A few years ago, Microsoft decided to lure Novell's then powerful Platinum
resellers to Windows NT. They flew as many as would come to Redmond (all
expenses paid) for a multi-day pitch and entertainment. Things went OK until
a Microsoft executive got up on the stage and told the audience a single
Windows NT server could replace as many as 6 NetWare servers. The atmosphere
just froze up, and remained hostile for the remainder of the event. The Novell
resellers realized they were being lied to on a massive scale.
How could Microsoft commit such a blunder? Easy- they were used to
talking to the computer press and corporate top executives. The press never
questioned anything they said, and top execs just eat up pie in the
sky promises. They were simply unprepared for the reactions of a
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The U.S. Postal Service declared itself an "all Windows NT" house some
years ago - but they now sort all the bulk mail on
over 900 Linux clusters
scattered around the country - at less than half the cost of the next cheapest
solution (which wasn't Windows). In recent times the USPS has been migrating
other systems to Linux for better performance and lower cost.
Way over budget, the production of the movie Titanic
couldn't afford a supercomputer to do the high end rendering, but an Alpha
based Linux cluster did the job just as well at a small fraction of the cost.
Here's an article by the people who did the job,
Linux clusters are now finding extensive use for complex pattern analysis,
especially in the field of oil exploration. Conoco, Amerada Hess and
Royal Dutch/Shell have all been using Linux clusters since around 2001.
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While there are dozens of Linux distributions, only a few are
significant to most business users. For a comprehensive list of Linux
distributions, check out
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Red Hat Linux - Red Hat
is the leading commercial distribution in the United States, by a wide margin.
Red Hat as a company has been skilled at marketing, and, during its early
history. had the full support of the Linux community.
This changed some when Red Hat decided to discontinue its low cost
consumer and small office products to concentrate on its advanced server
products. Development of the low end distribution was transferred to the
Fedora Project, a community project,
with cooperation from Red Hat.
Red Hat's server products come with a paid annual support contract,
priced depending on your needs and the version you purchase - but you don't
have to stop using the product if you don't renew.
CentOS - The Community
ENTerprise Operating System is a free distribution based on open source code
from "a prominent North American Enterprise Linux vendor" (Red Hat).
This distribution is popular with organizations that wish to run
Red Hat specific software without hassle and can provide their own support,
so they don't need to pay Red Hat for that. It is a significant Web
hosting platform as well as an application server for specialized business
SuSE Enterprise Linux
- This is the second major commercial distribution and dominates
the market for Linux on IBM z mainframes. A German company, it was purchased
by Novel in 2003. Novel was subsequently purchased by Attachmate, and in
2011, SuSE (rebranded as SUSE) was spun off as a separate business unit. This
distribution is used by the London Stock Exchange, Office Depot, Sony,
Walgreens and other major corporations.
OpenSUSE is SUSE's equivalent of Red Hat's Fedora Project, and publishes
a free distribution based on SUSE Enterprise Linux.
Debian - This is a
key free distribution, very popular with both Linux enthusiasts and commercial
integrators. Compared to Red Hat, It is much more like the old SCO System V
Unix that so many small and medium business programs ran on, so quite familiar
to people who supported that environment.
Debian is produced by volunteers, not by a commercial company, and
maintains a very high degree of Open Source purity. It is free, everything
that comes with it is free, and always will be.
Debian is a very important distribution, and a number of other
distributions are based on it. Here at Automation Access it is our preferred
server platform, but also used as a desktop Linux.
Ubuntu - This is the
most important Debian based distribution. Originally it was specialized
for the desktop and quickly became the most well known desktop distribution.
Now there are also server versions and Ubuntu is expanding to create
private "cloud services" for businesses..
Personally, I prefer straight Debian for servers, but Ubuntu is a good
choice for quickly setting up full featured desktop systems with the least
hassle. Both KDE and Gnome graphic environments are supported. Ubuntu
maintains an on-line software repository from which you can download and
automatically install many business and personal programs.
formerly Linux Mandrake and Connectiva Linux. This company originally
specialized in easy installation and ease of use for desktop applications.
The purchased Connectiva product was specialized for Portuguese
and Spanish desktops, which Mandriva still supports.
Originally Mandriva was a cleaned up variety of Red Hat, but soon went
its own way. While it originally concentrated on the desktop, Mandriva now
has an Enterprise Server version and management tools for heterogenous
networks. Both free and paid versions of Mandriva are available.
Xandros (was Corel Linux)
- is based on Debian and was originally developed by Corel as
a platform for Corel WordPerfect Office for Linux. When Microsoft "invested"
$150 million in Corel, development stopped and the products were sold off.
Xandros originally emphasized Microsoft compatibility and running Microsoft
applications on the desktop. They still cooperate with Microsoft and advertise
that as a feature, but their Linux distributions, server and desktop, now
target OEMs for private branding. They do not offer free versions.
Turbo Linux - This
distribution specialized in clustering (both performance and fail-over
clustering) and Oriental language support.
Originally a California company, TurboLinux was sold to a Japanese firm
since its major markets are in Japan and China. It is no longer a factor in
North America because other distributions now offer fail-over clustering.
SCO (was Caldera)
- This was our favorite distribution as Caldera Linux. The company purchased
some of the SCO Unix properties, then was taken over by new management and
renamed SCO Group, The Linux product was quickly discontinued.
The company's real product became stock price manipulation and an
ill considered campaign of litigation against purveyors of Linux and
threatened extortion of users of Linux. The claim was that Linux infringed
their Unix copyrights, but it turned out they didn't own those, Novel had
retained them. They're still litigating, but with just about 0 chance of
The name SCO is now so toxic the old SCO Unix systems, still used by many
businesses, are now being sold and supported by a newly formed company called
Red Flag Linux - the distribution favored by the
government of Communist China, which has declared Linux the official
operating system for China due to the cost of Microsoft products and
the probability they contain "back doors" for American spy agencies.
- IBM Linux - IBM considered their own distribution but
prudently decided not to. IBM supports Red Hat, SuSE and Turbo Linux
- Microsoft Linux - a mythological distribution some
people were sure Microsoft was developing so they could take over the Linux
market. Although Microsoft uses some Linux, certainly studies it intensively,
and is now the 17th biggest contributor to the Linux kernel, developing and
releasing a distribution just never made any sense.
The City of Largo Florida is successfully migrating its entire computing
environment from primarily SCO Unix servers (there are some Windows NT and
AIX servers also) to a primarily Linux environment using the KDE 2 desktop
(KDE screen shots).
All the city's workstations are easily maintained
thin clients rather than normal PCs, and
applications are displayed on them using XWinows. For the Windows NT
applications the city is using Citrix Unix Integration Services so they
can be used at the XWindows thin clients without actual Windows workstations.
Given Microsoft's current licenses and upgrade policies, the NT
applications will be costing a fortune. The city expects the savings from the
new Linux based system to total in the millions.
The project is now well into conversion and the workstations are running
the KDE desktop from a Linux server. The server is a Dual 933-MHz Pentium
machine with 3-Gigs of RAM and an 18-Gig hard disk. It has proven it can
support the city's peak load of about 230 simultaneous users (they in total
about 400 workstations).
Software used by the city, and the migration plan are detailed here
(note that OpenOffice is the Open Source version of Sun's StarOffice):
- (All) WordPerfect 8.1 (on SCO) -moving to- OpenOffice on Linux in 2002
- (All) GroupWise 4.1 (on SCO) -moving to- Bynari-Insight on Linux in 2001
- (Recreation) Oracle (on SCO) -moving to- Linux in 2002
- Excel/Powerpoint/Access (on NT) -moving to- OpenOffice on Linux in 2002
- (Financials) Progress (on SCO) -moving to- Progress on Linux in 2002
- (Police) Informix (on AIX) -moving to- Informix on Linux in 2002-2003
- (All) Netscape, DAIM, Everybuddy - running on Linux now
- (All) GIMP, Adobe Acrobat - running on Linux now
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