Enterprise Toolbox: Linux Growth on Midtier

There's no doubt that the Linux operating system has made significant inroads at companies big and small. "The operating system that could" has already proven reliable for a myriad of server-based tasks.

In October of 1998, I wrote in this column that more application development tools were needed for Linux to make it to corporate desktops. (See "Linux needs more tools to make it to the corporate desktop," www.infoworld.com/printlinks.) It seems my wish has been granted. During the last year, a multitude of open-source and commercial application development tools for Linux have arrived enforce. And many more are on the horizon.

Sun Microsystems Inc.'s (www.sun.com) strategy of giving away the StarOffice office-tools suite (and the announced Web-based StarPortal) begins to make Linux desktops more viable. However, I believe we'll need to see the development of additional business applications before Linux can leap to corporate desktops everywhere.

Linux is gaining much-needed maturity, especially in high-end services that would make it more viable in large settings. Once equipped, Linux will be well-suited as a back-end platform; this too will happen over time.

Given desktops and high-end server environments as a long-term goal, where do you think the short-to medium-term Linux growth will occur?

The answer is to keep your eyes peeled for Linux growth on the middle tier. Expect to see a significant number of new open-source and commercial offerings that target midtier services such as application servers, message queuing, and Web-to-host products. Also, expect additional vendors to offer products for Linux that help sites seeking the Holy Grail of enterprise application integration.

If you think about it, selecting Linux-based solutions on the midtier makes a lot of sense. As more application services leave clients and host systems and take up residence on midtier servers, the costs associated with supporting midtier services are increasing substantially.

Using Linux and either open-source or commercial products on the midtier can provide significant cost savings over other approaches. Linux also has a good track record for reliability -- a definite requirement for midtier servers.

And, the arrival of clustering solutions, such as TurboLinux's TurboCluster Server (www.turbolinux.com) will help promote increased scalability and availability that will be useful for large midtier deployments.

You can also expect system management vendors to continue to bolster support for Linux servers as part of their overall solutions. Companies such as Computer Associates Inc., IBM Corp, and Hewlett-Packard Co. are all taking the platform into account.

Those interested in deploying Linux on the midtier will find several solutions available, and many others in progress that are worth noting. The sheer number of products and projects under way that target Linux on the midtier make it impossible for me to provide a comprehensive list in this column. You'll want to further research individual product categories before choosing the best solution.

Those seeking Linux-based application server technology will want to look into open-source projects, such as Z Object Publishing Environment's Zope (www.zope.org) and Lutris' Enhydra (www.enhydra.org). A project known as Onion (www.onion.net) is still in the alpha stage of development, but the goal is to build a Java middleware framework. Those who prefer commercial implementations will also find Linux-based application servers available, such as Oracle's Application Server (www.oracle.com), BEA's Weblogic (www.beasys.com), and IBM's WebSphere (www.ibm.com).

If you are implementing midtier access to host systems via Linux, commercial companies, such as WRQ (www.wrq.com) and IBM, support the platform.

I believe we will see many more midtier offerings for Linux come to market during the next year. The combination of cost savings, reliability, scalability, redundancy, and greater manageability will push many companies to adopt Linux in their midtier strategy. Can you make the business case for using Linux on the midtier? Write to me.

(Maggie Biggs (maggie_biggs@infoworld.com) is a senior analyst with more than 15 years in IT. She examines enterprise technologies for the InfoWorld Test Center.)

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