[kwlug-disc] Best Server Distribution??

unsolicited unsolicited at swiz.ca
Wed Feb 3 02:07:38 EST 2010



Why not?


Bill Hazelwood wrote, On 02/02/2010 10:10 AM:
> Good morning,
> In spirit of the recent post on what would be the best desktop 
> distribution, I would like to ask the same question for servers, but 
> first a little background. I appolise, but this is going to be long winded.
> I am the 'IT guy' for an elevator manufacturer in Kitchener. I use the 
> IT term loosely as I have no formal training, I am 100% 'home-grown'. I 
> solve problems the hard way (lots of head scratchin' and bangin') and if 
> that does not work, I am on the phone to Microsoft. I have been ITing 
> for 10 yrs and I hold Microsoft wholely responsible for my hairloss and 
> premature greying. LOL!!!
> We are currently running Microsoft's SBS 2003 server suite and we are 
> looking to upgrade. I naturally looked to Microsoft for my next 
> headache... I mean solution. After all, once you become a sheep, what 
> else can you do??? This is where the problem begins, upgrading to Big 
> Mic's newest offering is going to cost the company close to $50k in 
> hardware and software (We have 40 desktops, 2 remote offices and 40 
> mobile/PDA users.). Ouch??? Are they kidding, who can afford that??? 
> What am I to do, the bosses are not going to be happy with that request. 
> So, I started looking for alternatives.
> I found many stories of users with Linux machines that just work. No 
> problems, no worries and best of all, no costs. The years of Microsoft 
> abuse has left me very skeptical. Is this possible? Can servers just 
> work? Is it possible to have a 'lights out' server room? For the most 
> part, I am a Linux blank slate. I spent a bit of time with QNX about 
> 15yrs ago and I am an original DOS guy. I am no stranger to the command 
> line, however I am quite rusty for sure. So, where does that leave me???

Yes it is possible.

Ah, QNX (2), those were the days ...

If you can run ed, you can run vi. If you can run notepad, you can run 

You are actually talking about a much bigger change than just 
software. $50K for hardware is peanuts.

You are really talking about taking your I.T. to the next level. 
You're talking about basic infrastructure change, not just software, 
but hardware.

Really, you need a master plan. Including a migration strategy. IT IS 

Get NetDirect in. Talk with them.

Divide from knee jerk reaction (we need MS SQL Server) from true need 
- we need a SQL server, OR, we have a particular piece of critical 
unreplaceable software that requires MS SQL. I'm not saying which is 
correct for you, but you need to examine the underlying need to be 
satisfied from the usual product by which you satisfy it.

> I have grand plans and I am looking for direction on how to get there. 
> What distro do I use? I have been given the OK to take some training 
> courses and have looked at Red Hat and Ubuntu. If I trained in Red Hat 
> and later used Ubuntu (or something else) would the training be a waste? 
> I understand that there will be a steep learning curve and that I will 
> need to purchase support, but I figure that in the end I will be better off.

To the best of my knowledge, the only well regarded certifications 
center around RHEL (and learning CentOS / Fedora, free distros, will 
take you in the same direction). If you're going to get trained, you 
may as well head in a direction that gets you something. Note: I am 
not happy about certifications that expire. [Like what I'm happy about 
matters. NOT.]

> Here are some details;
> - Continue to run WinXP as the desktop OS for the users

As long as hardware requirements don't change this is viable. Problem: 
Buy a new machine, particularly a laptop, and you've just inherited 
Windows 7. It is probably inevitable. (See migration strategy / needs 
assessment / future planning.)

> - Need Microsoft SQL Server

Are you sure it has to be MS SQL? I would assume so, but perhaps not? 
There are other SQL's, mySQL, PostGres, Oracle.

> - Need (I think) Microsoft Server for other Server applications 
> (AutoCAD, Alarm System, Terminal Server for remote offices, Desktop 
> Antivirus server)
> - DHCP, DNS, PDC, File, Email, Security, Backup, Print and Fax servers 
> to be some flavour of Linux

Others have already said it better - you can migrate at least some of 
these to Linux variants. It's really important to have a plan, and to 
have a consultant you trust. Maybe you don't give them all the work, 
but having a guide will give you some certainty and sanity as you 
examine feasibility.

You have an opportunity here to move to a safer, more redundant, 
environment. Hardware wise. Which provides a place for new solutions 
to be tested and the kinks worked out. How about a 12 drive shelf that 
all your machines make use of, RAID'ed, with hot spares? 1 keyboard, 1 
mouse, 1 monitor, many, many, machines.

Linux solutions will be more long term viable. What is your time 
worth, migrating hardware / OS' every X years? Solutions should be 
mostly fire and forget. If they're not, it's usually because needs or 
desires (for the latest/greatest) change - no way around that.

A solution (set) not mentioned here yet is virtual machines. What if 
you migrated your SQL server to a vm? (If you're using SBS, you can't 
be beating on it so hard that a vm is unreasonable.) What if you also 
fired up a linux equivalent vm, and long term migrated? Things like 
Blackberry Enterprise Server lend themselves to this environment.

I suspect your biggest problem will be executive tolerance for ongoing 
aggravation. Do this this month, that next, that some other time - 
their focus is on the business, not the next computer. If you can get 
them to come up with a master plan and strategy, then as you progress 
you're merely implementing decision in timeframes already agreed upon.

Get help.

Truism (I've found): If I've said it to my employer, it can't be true. 
If some 3rd party (consultant) says something, it's like the word has 
come down from on high. Besides, if something doesn't happen within 
time, cost, or functionality, you have a scapegoat. (Sadly true.)

We wish you the very best of luck.

We're here for you.

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