Are you either deploying or planning a Linux implementation in your organisation? Then stop for a moment – learn how to avoid and circumvent known issues and find out how to standardise your Linux the right way.

The prevailing wisdom suggests that the key to success for any organisation is to create the optimal balance between cost reduction, quality and innovation. If your operating costs are too high, you’re not competitive, but if you cut too deeply your quality may suffer, and if there isn’t enough investment in innovation you run the risk of losing ground to your competitors.

This tension is never more evident than within IT. In the tough operating environment within which we find ourselves, budgets are being frozen whilst simultaneously users and customers demand ever increasing reliability and richness of functionality. How do you reconcile these seemingly opposed forces?

Bust the Dams: Why Aren’t You Getting the Most out of Your Linux Deployments?

What is commoditisation?

Thankfully, natural forces are working for you in the guise of commoditisation.  Commoditisation in any industry is inevitable as a natural effect of market forces. It arises when from all of the divergent options available, one dominant standard emerges. Take for example hardware – the mainframe, minicomputer, and microcomputer markets all began with proprietary hardware, from the Univac to the Apple II. But these days, commodity server hardware consists of interchangeable parts available from multiple sources, all of which connect through standard interfaces. This commoditisation has driven hardware manufacturers to differentiate a level up with software and services that deliver real value to their customers. Effectively once standardisation has been completed at one level, industries emerge atop them to create new and innovative products.

How has commoditisation affected Linux?

Now that’s all very well at the macro level but how does that apply to the IT department? The key point is that until there is standardisation, disparate ways of doing things creates complexities that drain resources. Wherever those complexities exist, that is where the effort and money gets dammed. Standardise and those resources can flow downstream to irrigate new pastures.

Continuing with that metaphor, where is this dam most often found on the Linux River? Well it’s on the move and has been for the 13 years we’ve been consulting with organisations using Linux. It started up near the source when no-one knew even if it was legal, then onto which distributions of Linux would dominate, and so on. The greatest hold up was the lack of enterprise-class support and assurance available and so early adopters invested a great deal of their time and money supporting Linux themselves. Red Hat busted that dam back in 2002 with the introduction of Enterprise Linux.

Since then it has been flowing much more freely but more recently the demands on the river have grown as Linux has proliferated throughout the organisation. No longer is it simply watering infrastructure services, it’s now irrigating fields of mission-critical apps. The final obstacle to optimal flow, i.e. complete commoditisation, is eradicating the complexities that have arisen with configuration variances spreading across the estate and ad hoc systems management processes. Due to the unique way in which Linux has often entered and proliferated through organisations, there have often been no standards against which Linux is designed, built and managed. This creates operational inefficiencies where more investment than necessary is pumped into building, deploying and managing Linux, at the expense of the much higher value-generating applications downstream.

Best practice

What is needed is standardisation, automation and repeatability – effectively, standardisation to establish consistency across the Linux estate, automation to reduce the need for resource-intensive manual intervention and repeatability to create sustainable systems management processes. In practice you need a way of assessing, designing and implementing standardised Linux and associated services within your environment. The following provides a phased approach to doing just that.

  • Perform a thorough audit of your current Linux environments including what varieties of distributions, versions and configurations exist and where, why and how it is deployed and managed. This includes all instances of Linux existing and planned, the hardware it sits on and applications it underpins and how it integrates into the environment. Be sure to document.
  • Undertake a skills assessment to establish whether the necessary competencies exist in-house or indeed with your service provider. Beware, there are very few service providers that have these competencies themselves and contractors simply can’t offer the integrated services approach.
  • Design a standard operating environment (SOE) and management platform that is both optimised for your hardware and applications, and conceived with efficient systems management in mind. Reference architectures really help here.
  • Define the systems management processes and supporting technologies that are to be applied to the Linux environment. Be sure to include fault, configuration, performance and security management in this plan.
  • Bust the dam!

Next steps

If you want to capitalise on the expertise and experience of a specialist in undertaking this process, LinuxIT’s Best Practice Linux Architectures and Service Management approach delivers this service with minimal disruption and maximum return, in a timely and cost effective manner. If this is done right the first time, you’ll derive immediate and ongoing benefits. Done ineffectively, the investment can be high and the efficiency gains negligible.

With this type of approach you can, through Linux and your IT operations, reconcile the seemingly irreconcilable; cost reduction, quality enhancement and investment in innovation. By fully commoditising Linux, you can reduce the TCO of your Linux platform, whilst improving reliability, availability and serviceability, freeing up resources for innovation to drive competitive advantage.

Discover our advice for IT freedom: download the eGuide Top Tips for Preserving Choice – A Fundamental Component of Any Linux Strategy now!