Dos and don'ts: Deploying Linux in a mixed environment

Training and patience are paramount when deploying Linux in a heterogeneous environment, one expert says.

Editor's note: Linux is becoming more prevalent in the enterprise for mission-critical work but, in most IT shops, it's only part of the puzzle. Chances are there will be plenty of Unix and Windows boxes to administer, and managers need to understand the intricacies involved with deploying Linux in a heterogeneous environment. Pogo Linux Inc. chief executive officer Tim Lee offers a series of dos and don'ts that admins should adhere to.

Do take time to train all personnel on Linux systems, especially if users are coming from a Windows environment. Having a couple of on-site gurus is good practice to help the transition. Moving from Windows to Linux can be very intimidating. It is important for users to be trained with a good basic understanding of Unix principles and functions before unleashing them into the environment. Once they have established a good base, it will become easier to learn on their own.

Do train personnel on how to find the information they need to solve common problems. There is a wealth of answers on the Internet in newsgroup archives, how-tos and more. Make sure the users know where to go to answer questions when no one is there to help.

Don't roll out the deployment too quickly. There are many situations in which adding a Samba server here or there can seriously affect the network if it is configured improperly. Make sure a Samba server is playing nicely with other servers and domain controllers on the network before adding another. Rushing in too quickly can cause problems that will be impossible to debug and require the deployment to start over from the beginning.

Don't assume that Linux will be a direct replacement for existing Unix applications. Although most likely the same configurations and applications will be in use, do the research to resolve any compatibility issues before you deploy.

Do stick with server applications that can run on all the architectures in the heterogeneous mix. Technologies like Java are perfect for heterogeneous networks, as is other software that has supported versions for both Windows and Linux. If in doubt, use a standard that is supported best on all platforms. Samba, for example, is a better choice than NFS for networked-attached storage because it has high compatibility with both Windows and Linux.

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