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Convincing the Uppers - Linux as a Production Level Platform

By TheLocust in Technology
Sat Oct 07, 2000 at 12:04:50 PM EST
Tags: Help! (Ask Kuro5hin) (all tags)
Help! (Ask Kuro5hin)

So, here I am, the only Linux user in my entire company (a Windows-platformed web development business). We have recently had to turn down a number of possibly lucrative projects because we are a Windows-only house. I mention the idea of Linux and it's capabilities as a webserver, and it's ability to seamlessly integrate other platforms.

Well, my idea has been noticed. But now I've got to convince them I'm right...

So now I've been charged with the task of convincing my boss that Linux can handle the job. In our case, it's database connectivity to an Oracle NT box (which could be replaced by an Oracle Linux box later). There are other concerns as well, but that seems to be the major concern. Never having had to do this, I'm at a bit of a loss for concrete information.

I'm sure someone in the K5 community (no doubt MANY in the community) has experienced this. It's not necessarily a question about Linux/Database connectivity, but the fact that many people view Linux as "unproven technology".

Here is my plea: I'm looking for case studies, hard, possibly tecnical links to information that backs up my claim. Anecdotes about how you did the same at your own company would be great too...


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


The Tech Company I Work For Uses This/These Platforms
o Windows NT/2000 16%
o Linuxes 7%
o *BSD's 5%
o Other Unices (AIX, Solaris, etc) 5%
o Macintosh 3%
o BeOS (this is for Gandalf) 5%
o A Mixture of Platforms 58%

Votes: 98
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Also by TheLocust

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Convincing the Uppers - Linux as a Production Level Platform | 27 comments (13 topical, 14 editorial, 0 hidden)
Not a problem (2.00 / 2) (#7)
by Dacta on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 11:01:58 AM EST

What are you trying to connect to the DB?

Perl, PHP and Java stuff all have Oracle drivers, and quite reasonable docs to go with them.

I wouldn't advise moving Oracle of NT, yet, though. It is an absolute b****d to get installed and configured. You can get free developer copies, though (for Linux & NT). Hell - they sent me copies, in two separate (very large) boxes FedEx from the US to me in Australia, just because I registered on their website. The box would have been almost the size of a normal PC case - for one CD & a singel sheet of A4 paper. I'd hate to think how much it would have cost - I'm guessing $50 for each box.

Oh really? (3.00 / 1) (#10)
by TheLocust on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 11:06:00 AM EST

We probably won't be moving over to Oracle Linux soon anyway...

PHP has Oracle support? How so? Does Oracle supply it? Can we use ODBC? (I know there are ODBC implementations with Linux, but never had a chance to use it).

Who provides those drivers? Oracle? PHP? Third Party?

BTW, thanks for your input!
.......o- thelocust -o.........
ignorant people speak of people
average people speak of events
great people speak of ideas

[ Parent ]

Re: Oh really? (none / 0) (#16)
by Dacta on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 11:33:41 AM EST

You need Oracle SQL Net loaded on your (the Linux)machine. There is a PHP thing (module I think they are called?) for oracle. Get that, then you go and read the PHP Oracle functions manual.

You could even do a Google search for "Oracle PHP". Amzing what you find... like the PHP-Oracle HowTo

[ Parent ]
Re: Oh really? (3.00 / 1) (#18)
by bgalehouse on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 12:32:57 PM EST

You don't want to worry about ODBC. You don't want to use ODBC. It doesn't have a point unless you are likely to migrate away from Oracle

You want to look at the drivers provided by Oracle. The oracle distribution for linux comes with the standard oracle utilities and libraries (imp, exp, sqlplus, Net8/oci8). The normal approach for that sort of thing is to dynamically link to the oracle client libs. In theory, this linking should be the same, at the source level, accross all platforms. There are oracle functions for php listed here, these look like fairly direct wrappings of the standard oracle oci8 client API.

Setting up oracle (client or server) on linux is about the same as setting it up on Solaris, which is to say a touch more manual incantation intensive than setting it up on NT. We've been running oracle server on linux in our development environment. Hasn't given us any problem. Ended up patching and writing start scripts, but this was a repeat of installing on Solaris.

Actually, for server install with serious loads you should patch the instance init files according to your ram and access patterns. So reading docs and patching scripts is one of the fundamental skills of serious oracle DBAing, no matter the platform.

If you can afford it, you might want to consider solaris also/instead of linux. It is often considered the highest performance, longest supported oracle platform. At the very least, these issues of stability and support would be very easily squashed. Doesn't mean the installation script is perfect though :-) Certainly, it is often considered a better choice than NT for serious production work.

[ Parent ]

Attitude (4.22 / 9) (#15)
by codemonkey_uk on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 11:30:29 AM EST

IMHO Your attitude towards this assignment is a little lopsided. You seem to have decided on the answer, and now your looking for the question.

You should be looking at the problem you have at hand, and deciding what the best solution to this problem is.

If the best solution is Linux based, and you've looked into the alternatives, then you have that report for your boss.

Don't use a platform Just Because. Use it because its the best tool for the job. Be a profesional, it'll pay off in the long run. Leave finding uses for pet platforms to the hobbists.

"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
One more site (2.33 / 3) (#17)
by Dacta on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 11:36:51 AM EST

PHP World: Oracle and PHP

Ahhh... the wonders of Google!

Re: One more site (3.00 / 1) (#20)
by dead_radish on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 01:42:15 PM EST

Hey! That's mine!

I think, at least. As far as I know, I made that one up from scratch. And I have used it occasionally on TOS. And here. See below. :) It's been my .sig on TOS ever since I started there, about...ye gehods, several years back (a couple, maybe).

What is it about k5 that gets me to respond to random messages? It taps into that chat-addicted gene, I think, in a way TOS doesn't.
I knew I shoulda brought a crossbow. -- Largo. www.megatokyo.com
[ Parent ]

Re: One more site (none / 0) (#21)
by dead_radish on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 01:46:59 PM EST

Or maybe not. I've now been informed that someone else may have done it. So I challenge anyone who claims to have invented this .sig to a duel! Particle beams at 3 parsecs, 120020 GMT (Galatic Measured Time).

If anyone uses this on TOS, or elsewhere, lemme know. I'm very curious now.
I knew I shoulda brought a crossbow. -- Largo. www.megatokyo.com
[ Parent ]

Interesting methodology of evangelists... (4.57 / 7) (#19)
by Perpetual Newbie on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 01:37:47 PM EST

...proclaiming that your system is the correct choice, and when you are finally noticed you have to admit that you don't have any evidence; Or at best, you do not know how to express yourself. Compare with the recent Ask Slashdot regarding the fudged Dell statistics. Do you at the least have any anecdotes gained from personal experience contrasting both systems?

That said, anybody who makes the argument that linux is "unproven technology" is an idiot^W^Wuninformed. This argument is easily rebuffed by the fact that Linux has been around longer than NT. Since this is a Web server project, you should mention that Linux has held a steady position as the world's most popular Web server operating system since at least January of 1999, according to ios++ and the Netcraft survey a couple months ago, can't find the link to it right now. Note that another 45% of the Web's servers are Linux-compatible Unix systems; If for some reason Linux doesn't pan out, there are several compatible, popular, and proven choices that you can switch to without hassle. If you go the Microsoft way and it doesn't perform well, you'll have a bit of trouble switching over to anything else. About the only OS that Linux doesn't integrate well with is NT; You might have trouble arguing that this is not Linux's fault in front of a Microsoft shop, so it's probably best to not mention it.

If your heart's set on Linux, take a close look at your hardware. If it has more than 1 NIC or CPU, you have a much harder sell because of the known bugs in the 2.2 kernel affecting performance in these situations. You would find yourself in the position of having to either argue that a production machine should use a beta kernel, or argue that a production machine should use a kernel with known faults that would not perform as well as just about any other solution. Be ready for someone to bring up Mindcraft.

Also, decide just what it is you want to argue. Are you arguing for Linux, are you arguing for GNU, are you arguing for Free Software, are you arguing for Unix, or are you arguing for Not Microsoft? Once you understand your own positions, then it is easier to gather a coherent argument, and you might see other options you had not before considered.

Here's part of a comparison between Linux, the lesser known BSDs, and the Proven[tm], Reliable[tm], Industrial Strength[tm], Sun Solaris; this slide deals with SQL transaction speed. It might help your arguement. I wouldn't make the oft-heard argument about security because firstly the admin matters more than the software in most situations, NT is merely more likely to cross paths with inexperienced admins, and secondly, Attrition has recorded that Linux is now being defaced more often than NT so there is in fact the chance that someone might bring up security as an argument against Linux; be ready for this. Also, a religious^Wfreedom-oriented argument might not sink into a bunch of Microsofties unless you can argue that a competitive, compatible, standards-based solution has lower TCO; We all know it's true, but it's difficult to tell this to people who all know that NT has the lowest TCO in the industry without getting yourself quickly dismissed as a lunatic. If armed with only words you attempt to challenge the basic truths that support other people's decisions, then you cannot succeed; You must use other methods to first get Linux in the system so they can observe it working, and then with their own eyes they will either amend their tenets or see them upheld.

Do a prototype & push for deployment (4.00 / 2) (#22)
by Maniac on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 01:51:42 PM EST

I've just sold a major effort ($5M) to move a large application from SGI to a cluster of PC's running Linux. The way I got there was...
  • Get some general information about Linux and our application area.
  • Get a small ($200k) study funded to review the alternatives
  • Run benchmarks on junk hardware to establish a baseline
  • Get a test system, repeat the benchmarks to show how computational trends are going
  • Rehost a portion of our complete system - demonstrate it works
  • Report progress on a regular basis (bi-weekly or monthly), no surprises
  • Get quotes for the production system for the various alternatives
  • Present findings honestly
  • Let the brass make the "obvious choice"
  • Make a plan to do the production system after approval
This didn't happen overnight. It took time and patience. One thing that was VERY helpful was the rapid improvement of both the hardware & software to meet our needs. In six months our target system price has gone down about 20% and we can confirm published results on the software performance.

Experiences... (3.66 / 3) (#24)
by pb on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 02:20:37 PM EST

In my work over the summer, I kept some Linux boxes running smoothly. There were some snags--I had a box to rebuild, and I upgraded the kernel and had a tape drive stop working on me, (I never did get that resolved) but mostly I got some Perl code written and got a useful system up and running, and compiled a bunch of stuff.

My counterpart, who worked on the NT machines, and my boss, who does everything, had to find out why the NT machines would crash, or have the load spike up to 100%. Eventually they tracked it down to Cold Fusion, and tried to get help from Allaire; they were no help, and after months of getting the run-around, they finally managed to get a developer on the phone.

Now, I admit, when I had problems, I didn't get an instant fix from the LKML, but I figured out what it was doing (not writing the last block), found a work-around (explicitly setting the block size), and went on with my life. Even this sort of diagnosis seems almost impossible on NT. However, once you're locked into it, you can be pretty much stuck. Migrating systems is a pain too.

There's nothing wrong with adding new systems; if what you're doing is creating a front-end Linux web interface, then convince them that you'll put together a test box and present it to them; install something stable (and perhaps with support) like Red Hat 6.2; *don't* install anything that's alpha- or beta- level unless (a) You absolutely need it and (b) It's rock solid. This excludes Wine, Linux Kernel 2.4.0-test*, and probably Netscape, too. :)

Also, secure your box. Disable any unnecessary services. Run Bastille. Upgrade anything with a security-related update. Get the Openwall kernel patch, if you're really paranoid. A clueless administrator should *not* install Linux (or Unix, or NT...) at work, because that's just making the entire network less secure; if you don't know what you're doing, or you're first setting up a box, either don't hook it up to a network, or accept connections from no one, or perhaps one other trusted machine. Once you get everything working, feel free to go live with that Linux box.

Don't migrate systems when you don't have to; if you have a perfectly good NT box doing a job well, there's no need to replace it. If it gets slow or starts crashing, and you build a test machine under Linux that does the job better, *then* you can replace it. In fact, that's the point of one of my favorite Linux success stories.

Good luck, locust, and may the best platform win...
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall

FWIW... (none / 0) (#25)
by sab39 on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 03:26:10 PM EST

I've successfully run sites connecting to Oracle/NT and Oracle/Solaris boxen using Java on Linux. Admittedly, these were development sites with the production servers on Solaris, but that's only because the client provided the Solaris box and wanted to use it; Linux could have handled it quite well.

The software I used:
Debian Linux 2.2
Apache JServ
Oracle's JDBC drivers

The cool thing was that, with the exception of the JDBC drivers, I could install and configure all this software with apt-get. If you want to use a more modern JDK and JSP version (eg Tomcat) you can't do that, because JDK 1.2 and above do not permit redistribution so Debian can't package them (and Tomcat requires 1.2...).

The sad thing is that this requires the use of non-free software; Kaffe, Japhar and Classpath still aren't up to running production quality stuff :(

Just an example...

"Forty-two" -- Deep Thought
"Quinze" -- Amélie

Apache+PHP+Database (none / 0) (#27)
by iCEBaLM on Sat Oct 07, 2000 at 12:25:39 AM EST

PHP's database support is excellent, not only that it is a very easy, and very fast (by fast I mean development time), web development language to work with. I've put together a gaming ladder league in just 6 days using Apache+PHP4 and PostgreSQL, you can take a look at http://ristar.dnsalias.org, of course PHP also has support for oracle databases both locally and over the network.

-- iCEBaLM

Convincing the Uppers - Linux as a Production Level Platform | 27 comments (13 topical, 14 editorial, 0 hidden)
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