Linux servers battle for enterprise recognition
Mandrake, Red Hat, SuSE, and Turbolinux demonstrate Linux advancements
These OSes lack management consoles; each application or server has a separate management application, or may not have one at all, thus requiring that text files be edited to change settings. Each distribution addresses this differently, providing utilities to start and stop services such as Apache, DNS, or DHCP, if not to configure them. Mandrake has a very nice set of utilities for configuring most of the servers you might want to run.
Documentation is another area where the distributions vary considerably. All of the tested products offer online documentation, which may not be of much comfort if you’re having trouble getting the system to work. SuSE and Mandrake offer extensive printed documentation. Red Hat provides a slim, 100-page installation guide. I didn’t receive Turbolinux’s printed documentation.
Another interesting area to look at is compatibility with applications. All the distributions have RPM (Red Hat Package Manager) installers that will install applications packaged in the popular format.
In addition, Red Hat and United Linux have relationships with software vendors to ensure that third-party applications will run well on their systems. Oracle is a member of United Linux, whereas Red Hat has relationships with a great many hardware and software vendors, including Oracle, Dell, IBM, and others. Mandrake is not as well-known in this arena, however it recently announced a relationship with Hewlett-Packard to provide desktop systems.
Mandrake Linux ProSuite 9.1
Mandrake’s server platform reflects its desktop orientation, with the latest versions of the KDE (K Desktop Environment) and Gnome GUIs, and a very nice set of GUI tools for configuring Apache, DNS, DHCP, and other servers, as well as a firewall. Mandrake Linux ProSuite 9.1 is the least expensive product in the review at $199, although Mandrake also has a Corporate Server for $749 with a year of unlimited support.
The installer is very comfortable for the non-Linux administrator. It offers a security selection up front that allows you to select standard, high, higher, or paranoid; that applies a minimum security necessary for server configuration; and that allows selection of server packages, graphics packages, and GUI software from the start. This makes it easy to configure a text-based Web server or a complete file/print/Web server with GUI. The distribution also includes Webmin for remote administration via browser.
At the end of the installation, it offers an Internet update to get the most recent versions of server, drivers, etc. After the initial installation, Mandrake offers mailing lists of security and OS updates. Mandrake is also the only distribution to include the Apache 2.0 rather than the 1.3 version supplied by the others.
It also includes a complete workstation DVD packed with the most up-to-date and full-featured office and productivity software. The single DVD makes it easy to install all the workstation applications from one source, instead of managing multiple CDs.
Last but not least, the ProSuite 9.1 includes an evaluation version of IBM’s DB2 Universal Database for Linux, the DrakSec security manager, and an anti-virus tool. Advanced utilities such as RFBDrake (for a remote frame buffer configuration/
launcher tool) and URPMI (for automated installation of software packages) makes administration and configuration of services a snap.
Support includes 90 days of Web support with a 48-hour response window and phone support for five incidents, also good for 90 days.