Texas Tech University first tried Linux in 1998 when it needed a flexible operating system that could run Oracle underneath the school's RaiderLink intranet site for students, staff, and visitors.

Larry Greenemeier, Contributor

March 5, 2003

2 Min Read

Texas Tech University first tried Linux in 1998 when it needed a flexible operating system that could run Oracle underneath the school's RaiderLink intranet site for students, staff, and visitors. Brandon LaBonte, the university's director of software development, wanted to migrate the data that fed the intranet site off a Microsoft SQL database and onto Oracle 8i, which he perceived as more flexible. "We didn't have the budget to invest in proprietary hardware for the Oracle database," he says. So the university tried Linux on Intel-based servers.

Linux's worldwide support network of programmers and IT professionals mitigated some of the operating system's risks and helped keep costs down. "If there's a problem, the answer is somewhere out there," LaBonte says. "There are lots of eyes on the code. The fixes are there, and they're free."

RaiderLink has evolved to include 25 apps that let students renew parking permits, track exams and other important dates, and access financial accounts online. Each of the apps feeds into an Oracle 9i RAC database, running atop Red Hat Linux on two clustered Dell PowerEdge servers. The only apps that aren't part of the system are the university's core human-resources and financials systems, which reside on a mainframe DB2 database. This data is still available to intranet users, and LaBonte says he hopes that RaiderLink's success will convince the university to move all of its systems over to Linux-based servers because they're less expensive and easier to manage than their proprietary predecessors.

"The biggest challenge facing Linux is fear of the unknown, and this isn't to be underappreciated," says Evan Leibovitch, president of the Linux Professional Institute, which offers a Linux skills-certification program. "Companies that are already running their IT systems a certain way might not be willing to look at their systems in a different light. For Linux to go into as many organizations as it has, it's not enough to be better. It has to be phenomenally better to get people to make a switch."

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Illustration by Pep Montserrat

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