Let’s be honest. There are many enterprise data centers (and data center admins) who aren’t crazy about Linux. But most of that opposition comes from simply not understanding the benefits of Linux and not experiencing Linux hands-on. Fortunately, we’ve got a comprehensive guide to everything Linux that you can use to get familiar with the basics. Once you start testing out Linux for yourself and getting comfortable with it, I think you’ll find that Linux is the best operating system available today.
So what are the benefits, in general, of using Linux? Some of these benefits include:
- Consistent operating model. No matter what version or distribution of Linux you use, whether you’re on a supercomputer or a tiny embedded device, the general operation of Linux is the same no matter where you go. What this means is that, with some exceptions, the command line syntax is similar, process management is similar, basic network administration is similar, and applications can be (relatively) easily ported between distributions. The end result of this consistent operating model is a cost savings generated by greater staff efficiency and flexibility.
- Scalability. Linux is eminently scalable and is able to run on everything from wristwatches to supercomputers to globally distributed computing clusters. Of course, the benefit of this scalability isn’t just the device mix, but also that its basic functionality — command line tools, configuration, automation, and code-compatibility — remains the same no matter where you’re using it.
- Open-source and community optimized. With Linux’s open-source, freely available nature, you might be concerned about future enhancements, bug fixes, and support. Fortunately, you can put those worries aside. If you look at the Linux kernel alone, with its 22 million lines of code, you’ll find a strong community developing it behind the scenes. In 2016, one report said that over 5,000 individual developers representing 500 different corporations around the world contributed to enhancements in the Linux kernel, not to mention all the other surrounding applications and services. A staggering 13,500 developers from more than 1,300 companies have contributed to the Linux kernel since 2005. You might wonder why commercial entities contribute code to Linux. While many open-source advocates see the open-source nature of Linux as purely idealistic, commercial contribution of code is actually a strategic activity. In this sense, the for-profit companies who are dependent on Linux contribute their changes to the core to ensure that those changes carry forward into future distributions without having to maintain them indefinitely.
- Full function networking. Over the years, Linux has built up a strong set of networking capabilities, including networking tools for providing and managing routing, bridging, DNS, DHCP, network troubleshooting, virtual networking and network monitoring.
- Package management. The Linux package management system allows you to easily install new services and applications with just a few simple commands.
If you think these benefits are great, then you’re going to be really excited about the capabilities of Linux in the enterprise data center.
Top 5 uses for Linux in the data center
Many modern ideas in data center computing have Linux underpinnings. Here are just a few examples:
- Automation and orchestration. Automation is used to perform a common task in a programmatic/scripted way, whereas orchestration is used to automate tasks across multiple systems in a data center. Linux is being used to automate and orchestrate just about every process in the enterprise data center.
- Server virtualization. Server virtualization is the ability to run a full operating system on top of an existing bare metal server. These virtual machines (VMs) can be used to increase server utilization, simplify server testing, or lower the cost of server redundancy. The software that allows VMs to function is called a hypervisor. Linux includes an excellent hypervisor called KVM.
- Private cloud. Another open-source project called OpenStack, which also runs on Linux, has become a leading cloud management platform for creating a private cloud. With private cloud, companies can leverage many of the same advantages of public cloud (scalability, self-service, multi-tenancy, and more) while running their own IT infrastructure on-premises.
- Big data. More and more companies are having to deal with exponentially increasing amounts of data in their data center, and because Linux offers such scalability and performance, it has become the go-to operating system for crunching big data via applications like Hadoop. Even Microsoft recently announced a big data solution based on Linux.
- Containers. Linux can also be used to run containerized applications, such as Docker containers, which are being used more and more by many companies. In fact, Linux is the foundation of the modern container movement; all container packaging and orchestration relies on Linux namespace and isolation mechanisms in order to operate.