Linux in Business
In the Netherlands approximately 23 companies make money with Linux and 1600 companies are interested. The vast majority of those interested and other companies are waiting. They are not sure how to deal with the changing world of Open Source Software and Linux, because it is new and uses another business model. The time for propriety operating systems has gone. Standards, communication and openness are needed to bring professional software engineering to a new level.
The idea of Open Source development is however not new. It existed already back in the seventies, when computers where developed by people sharing their ideas and knowledge. Technology made great leaps through the sharing of ideas. Science always has built on the shoulders of giants it is more then natural that the same principles are used on software engineering field. Today the computing industry still taps into the ideas of the seventies.
In a business strategy the combination of embedded and Internet is an important factor. Linux is suited for both worlds and thus fits nicely in the overall strategy. Making money in the Open Source Software world is all about providing services. The Linux distributors sell support and knowledge. Creating yet another tailored distribution is not wise, instead tapping into existing efforts will leverage the most out of Open Source Development in your business.
Linux strengths are its flexibility to run on small and mid range systems. Also the high-end systems are not far away with the stable kernel versions 2.4 and 2.6. At the same time the smaller embedded systems are not forgotten. How can those two very different sides be served at the sametime? The Linux kernel is very modular and provides several options to turn on and of certain functionality. Disabling functionality makes the kernel smaller, enabling some makes it bigger. This is what we call flexibility.
Another strength is connectivity and protocol support (ATM, IPX, TCP/IP, SCTP, UDP, Firewire, USB, NetBeui, etc.). Linux can blend in with any network being WAN, LAN or wireless. Samba provides compatibility with Windows networking. Running Windows binaries on Linux? No problem use Wine. Another method is using a commercial product like VMWare(tm). It runs a virtual machine directly on the computers hardware from within the hosting OS. For the OS under VMWareâ€™s control it just looks like it runs on the bare hardware.
The Apache Internet Server is used by aproximate 10.000.000 websites around the world (source: IDC). Together with a suite of tools like Professional Home Page (PHP 3/4), Perl, Zope (Application Servers and E-commerce), Java (swing library and JBuilder), Squid (proxy cache) , MySQL, Postgress and the OpenSSL for encryption of connections and transactions Linux is able to provide secure and dynamic websites needed for E-commerce and other business solutions.
An interesting combination is Linux and Java on embedded devices. That is if you can spare the computing power and memory. Java is resource hungry. For the smallest devices (e.g. wrist watch) this is still to far fetched, but for certain larger sized devices it might be an interesting combination.
On the security front Linux provides several tools, like: Secure Shell, Secure Socket Layer, Intrusion Detection Systems (Snort, Portsentry) and Security scanners. Since kernel version 2.4 Linux provides Netfilter (aka iptables) infrastructure as firewall solution. It allows for a fine grained control on network traffic.
Linux uses the Netfilter infrastructure to build its well known firewalling tool called iptables. It is used inside most Wireless LAN Access Points and Routers. Some distributions specialized in security are: Trustix Secure Linux, ImmuniX. If you look for a very secure and robust firewall, then look at OpenBSD the other not so well known Open Source Software.
Advances on user security have been made in kernel version 2.6. It comes equiped with serveral Access Controll List policies, like: Role Based Access Controll Lists, Access Controll Lists and Security Enhanced Linux (SE Linux).