Linux: Save The Earth, Save A Buck? - InformationWeek

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3/10/2009
11:41 PM
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Linux: Save The Earth, Save A Buck?

Some IT users "go green" to save the planet. Others do it to save money. Either way, Linux has a lot to offer any green-minded small business.

Some IT users "go green" to save the planet. Others do it to save money. Either way, Linux has a lot to offer any green-minded small business.Lots of other folks have explored this topic recently and have interesting thoughts to share about it. Let's cover the most common reasons why they cite Linux as an effective tool for IT organizations of any size that want to do more with less.

Green guts. Too many software makers behave like a vampire in a blood bank when they get around cutting-edge PC hardware. For years, Linux has been a refreshing exception to this rule.

A good example is what's known as the "tickless kernel." This is a capability built into recent Linux kernels that powers up the processor -- a major power-consumption source in any computer system -- only when it needs to work. As others have noted, it's a power-saving feature that works in devices ranging from netbooks to data-center servers; over time, it can deliver serious savings for companies with even a modest IT footprint.

Other features built into Linux, such as the ability to strip out unnecessary services, background processes, and even the GUI environment quickly and easily make it an even more energy-efficient platform. Making the most of these tools requires investing some time and effort, but once that investment starts to pay off, it never stops.

Thinning the IT herd. It's well known that Linux can breathe new life into older hardware. (More on that in a moment.) Yet this ability, combined with newer innovations like the tickless kernel, makes Linux an outstanding virtualization platform. In fact, Linux-based OS-level virtualizers such as Linux-VServer and OpenVZ impose little or no system overhead. That's welcome news for companies looking to do more work with fewer servers.

More companies are also taking a new look at thin-client computing. A few years ago, pundits were declaring the "dumb terminal" dead and buried. In fact, the thin client model looks pretty healthy these days. Dell, for example, recently cut a deal to use SUSE Linux Enterprise on its OptiPlex "smart thin clients," allowing it to deliver a functional desktop environment that doesn't require high-priced, high-powered hardware.

Save The Servers! Linux is making news with gadgets like mini-servers that require less power than your kid's night light. But it's just as good at turning worthless brickware back into working contributors to your company's IT infrastructure.

Consider, for example, this project that pumped new life into an older-than-dirt Sun server with the same amount of RAM that you'll find in some smartphones today. And many older systems that stagger under the weight of Windows XP can perform just fine as Linux-powered file, print or Web servers.

Green is good. Cost savings may be a sensible reason to use Linux, but it doesn't hurt when it's a decision that you can feel good about.

Let's take that last example: Getting longer life-spans out of existing hardware. Cutting your company's hardware-replacement intervals from four years to six or eight years is nothing to sneeze at. But neither is the fact that when those systems stay in your company's inventory, they stay out of the local landfill.

In today's economy, any small business faced with a choice between going green or going under will do what it must to survive. In quite a few cases, however, Linux can turn a would-be dilemma into a win-win situation.

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