The Appliance of Linux

It must have been three years ago, in Computer Weekly, when I first wrote about the arrival of Linux Server Appliances and how, within five years, they would start to change the face of the computing landscape. At the time I was thinking more about cheap server appliances built around mainstream applications involving mail and database servers and hadn’t considered another use for the ‘Appliance of Linux’;infrastructure management.

Last week, I visited Itheon, a Hertfordshire company on the leading edge of ‘Total IT infrastructure management’. It’s not a company that many people know of but then it works invisibly through much larger partners, such as Hewlett Packard and Hitachi, who in turn deploy Itheon’s magic box at customer sites as part of a larger managed services package.

What makes Itheon the subject of a recent Butler Group report on infrastructure management, is that the company have developed a highly advanced set of products, the Itheon Availability Manager (iAM), which offers, modular availability management for server, application storage and network infrastructure elements by squeezing the lot into an innocuous looking box running SuSE Linux.

Network monitoring systems of one kind or another have now been around for years, and with IT services as a critical foundation for the always-on business, managing availability and network performance become priorities. Consequently, being able to measure the pulse of an IT infrastructure by application and server or being able to monitor quality of service (QoS) by response time, becomes increasingly attractive to any large IT department with a distributed and complex environment

The attractive part of Itheon’s work lies in the physical evidence of the ‘appliance of Linux’, delivering an end-to-end view of business services in the network equivalent of a Linux-driven television receiver. Tune-in to what detailed diagnostics and alerts you might want from a network’s, traffic, servers, applications and storage and much like a choice of cable television channels, Itheon’s ‘box of tricks’ manages the presentation and integration of all the major infrastructure component types; leaving the business or in most cases, a managed service provider with a proactive and detailed holistic view of a network infrastructure without the need for more complex and expensive software, hardware or even human intervention.

In an increasingly ‘plug and play’ world, being able do away with complexity while improving the quality of both information and reporting, has to be the way forward. What Itheon have managed to achieve with the iAM access appliance is prove that an entire spectrum of network infrastructure monitoring can be compressed into a small Open Source-driven box. This in turn begs the question of how the spiralling complexity and cost surrounding IT can be reversed by the arrival of cheap horizontal and vertical Linux appliances attached to a network infrastructure?


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