in a database server. MySQL and PostgreSQL are so far the best free choices for database solutions in Linux environments, while Oracle is the best alternative -if you have the budget to afford it. * Attention! If you have a Linux box connected to a WAN, to the Internet or to any link to the 'external world' (SNA, X25, Frame Relay, whatever!), make sure you disable the NFS services from inetd. If you have NFS enabled when the operating system starts, hackers can exploit that service and get into your server with root access or make DoS attacks, you should be careful when enabling this service.

2.f. Some thoughts

As we've seen, a Linux box can play any role in the enterprise field, interacting with other computers with different 'philosophies’. Linux is free, solid, reliable, stable, improving every day, and, did I mention it's free? It is your job to convince management that Linux and Open Source are excellent, cheap, stable and scalable solutions for the business area, offer unlimited free support from all the community, and is fast becoming a trend. Now, we all know that Microsoft still dominates the workstation, so, wherever you go, you'll find that at least 50% or more of the computers have Microsoft software installed on them, that's why I put some emphasis to the Windows/Unix/Linux integration. Therefore, we have to learn how to work in a mixed environment at least for the next five years.

2.g. Glossary

NOS: Network Operating System COBOL: Common Business Oriented Language, one of the first structured languages utilized for enterprise applications IBM 3x: IBM Series 3 mainframes (IBM 34, IBM 36) LAN: Local Area Network WAN: Wide Area Network TCP/IP: Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol FTP: File Transfer Protocol NFS: Network File System SWAT: Samba Web Administration Tool SCO: Santa Cruz Operation, a company that releases one of the many Unix flavors AFPS: Advanced File and Print Server, a SCO product for Unixware and OpenServer that has same functionality as Samba SNA: System Network Architecture, a fault-tolerance network technology developed by IBM back in the 70's GPL: General Public License. Please visit http://www.gnu.org

Next issue

The next -and last- installment will cover the cross platform integration between applications and the tools that we can use to make it happen.

Marcelo "taz" is a Develop Writer for Linux.com. He's a Systems Consultant and hardcore programmer for BCA Inc., and leads application integration projects for Fortune 100 companies.

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