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SuSE Businesses Linux Business IT

A CIO's View of SUSE's Enterprise Viability 184

Posted by Zonk
from the can-stay-out-of-the-fridge-for-quite-a-while dept.
onehitwonder writes "As part of an ongoing quest to find a viable alternative to the Microsoft desktop in the enterprise, well-known healthcare CIO John Halamka spent a month using Novell SUSE 10 as his sole operating system. His conclusion? It's good enough for the enterprise. In Windows vs. Linux vs. OS X: CIO John Halamka Tests SUSE, he explains how SUSE stacks up against RHEL, Fedora, XP and OS X (in a life-critical business environment), and which issues should influence an enterprise-class organization to adopt it."
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A CIO's View of SUSE's Enterprise Viability

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  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday June 23, 2007 @10:19PM (#19624829) Homepage
    He's not running a nuclear reactor -- or a hospital. He's just doing email and typical business person stuff. Nobody lets a CIO do potentially dangerous or important things.
  • by NoGenius (976447) on Saturday June 23, 2007 @10:24PM (#19624871)
    The author of the summary is flat wrong when he says the conclusion was "ready for the enterprise". If you actually RTFA the exact words were: "Though he personally is pleased with the OS, Halamka is not so sure he'd deploy it widely in his organization." Incredible that the poster of this article actually gets the conclusion 100% wrong. Biases like this is why nobody trusts technology people for an opinion of the readiness of new technology.
  • by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@RABBI ... minus herbivore> on Saturday June 23, 2007 @10:29PM (#19624901) Journal
    It's time to thin the herd.

    So don't use the bad distros, and do support the good ones.

    It's called "competition" and while it's been absent from the OS space for a long time, it's what drives innovation in capitalist economies.

    Look, this dumb meme gets trotted out at just about every discussion of Linux. It's dumb because:

    • Linux is free. That means anyone can make their own distro. Even if you were right (which you're not), there's bugger-all you can do about it.
    • Having plenty of competing distros encourages distributors to keep improving their versions.
    • Because of the copyleft provisions of the GPL, improvements in one distro can be adopted by all other distros. That means if one distributor fails (like Corel did), their efforts are not lost to the community
    • Having specialised versions of Linux filling dozens of different niches means it's that much harder for an aggressive and predatory competitor to "fucking kill" all of them.
    It's great that SuSe is able to fill the corporate desktop niche, but I'd still prefer to use Sabayon for gaming, Puppy on my pen drive, SME on a small server, Debian on a big one, Ophcrack for rescuing Windows users who've forgotten passwords, etc, etc, etc.

    There's plenty more reasons this meme is dumb and dangerous. Try thinking of a few yourself, preferably before posting next time.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 23, 2007 @10:35PM (#19624937)
    Gawd this is getting to be an old and annoying discussion.

    The typical home user does three things:
    1. Instant messaging
    2. Email
    3. Surf the Internet

    Once the typical user realizes that these tasks can be easily performed on any number of OS's, that they have a choice, there will be some movement away from MS Windows for these people.

    Not that it matters that much to MS because most of their profits are derived from corporate customers.

    Corporations have a fourth requirement, standardized information exchange of documents and spreadsheets. Love it or hate it, MS Office provides some degree of standardization that *nix platforms still lack. OpenOffice has matured to the point where for most medium or small companies it can meet their needs. OpenOffice still needs improvement but it now good enough for serious consideration as a replacement to MS Office. I'm not advocating everyone switch to OpenOffice, I'm advocating a reasonable evaluation of the users' requirements and the applications that are available.

    The article is interesting in that it appears to be indicative of the thinking of a number of CIOs or anyone who is in the position of making IT policy decisions. The guy has a difficult time coming to a clear decision because he's evaluating non-MS options. It's the same thought process many of us have gone through. It's why I use Windows for some tasks and *nix for others. In my case it's using the right tool for the job.

    It's about choice. And now we have them :-)

  • by itsjpr (16533) on Saturday June 23, 2007 @10:40PM (#19624965) Homepage
    I've used SUSE 9.3-10.2 on a lightweight Dell laptop for the last 3.5 years. My experience was nearly identical, down the wifi connection issue after suspend and the work around. :)

    I've used SUSE for a while. They pulled me away from RedHat with SUSE 9.0. It was the first linux I used that just worked after being installed. I didn't have to jigger with crap. RedHat lost me when they decided to put the desktop user in second place. I've used Linux exclusively for home and office for the past 5 years and it's been SUSE that made it enjoyable.

    Too bad Novell felt the need to lick Balmer's d*** last fall. The best thing that could happen to the computing world is *not* greater compatibility between Linux and Windows. Windows is on its way disappearing into the ether. At the moment it fast becoming just a crappy API that can run (safely) in a VM to support the odd application that's not got a functional duplicate on Linux (eg. IE for testing web pages and some of the corporate crapware clients (oracle)). Too bad Hovispan forgot to read the judgment from the MS monopoly trial and pay attention to ever other poor bastard that thought they could dance with the devil.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 23, 2007 @10:50PM (#19625025)
    Suppose there is a file he needs on a W2K3 share in an existing AD domain. How can he get Linux or OSX to authenticate into the domain to have access to the share? Don't you need to make a descision up front wether to be a MS shop or a *NIX shop. Samba could be a partial solution, but the problem is a Samba *NIX server will still not tightly integrate into an AD domain.
  • by shlashdot (689477) on Saturday June 23, 2007 @11:16PM (#19625131) Homepage Journal
    "It's time to thin the heard"

    no, it's time to develop a decent groupware solution.
  • by Venik (915777) on Saturday June 23, 2007 @11:37PM (#19625223)
    Here are some of the recent impressions from someone who just had to deploy a 120-node SLES 9 cluster, shortly followed by an 80-node RHEL 4 cluster. This is not scientific research, so here is my unscientific professional opinion: both RHEL and Suse are a royal pain the ass to install, configure and maintain.

    I have over a decade of Unix sysadmin experience (Solaris, AIX, HP-UX, IRIX) and about five years Linux experience (Red Hat and SuSE primarily). To give you an idea of my personal preferences and my unbiased nature: my personal laptop runs Solaris 10; my work laptop runs Suse 10; my home PC is a Windows XP Pro; my work desktop #1 is RHEL 4 WS; desktop #2 is Suse 9.1; and desktop #3 is a Sun Blade running Solaris 10.

    So what is my problem with Linux? I like Suse as a desktop system. It's easier to configure and re-configure then Red Hat, mostly thanks to Yast and some logical organization of things. I am not a GUI sysadmin: I live inside Korn shell. Still, having a well-organized GUI is useful because you just can't remember everything.

    All the little annoying things, which I can deal with on my laptop or desktop, are multiplied to obscene proportions in a large cluster. Scali and Yast apparently don't like each other; there are strange transient NFS problems having something to do with large file support; patching is more complicated then it has to be with RHEL and absolutely infuriating with SLES.

    I don't want to go into all the bugs and idiosyncrasies of the two leading enterprise linuxes, the bottom line is: you want reliability and performance - stick with the big 'nixes and leave Linux to ripen a bit more. You want a desktop, then go with Linux, if Windows is not your cup of tea. But be prepared to catch heavy flak from your former Windows users.

    There is no such thing as a "typical user". Rather there are typical tasks. Web browsing, emailing, text messaging are all trivial things you can do with most modern operating systems. Or can you? How many of your users ran into problems with video and sound using a Linux desktop? Why don't Java applets in Web pages never seem to work right under Solaris? Why does a thousand other things go wrong?

    Is Linux more buggy than Windows? I don't think so, but many of my users do. They are switching from Windows to Linux - not their choice to begin with - and, being already used to all the Windows problems, they find Linux bugs to be new and worth complaining about. A lot. I have Suse 10 running on my laptop PERFECTLY. Everything works right: video, sound, wireless, card reader, volume buttons and all the other little things that usually annoy Linux users. But it wasn't easy getting there and it has to be if Linux is ever going to squeeze Windows market share. Not every PC user is a Unix sysadmin and they don't have to be.
  • by Daychilde (744181) <postmaster@daychilde.com> on Saturday June 23, 2007 @11:41PM (#19625237) Homepage
    "It's kind of like ... unsafe at any speed."

    And if you go read up on the history (as opposed to the 'popular knowledge') of the item you reference, you might be surprised at how much that really applies.

    Tip: The car in question wasn't nearly as unsafe as it was made out to be - there was a lot of hype involved. That's true here. Not only of Windows, but also Linux and Mac. Some overhyping of the good points, and some overhyping of the bad points...
  • by Maxwell (13985) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @12:07AM (#19625371) Homepage
    If you build your own PC's and put up screenshots on your desktop on your website, then it's 'fun' to have dozens of versions of everything. If you are a CIO, it's a pain in the ass and a huge, huge, problem with Linux adoption.

    You gave no reason for you assertion that multiple versions is not a problem, but allow me give you some for reasons for why it is:
    # You can't even use "linux" because there really is no such thing.
    # And you can't hire Linux people because there is no Linux people, there are Fedora, RHEL, Suse, Ubuntu, Kubuntu, BSD, FreeBSd,Openbsd people, etc, etc. And the "linux" crowd tends to rush off on whatever the latest trend is, remember when Caldera Open Linux was trendy? Now it's Ubuntu, whoops, Kubuntu, whoops, linspire, whoops now back to Fedora. Like little kids running after the shiniest candy.
    # And no they are not all 'the same'. They have wildly different directory structures, gui, lib version, kernel version support options, kernel versions, etc.
    # Oh but any *good* linux admin can use any system, right? How many is that? If a CIO hires 100 Windows admins, thee will be 10 good ones, ten useless ones and 80 somewhere in between. If he hires 100 linux
    there will be 2 good RHEL, 2 good SUSE, 2 good Ubuntu, 2 good Fedora and 2 good 'weird brand', 10 useless and 80 somewhere in between. That is spreading the talent pool pretty thin... It's no wonder Oracle on Windows is so popular, at least you can hire someone to install the thing!

    Sorry, but multiple versions is holding Linux back at the enterprise level and will keep doing so until there is a clear winner aka 'standard' that can be relied on for stability, industry support, and support personnel. RH and Suse as a 1 - 2 combo were looking very good, but now ubuntu has wandered in and taken most of the community's time...until the next shiny candy shows up...

    JON
  • by Jane_Dozey (759010) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @12:50AM (#19625585)
    In a corporate environment one enterprise distro will be used and the same software loaded onto each desktop. That means no problems with directory structures, libs, DE's or really much else. Everyone in the company will be using the same thing, much like they are with windows (can you really see the IT dept letting users choose between windows versions?).

    The company doesn't care about whether there's a "linux" or not. They're using RHEL/SuSE/whatever not this mysterious "Linux". I think you'll find a whole lot of "Linux people" disagreeing with you there. Every single Linux admin I've ever met has used lots of different distros and knows the quirks of each one. The company will hire people who can do the job on the system used, not those who don't.

    A *good* Linux admin will know whether they can use the system or not and apply for jobs accordingly. A bad admin might try and wing it but hey, they're a bad admin and should never had been hired in the first place.

    At the enterprise level there are very few options. I can currently think of 2 off the top of my head: RHEL and SuSE. These are what companies will be using and these are what they will be advertising jobs for, so no, at the enterprise level multiple versions really aren't such a problem.
    But what if more enterprise distros appear? I still don't see a problem. The IT market has a habit of having it's top 2 or 3 choices and a multitude of alternatives. IT managers will be using the top 2 or 3 and pretty much ignoring everything else unless they get good enough to topple one of the current leaders, in which case there's still only 2 or 3.

    It's only really when you get down to individuals and their home desktops that it becomes more difficult...
  • by HangingChad (677530) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @12:53AM (#19625595) Homepage

    since MS support is really very, very bad

    I have a live version of Kubuntu running on a machine downstairs. I could install the live version to test that hardware, network compatibility and that it could find the shared network printer and backup drives. It didn't cost anything and the few minor problems resolved online. Actually, there weren't any problems, all I had to look up were some installation instructions. Didn't need to buy anything, call anyone, wait for anything. Tomorrow I can install it if everything else checks out. What risk am I taking adding that OS to my network?

    Microsoft support, like Dell's support, used to be THE reason to stay with Windows on Dell hardware. But lately they've both let their support slide. There's no reason to stay with them. There's no risk trying Linux. You can test everything before committing. And it doesn't cost...how much are MSFT service calls going for these days?

  • by mrsteveman1 (1010381) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @02:40AM (#19626029)
    RHEL and Suse are the exception, everything else is forked to infinity.

    Heres an example, I have a production server I need to run VMware server on, if my running kernel doesn't exactly match one of the 50+ modules VMware was nice enough to compile and include (wasting their time), I have to keep a build toolchain on a production server just to install the kernel module. That is not acceptable.

    We don't need forks of everything just to change one small part of the system, we don't need 2 package formats, we don't even need 2 desktops (gnome is at best a thin client right now).

    It has already hurt the Linux environment and anyone using Linux.
  • by Ajehals (947354) <a.halsall@pirateparty.org.uk> on Sunday June 24, 2007 @08:42AM (#19627293) Homepage Journal
    So are companies currently running a single windows flavour on everything? No they may run XP on their desktops (Probably a few 2K, NT or 98 boxes left for some application that doesn't like XP), Vista on some of the laptops (Sales need the latest gizmo's). Windows 2k or 2k3 server (Or more likely a mixture) on their internal servers (if they are a windows shop). A *nix on their web servers, whatever OS is in their managed routers (with its own management applications), PalmOS on their PDA's, Symbian on their Phones, Mac OS on their Graphic designers Powebooks.. Its hardly a monoculture.

    With Linux you could get closer though, you could be running Dabian on all your desktops, Laptops and servers, And then Debian derivatives on your routers (well maybe...), PDA's and Phones... I haven't seen Linux specifically for switches but it may get there... - you could really get to the point where our entire IT infrastructure is based on the same code base, but still role specific (i.e. you are not going tobe running KDE on your servers or your PDA's - the kernel or each type of device is going to be different).

    So as an enterprise you could have a license free (and therefore license cost free - no extra software costs associated with growth...) environment, total compatibility between everything (Your PDA works seamlessly with your desktop scheduling and mail software and happily mounts NFS shares to sync documents.. (I do that at home - never done it in a corporate environment))
    All updates and patches come from a single source, or can be aggregated into a single source using the same methods (you can run your own internal repositories and manage all your application maintenance - not just the OS and some applications (ala Windows) No more having a SUS server, a Anti-Virus Update Server and a million small updating systems and scripts..)

    I guess what I mean is that Linux is as diverse as you need it to be, but that diversity can be harnesed and standardised standardised... Its easy to create policies and procedures to manage and maintain Linux environments, (and to automate that management) in a way that isn't possible with windows.

    The obvious caveat with all this is that you obviously (as a large company) cannot just install the latest release of Ubuntu on your desktops, the latest version of PCLinuxOS on your laptops, Red Hat on your servers, some OE Linux flavour on your PDA's, Phones, switches, and Routers and just expect stuff to work. You need to think about it first, design a good system and then implement it well.

    So does that sound like the ramblings of a gear head? I would assume I would use about 4 different distributions (All derived from Debian), plus probably different versions of those distributions (stable / unstable) across the enterprise. Every Specific role would have a base image (including as much software as possible that as common to sub roles (i,e, Common Drivers, X, a DM, NFS Client, Office and productivity software on the Desktops, Common Divers, Tripwire, SSH maybe NFS on the servers ). Fro these you derive your environment... All very neat, simple and safe.

    Oh and you have all the code so the vendor cannot harm you by going bust.
    Oh and you have your own update servers so they cannot be denied to you.
    Oh and you can change where you get your updates from, as other distributions will use the same code.
    Oh and you can make your own changes to your applications if you need to and have the resources.

    I cannot think of anything that offers these kind of possibilities except Linux/BSD. but correct me if I am wrong.
  • by init100 (915886) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @07:12PM (#19630767)

    As to thinning the herd, that would be the biggest mistake.

    Fortunately, that is simply not possible. Nobody has a mandate to declare that only a few distros can exist, and distro maintainers have to answer to no one guy. They can happily continue to maintain their distro forever, giving the "we must thin the herd" crowd the raised middle finger.

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