Originally Published: Sunday, 9 January 2000 Author: Scott Nipp
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Limitless Integration

Limitless integration seems to be one of the primary goals of the Linux operating system. The ability to connect a Linux system to your existing network infrastructure is phenomenal, to say the least. This flexibility to join existing networks with little concern for the design of that network has been crucial to the success that Linux has enjoyed in penetrating existing networks of all sizes. Whether you are planning on using Linux as an affordable desktop platform or an extremely reliable server, this broad support of different operating systems is an absolute necessity....

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Limitless integration seems to be one of the primary goals of the Linux operating system. The ability to connect a Linux system to your existing network infrastructure is phenomenal, to say the least. This flexibility to join existing networks with little concern for the design of that network has been crucial to the success that Linux has enjoyed in penetrating existing networks of all sizes. Whether you are planning on using Linux as an affordable desktop platform or an extremely reliable server, this broad support of different operating systems is an absolute necessity.

Linux is obviously most at home in a Unix environment. Having been basically designed as a freely available Unix clone for the common desktop platform, Linux is extremely well equipped to participate in a Unix environment. All of the standard Unix utilities are ready to implement and interact with the rest of your network. These utilities include being able to use Sun's Network Information Service, telnet into another Unix system and export the display back to your own Linux box, and a number of other common Unix utilities and services. This close association to Unix also makes Linux a wonderful option for a server in a Unix environment, either for services such as NIS or DNS, or to provide file services to the rest of your Unix network. A Linux system on your Unix network is effectively just another Unix box.

Just another Unix box on your Unix network. This statement reflects one of the other inherent strengths of Linux in this kind of environment, ease of administration. Linux is administered in the same way as any other Unix-based operating system. The concepts of users, file permissions, processes, etc. are all the exactly the same. This makes it very easy for your existing Solaris, HP-UX, or whatever, administrators to support Linux systems in your environment. Administration of Linux has the same benefits as the commercial Unix variants, such as fully integrated remote administration capabilities, the ability to change most system parameters without having to reboot, and the ability to start or stop various services seamlessly. All of these features and more make Linux a pleasure to support, and inexpensive to support due to the rock-solid stability of the system.

Linux is also very comfortable in a Microsoft environment thanks not just to Linux itself, but also due to Samba. Linux can be a successful desktop platform on an existing Microsoft network, but this is not where its true power lies. Linux truly excels as a server in the Microsoft environment. On the server side, Samba grants a Linux server the capability to provide file and print services to your entire Microsoft network. Why stop at file and print services though? A Linux system, or multiple systems, can also handle your DNS, web service, e-mail, and even serve as your Primary Domain Controller, just to name a few. This functionality can all be gained for a minimal cost as opposed to literally thousands of dollars for a Microsoft, or other commercial solution. Linux in your server room can cut licensing costs dramatically saving tens of thousands of dollars, and using Linux's remote administration capabilities can make life a lot easier for you as the administrator.

A Linux desktop in a Microsoft environment is not unrealistic. Linux has a number of high-quality desktop applications. Furthermore, Linux will have no problem whatsoever in communicating in this type of environment. Application support is unfortunately a weakness for Linux and tends to be a problem in this area. Productivity suites are available for Linux, but regrettably file compatibility with MS Office is not 100%. Many other common desktop applications are still lacking under Linux and limit its role as a desktop operating system. This is not to say that many organizations cannot benefit greatly from utilizing Linux as a desktop solution, only that deploying Linux to an end user community requires careful planning and special consideration to issues like file compatibility, application availability, and end user training.

The flexibility of Linux has allowed it to become a staple resource in corporate America these days. Many companies are using Linux in one form or another for everything from print servers to database severs to end user workstations. The ability of Linux to be easily introduced into a Unix, Microsoft, or other existing network infrastructure along with its extremely low cost, outstanding stability, and superb administration features makes it a very attractive platform. Linux's biggest limiting factor to limitless integration at this point once again seems to come back to application support, for which we can only hope software developers will provide the solution.

Scott Nipp is a Technical Solutions Consultant at Sprint Paranet. He spends his time there fighting the good fight, advocating Linux to his managers and customers.





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