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10 Ways that Enterprises use Linux

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(khess)
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The world's largest technical support, software and hardware companies use Linux on a daily basis for a variety of tasks and solutions. This post gives you an overview of all the ways in which large companies use Linux. Most don't use Linux on the desktop but do use it in ways you might expect (and a few you might not expect) a company of that magnitude to use it. They've leveraged Linux for some of the most critical workloads and 100% uptime service levels. Welcome to the world of enterprise Linux.

10. Intrusion Detection Systems - Linux provides the perfect network intrusion detection services platform because it's free, runs on just about any available hardware and is the favorite platform of open source developers. Applications such as Snort, the most widely deployed intrusion prevention and detection technology in the world, were built upon the free, open source ideal in mind.
From the Snort website:

Snort® is an open source network intrusion prevention and detection system (IDS/IPS) developed by Sourcefire. Combining the benefits of signature, protocol and anomaly-based inspection, Snort is the most widely deployed IDS/IPS technology worldwide. With millions of downloads and over 270,000 registered users, Snort has become the de facto standard for IPS.

If you're not using Snort, you might want to.

9. Google Search Appliances - Google builds its search appliances on the Linux platform. If you're using one in your company, you're using Linux. Sure Google uses a special version of just about everything for their appliances but it's built on the solid stability of Linux.

8. Monitoring Services - If you're doing any network monitoring or system performance checking, chances are good that you're using Linux to do it. Large companies use commodity hardware and free software to do their bidding where possible. Projects like Orca make life easier for IT professionals who must find and deploy tools that are scalable, inexpensive and return a lot of bang for the amount of effort applied. Orca and Sysstat are absolutely indispensable for large networks where you have to manage thousands of disparate systems.

7. Development Platform - Since Linux comes standard with so many development tools such as Eclipse, C, C++, Mono, python, perl, PHP and many, many others; it's no wonder that it's the world's most popular development platform. It contains thousands of dollars worth of development software all free of charge and that's good news for developers in all parts of the globe.

6. Log Servers - Linux makes an excellent platform for processing and storing log files. I know it sounds like a lowly task for Linux but its low cost, low hardware requirements and excellent performance make it a wise choice for anyone who needs such a service. Large companies make use of this low cost platform for their log services in a big way.

5. Jump Boxes - A "jump" box to people in enterprise-sized networks are systems that do little more than provide a gateway from a public network (such as the Internet) into more secure networks (such as client compartments). An inexpensive Linux system provides that service as cheaply as any system possibly could for the greatest number of users. A comparable Windows system would cost into the tens of thousands of dollars for Terminal Services Access Licenses and Client Access Licenses plus the cost of the operating system and the high-end hardware to support it.

4. Application Servers - Tomcat, Geronimo, WebSphere and WebLogic are all examples of java application servers. Linux provides these services with a stable, memory stingy and long-lived platform. As you can see from the links, IBM and Oracle both support Linux as a primary platform on which you may run these extreme services.

3. Web Servers - I think by now everyone knows that the Apache web server dominates the Internet--and has for at least ten years as the de facto standard web server. Which platform runs it? Linux, of course. In 90%+ of the cases, Linux and Apache are the pairing of choice for Internet HTTP services.

2. Database Servers - Oracle and IBM both have enterprise versions of their software that run on Linux. Why? Because it works. Linux has a low overhead and therefore doesn't compete with the needs of a database server. An RDBMS needs a stable, non-memory leaking, fast disk I/O and non-CPU competing operating system that provides the substrate on which the RDBMS resides but stays cleanly out of its way. Linux is that platform.
Linux is so good for databases that developers around the world have developed the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, Perl/PHP/Python) and LAPP (Linux, Apache, PostgreSQL, Perl/PHP/Python) platforms on which to run their critical applications.

1. Virtualization - The rise of virtualization from the desktop to the cloud and back again. It began with VMware's original product that only ran on Linux to the new products that use Linux as the preferred Dom0 platform that lies between the Hypervisor and the virtualized guest operating systems (DomU). Linux is the basis for all the big name virtualization systems, except one. Amazon uses Xen. Citrix and Red Hat are other major Linux-based contenders.

I hope you realize that companies with huge networks use Linux. It's not a niche operating system nor is it just for desktops, home users or small companies; It works very well in the enterprise.

How do you use Linux in your network? Do you have some uses that I haven't mentioned here? Write back and let me know.

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kizmarbie
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They also use them as back office computers, lots of the companies that i have to work with have adopted linux as their back office OS. The cost savings is worth it.

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apexwm
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Linux is used for just about every appliance there is. I've used various Symantec appliances and even high end appliances and software like VMWare vSphere uses Red Hat Enterprise. I've never seen a Windows based appliance. Why? Probably because Windows is too bloated, it's not as easy to customize (nor even allowed by Microsoft to my knowledge), and not nearly as secure. Since Linux is as scalable at this level, we need to look more at using Linux on the desktop level. It's there, it's mature enough, the problem is educating people to actually kick the tires and open the hood on Linux. It's an invaluable suite of software which personally I use daily and would be lost without.

http://members.apex-internet.com/sa/windowslinux

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tore
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"Linux is the basis for all the big name virtualization systems, except one. Amazon uses Xen. Citrix and Red Hat are other major Linux-based contenders."
You did forget z/VM, the master of all virtual engines and the one everybody else tries to compete with. They have a long way to go.

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sureronald
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In campus we use GNU/Linux as our internal web server (only one). The other servers that link to the outside world run windows 2003 server edition. I wonder if the server machines come with pre-installed windows operating systems.
I am in Kenya and I realize that only companies which care about security use GNU/Linux as their web servers and of course for other functionality. I have personally advised the school to switch to GNU/Linux but they seem to hear none of that. These servers have been cracked into twice for the few years I have been in the campus bringing some critical services down.

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alexanpasha
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To: Ken Hess

Hi Ken,

Very nice and encouraging, the way you unfold how Enterprises (huge companies) make use of all the effort the Linux-gods (or the Linux_Software_Gurus) made in their spare time.

But I missed a piece of where the enterprise systems (Mainframes, Vector- or parallel_processing machines, Supercomputers) are using Linux to do the gigantic jobs. Machine computing for banking, rocket and space-shuttle control and stuff like that.

Thanks,
Alex Odor - The Netherlands

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khess
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@alexanpasha
You're right, those are left out. In the enterprise I work in, we don't use Mainframe, supercomputing clusters or parallel processing systems. I was basically referring to what we use Linux for, realizing that places like Los Alamos Nat'l Labs and others use Beowulf clusters and other leading edge stuff.

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Sherin_1
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No doubt, Linux server is always reliable and secure, it provides better facilities also. You get full control, security and flexibility with a Linux server. Thanks Khess for your brilliant post. I liked and bookmarked also this post, very useful for me.

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mike_2000_17
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alexanpasha already mentioned the very huge systems like mainframes and supercomputers where Linux is extremely important, and at the very least, Unix variants (incl. Linux) dominate the scene completely. Especially in the last decade, the industry has been migrating to Linux systems more aggressively as they realized that it is easier and cheaper to adapt a Linux derivative to work on their systems than it would be to keep maintaining / improving the old legacy proprietary systems (usually Unix variants) that they have been using since the 60s.

But I would also mention another large area of application, which are the tiniest things, i.e., embedded systems. These are the small programmable chips that control various things like various systems in cars, home appliances, TVs / DVD players / DVRs / etc., industrial automation systems, robots, etc... Sure, once in a while you see such a device running Windows CE, or, conversely, not having an operating system at all, but the most common solution is to use a stripped-down distribution of Linux as it fits just perfectly for most purposes, with the exception of cases where hard-real-time operation is needed, which is usually done with QNX (also a Unix variant).

I think that this is really the thing that speaks volumes about Linux (and its Unix-like cousins), that it's so versatile that it can be used in such a wide array of applications with what are essentially the same ground-works (either pimped up to run a super-computer, or stripped down to run on the tiniest programmable chips). By contrast, I can accept that some people see Windows as a better platform for a PC / workstation (although I don't share that opinion), but I really don't understand how a rational person could decide to use Windows anywhere else.

the way you unfold how Enterprises (huge companies) make use of all the effort the Linux-gods (or the Linux_Software_Gurus) made in their spare time.

Well, not exactly only in their spare time. A lot of large enterprises have been backing the development of Linux and other open-source software for a long time, exactly because these technologies are so fundamental to their businesses. Ironically, even Microsoft has backed Linux for time to time, for the same reason (and it's a bit of an open secret that MS uses a lot of Linux in their infrastructure, after all, they are business-savvy too). But it's true that Linux and GNU tools were voluntary efforts in the beginning, and still remain strongly community-driven, but there are more and more ways in which developers get paid to work on open-source software, and it's a false belief that it's exclusively done in spare-time / voluntary work.

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rubberman
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Good post Mike2K! Got an up-vote from me for that... :-)

We run Linux servers for our production systems, exclusively, mostly CentOS 6.x - we have thousands of physical servers running in data centers world-wide, and thousands more running on virtual servers in the Amazon cloud. Windows? Well, it runs a lot of our business related stuff (sharepoint, outlook, etc), but NOT our consumer-faced application servers. The ratio of Linux to MS servers in our enterprise (10's of thousands of users, 100+ million customers) is probably 100 to 1, though that is just a guestimate (I really have no idea).

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