Four ways a business can immediately benefit from Linux - www.reallylinux.com
Four ways a business can immediately benefit from Linux
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There is only one reason left why Windows exists
by Mark Rais, Senior Editor Reallylinux.com.
There are far too many small to mid-sized businesses
still relying exclusively on proprietary software and costly hardware solutions
to drive antiquated technology.
In my experience, deploying Linux servers in mid-to-large
business and government contexts offers numerous ways to reduce costs and
improve performance. Moreover, by evaluating the four key areas noted below,
some organizations can also discontinue laying-off employees, cutting corners
and paying substantial on-going IT costs by moving some of their IT to Open
Source and Linux.
The four areas for evaluation:
#1 Your aging proprietary software may be your Achilles'
Consider the benefits of replacing your proprietary
software and database with an open source solution that is either a web
application or a multi-platform solution.
Far too many companies rely on some legacy software to
run their business operations, manage their tickets or process their orders. I
know this as fact, as I have visited at least a dozen businesses with this
issue this year alone.
Keep in mind that the software you use can and will dictate
your hardware and infrastructure requirements and thereby your long term costs.
I recently visited a non-profit that had so little funding
they could not pay their employees, but the "people management" software they
used required Microsoft SQL and thereby a local SBS server. It costs thousands
of dollars just to support and maintain their SBS, the MSSQL instance and the
hardware to drive it, all necessary to run their proprietary software.
When I asked the leader if she knew there were several alternatives
for their "people management" software, she didn't realize they existed. A
relatively cost effective migration to an open source Linux based solution
immediately relieved them of the requirement to run on the SBS and hardware,
their Exchange/mail services and the costs associated with running SBS and
Of course there are costs associated with any migration.
But small to mid-sized organizations rarely have massive relational databases,
and nearly never have mailboxes in Exchange that can't be migrated relatively
easily to open source alternatives… or in some small business cases, simply
returned to their ISP mail hosting. Yes, offloading mail services when you
have a handful of employees makes relatively good business sense. A business
of five people with a local SBS and Exchange is not necessary or required.
In the case of the non-profit, by switching as they did
helped save over $6,000 per year. Bottom line, your old proprietary software
probably has a replacement, and if that replacement solution is driven on open
source using Linux server it is probably going to save you thousands.
#2 Your IT complexity results in hidden costs
There is an incorrect assumption that supporting and
maintaining a Microsoft server environment is just as complex/expensive as a
comparable Linux environment.
Having spent time in both a Microsoft and Linux support
role, I can state the obvious.
The complexity you find with Microsoft (with licensing
schemes and requirements, hardware limitations and requirements, maintenance
and dealing with anomalies) is not at all the same as those found in Linux
However, what I have found from personal experience over
the past decade is that a very good Linux engineer can often address scaling or
maintenance in a lot less billable time than a Microsoft engineer (certified
The reason is not a reflection on the engineer or their
It is inherent in the complexity introduced when trying
to create product and licensing that is as much marketing as it is functional.
"inherent in the complexity introduced
to create product and licensing that is
as much marketing as it is functional"
I can offer numerous examples, but this past month I
found this exact issue when helping a colleague deal with a licensing "issue."
What was supposed to be a very quick and simple SBS Essentials
installation was being held up as the key provided by the Microsoft VLA website
did not work. The result was a two day telephone and email exchange that
finally resulted in a new license key being generated and the install
Sadly, had this been a more thorough SBS installation,
having the wrong or non-working key would have still allowed the installation
to progress. Limitations like this are inherent with Microsoft environments
because the focus is on the profits associated with licensing schemes. The time
spent by engineers to deal with them is often more substantial than most
Many other examples come to mind, especially when
installing half-dozen rack servers. In such instances I can install six 1U
racks running Linux with a colleague in about half the time it takes to perform
the same process of server software installation, rack mounting and testing
with comparable Microsoft servers.
#3 Webserver performance can be an important business factor
One of the other oddities I've noted is that where almost
every small and mid-sized business operates both Internet and Intranet
websites, the ones that rely on Microsoft and IIS tend to require more hardware
and more tuning to get the same performance.
Installing a new IIS running Sharepoint intranet rarely
is comparable with the performance on the same hardware running Lamp stack
intranet solutions. I appreciate and acknowledge that in the hands of a
Sharepoint expert engineer the tweaks to IIS and MSSQL can make a huge difference.
I've seen it with my own eyes, a "shrink wrapped" install
is suddenly super charged in the hands of a certified Microsoft expert. But that
expertise also comes with a hefty price tag, especially if the installation is
being performed by a service or consultation company and not internal staff.
The end result is that you either have to pay more to get
IIS humming or you have the alternative of installing your intranet website
using Linux and Apache running any one of a number of good Open Source CMS
When I was still managing enterprise projects at Aol, and
we were moving everything we could over to RedHat Enterprise Linux servers, and
the reasons were overt. For us to scale the old IIS solutions would have cost
far more than simply migrating to a Linux OSS alternative. And we were scaling
for relatively large user base, several million hits per day.
And when the need for scaling and performance become
large, Linux clustering is far more economical than trying to wedge the Microsoft
environment to support the type of volumes we are talking about. In several
project instances, the government departments that we were installing intranet
solutions for were more easily supported and scaled with IBM solutions
(Websphere and WCM) running on Linux.
By considering a Lamp stack solution for your intranet, your
business might gain the advantages both in performance and support improvements
as well as a reduction in the overall operating costs, especially around
#4 Take into account the weight of your licensing
The cost of implementation and licensing are public, not
secret. Microsoft posts its licensing costs, you can calculate the hardware
needs, and installation time.
Doing so will show that licensing costing remains an
important factor when considering long term IT costing. The comparable cost of
a Linux server licensed installation is substantively less, especially if you
consider the various licensing required around RDS vs Server install, the costs
of CALS that are not cross compatible, etc.
With licensing from companies like RedHat, when in need
of Terminal Services, adding a LTSP doesn't suddenly alter your fundamental
The main mitigating factor is related to software
compatibility, and I've found that some companies greatly benefit from moving
to OSS, and others do not.
Therefore, the costs associated with moving to Open
Source should factor both the costs associated with using new software and the
licensing cost savings.
In some cases, the price paid for OSS application
migration and integration and long term use will be less than that paid for current
proprietary software with similar functionality – the key being that
functionality and features may be distinct but not necessarily lost.
The question any leader perhaps would be prudent to ask: "does
that price differential address the overall ROI of using different software."
That's something I cannot answer on your behalf and anyone who tries to "sell"
you one way or other is ignorant of the fact that every business is unique.
What I do urge is that any organization includes OSS in
their licensing cost evaluation.
In general, integration of Linux based solutions is a
reasonable method of reducing costs and brining performance improvements to
certain key business IT areas. Does it work for every situation in every
business context – absolutely not. However, in general I have found that every
business has areas where Open Source solutions and integration of Linux based
servers offers improvements.
My recommendation is to evaluate the options, rather than
simply replicate based on historic precedence when looking for cost savings or
Mark Rais has been a technology leader for Aol, Netscape, Advanced Computing, and served as an analyst and technology advocate for numerous government and open source organizations. He currently provides technology consulting services for numerous international organizations and authors articles for Linux+ Magazine, ReallyLinux etc.