Weather.com Turning to Linux for Static Content

Weather.com -- the Weather Channel's Web site -- is replacing some of the Sun Microsystems Inc. servers that it has been using with much cheaper Intel Corp.-based machines running Red Hat Inc. Linux.

The reason for the switch is cost, said Mark Ryan, CIO at Weather Channel Enterprises Inc. Ryan is moving Weather.com's static Web content to IBM NetFinity 4000 dual processor rack-mount servers, which he claims will do the same job as Sun's Unix servers for one-third the price.

Linux allows Ryan to add performance in smaller -- and cheaper -- increments. "We can slot in a new server in less than two hours," he said.

But for generating dynamic Web pages, such as Weather.com's personalised home pages that include maps and news, the site will stick with Sun's servers because they perform the task better than Intel Corp. machines, Ryan said.

Weather.com gets an average of about 300 million page views per month, but it sees peaks of 25 million to 35 million pages per day during hurricane season. In May, the site ranked 26th in Media Metrix Inc.'s list of most visited Web sites.

The IBM boxes will run the open-source Apache Web server, while the Sun servers are powered by IBM's WebSphere server, which is based on Apache.

"What people like about Linux is you can add (servers) as you need them," said Bill Claybrook, an analyst at Aberdeen Group Inc. in Boston. Today, Linux isn't yet competing with Unix servers such as Sun's at the high end, but eventually it will, Claybrook said.

Ryan said he expects that Linux expertise will soon be easier to come by than Solaris knowledge. "We looked at the people coming out of colleges, and they all know Linux," he said.

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