Linux servers battle for enterprise recognition
Mandrake, Red Hat, SuSE, and Turbolinux demonstrate Linux advancements
Linux is working its way into datacenters and has great penetration as a Web server. The allure of the open-source OS is clear: Administrators can take a very inexpensive distribution, add assorted server software, apply all the necessary patches, configure the system for good security, and end up with a great enterprise server platform.
For those with less Linux experience or without the resources to pull everything together, several stable, secure enterprise server releases from the major Linux vendors are available. I recently tested four: Mandrake Linux ProSuite 9.1, Red Hat Linux Enterprise Server ES 2.1, SuSE Linux Enterprise Server, and Turbolinux Enterprise Server 8.
All four vendors offer substantial features in their enterprise versions — features not included in the standard distributions. The included software apps are not necessarily the latest editions; the vendors selected the most stable, bug-free versions. These servers also boast enhanced manageability and scalability. None, however, stands out as a clear winner, although each has some bragging points.
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The Linux Landscape
The solutions I looked at share some common ground in key areas. All installed easily and without problems on a variety of systems, including two dual-processor Xeon systems. None had problems detecting dual processors, nor with any of the disk drives, HBAs (host bus adapters), NICs (network interface cards), graphics cards, and monitors. This is a big step forward from just two years ago.
Further, all the distributions provided support for various boot loaders and boot sectors, making them compatible with Windows in a dual-boot environment.
The distributions also included all the server applications necessary to set up shop, including the Apache Web server and PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) extensions, SMTP (postfix and sendmail), MySQL or Postres SQL database servers, OpenLDAP directory server, and Kerberos security, to name but a few.
Yet not all Linux servers are created equal. Support is a key differentiator between enterprise server and nonenterprise offerings. All the vendors provide premium support for their respective solutions, but deciphering the various support options, both included and optional, can give you a headache.
Security also warrants scrutiny, and each vendor says that its enterprise server code is more carefully audited for vulnerabilities.