Originally Published: Thursday, 17 February 2000 Author: Scott Nipp
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

The Linux Support Nightmare?

Support is arguably one of the most important concerns when dealing with the choice of an operating system for a corporate network environment. The most significant cost related to computers is neither the hardware nor the software, but rather the cost to keep these systems up and running.

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Support is arguably one of the most important concerns when dealing with the choice of an operating system for a corporate network environment. The most significant cost related to computers is neither the hardware nor the software, but rather the cost to keep these systems up and running. "Total Cost of Ownership" has been a catch phrase around the industry for a couple years now, but unlike many catch phrases this one is right on the money, literally. The salary required of talented professionals who install and maintain a network of computer systems is not something to be taken lightly. Support costs therefore should be of the utmost concern when selecting an operating system for any organization. Some feedback to a recent article on Linux.com expressed how Linux would be a "nightmare" to support for a relatively low-level end-user community. I see this quite differently.

Linux as an operating system is no different from any other operating system in terms of how to support an end-user community. The complexity of any operating system should be virtually transparent to the end-user community. The end-user should realistically have no need to make any changes to the operating system itself, and in my experience most organizations strongly discourage this behavior. Applications are the almost exclusive concern of end-users. What matters most to the end user are the applications to access a database, or the word processor to create documents, or the spreadsheet program to handle various financial or billing issues -- not the complexity of the operating system. As long as the appropriate applications needed by an organization are available to perform its day-to-day business, the choice of operating system should be based solely on technical merits and "Total Cost of Ownership," not perceived complexity for the end-user community.

Unix and Linux are a dream from a support standpoint. Linux, like Unix, is built from the ground up to be "multi-user." This feature alone makes supporting Linux a sheer joy, and also helps to greatly reduce support costs. Being a "multi-user" operating system, not to mention all the well-developed Unix utilities that go along with it, means that an administrator can resolve virtually, but not absolutely, every problem from his own desk. For instance, if a user's computer is suddenly running very slowly, the administrator can simply telnet into the system and kill or restart the offending process without having to trek to the user's desk, be that down the hall or across town. How about software installation and upgrades? Once again, login to the system while the user is at lunch and take care of it, or better still, login and schedule a cron job to install/upgrade at 3AM. The support options that Linux offers are wonderful, and when coupled with the inherent stability and security that Linux offers, these features can greatly simplify the administration of end-user desktop systems.

Supporting Linux in a desktop environment can be a wonderful experience if, like anything else, it is handled correctly. The items I have mentioned above only serve to scratch the surface of the possibilities. These do not include things such as using NFS to provide user's consistent software versions, or providing a persistent environment to the user regardless of which system he logs into, or many other advantages. The ability to stop and restart services whether they are locked up, or you have simply reconfigured them virtually eliminates the need to reboot and eliminates the downtime associated with that reboot. Linux has a great many wonderful features, which makes it very easy to support. This ease of support can result in less time per support call, and fewer support calls to begin with. Less time supporting individual end user issues is one sure way to help reduce "Total Cost of Ownership." Lower "Total Cost of Ownership" and incredible stability make Linux an excellent choice as an end-user platform.

Scott Nipp is a Technical Solutions Consultant at Sprint Enterprise Network Services.

The views, information and opinions provided in this article are expressed and held solely by the author. Neither Sprint Enterprise Network Services nor Sprint Corporation or any of its affiliates assume any responsibility for any opinion or statement of fact presented in this article.





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