Both mainframes and distributed servers deliver high availability through clustered or grid computing. However, above and beyond this, many science and research departments require supercomputers to solve certain scientific and business problems. In this arena, Linux is the driving software behind most systems.
This has encouraged many universities, laboratories, and businesses to gradually migrate from distributed Unix to distributed Linux, since similarities between the two operating systems facilitate migration. In making the move to Linux, organizations know they will be able to control the Linux distributions they use, as well as the end applications. Finally, Linux is an operating system that can be very easily customized down to the bit level—and research labs and university science departments usually have the staff on board who can perform this customization.
Multi-Location Customer Applications
Companies also are finding it to their competitive advantage to deploy distributed Linux for value-added services for customers. Song Airlines features a Linux-based, in-flight, multi-media system with Internet connectivity for passengers, email messaging, GPS tracking, 24-channel television broadcasting, access to an in-flight MP3 playlist library, in-flight shopping, connecting gate information, and an interactive network trivia game. Each commercial jet has its own Linux server.
Traditional “Best Practice” Distributed Linux
Most organizations already deploy distributed Linux servers for applications such as Web and email administration, Domain Name Service (DNS), Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), file and print administration, network application drivers, and localized storage repositories for Network Attached Storage (NAS) and backup. Over time, some will choose to virtualize many of these functions on a monolithic platform such as the System z, running instances of Linux.
The decision will be determined by whether the applications can be run more economically and simplistically at a central physical source.
The Management Challenges of Distributed Linux
Any distributed server scenario offers predictable challenges to IT, and distributed Linux is no exception.
“The challenge in retail or any other business when you are using Linux servers at thousands of different locations rests with central IT,” says CA’s re. “It’s a monumental challenge to keep up with patches, system upgrades, routine maintenance, and repairs. The workflows behind this process are complicated, because items such as scheduled maintenance have to be adapted to different scenarios. A good example is a holiday weekend in one country that isn’t a holiday in another. This is a convincing argument for server consolidation and a process-centric methodology for IT.”