System administrators who need a Linux system will often opt to purchase a bare-metal system and install Linux on the system their way. After all, Linux folks are a rogue, radical ilk. They think differently. They administer servers differently. And, they purchase systems differently. The CXO, purchasing agent or other money-responsible party, on the other hand, has the corporate trust to buy the best available technology at the best price he can negotiate. That's a tremendous burden.
Linux systems are an elusive quarry. The prevailing assumption is that when you purchase a new system, you want Windows. That isn't always the case. In addition, while it's much easier to find factory-produced Linux systems than it was just two years ago, it's still no easy task. This list of seven Linux hardware-compatible server manufacturers want you to know about their products.
It is important to bear in mind that although Linux is free, support isn't. Therefore, have an idea of the type of system you want, then make the toll-free phone call to ensure it's correct. Give the telephone support technician as much information as you can about the purpose, number of users and performance needs of the systems you're ordering. Life will be so much better if you do.
This list of seven vendors is in no particular order.
Unless you're a total Linux geek, System76's server line might be the best kept secret on the Internet. Most people who have heard of System76 know its desktop and laptop line, but servers are a different story. System76 set the standard for Linux-based desktop and laptop computers, and System76 servers have gone through the same rigorous compatibility and durability testing that System76's other products do.
Starting at just over $1,000, you can custom build your own System76 Ubuntu server system. Its line-up includes 1U, 2U and standard pedestal format form factors. The 2U Jackal Pro 2 base model, before customization, is less than $2,100.
Some of the add-ons available in the custom builder are Canonical Server support, Intel Xeon CPU type and number, memory, storage options, CD drive, power supply type, rack rails, monitor, keyboard and mouse. Three-year overnight parts replacement warranty is standard for all server systems at no extra charge.
The Dell PowerEdge M710 blade server, featured in 7 Blade Server Solutions to Transform Your Data Center, is a higher-end Linux server solution. With it, you have the option of selecting Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.x or SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11.x. At just over $4,000 for the base system, this system is ready for whatever you can throw at it: virtualization, databases or heavy Java applications.
Each system includes three-year ProSupport and next business day on-site service. You can use Dell's online server builder or call its toll-free number to custom build a solution for your data center.
If it's possible to have a favorite Linux powerhouse system, HP's ProLiant DL500 Series servers are exactly that. Starting at a few dollars over $6,000, the DL500 series is the data center workhorse featuring four CPUs for mission-critical workloads. The HP ProLiant DL580 G7 is one of the best-in-class server systems delivered at a price point that even the stingiest SMBs will appreciate.
Select from Red Hat Enterprise Linux or SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for your databases, applications or virtual machine hosts. HP offers several options for support, maintenance and parts replacement.
At just under $6,000, you might assume that the IBM Power 710 Express server is a very expensive option, but it isn't. That's the price for the complete system. You don't have as many options with the IBM line compared to other manufacturers, but you do have a system designed to withstand the pressure of just about any imaginable workload. You have dozens of options for support through IBM or Red Hat for Red Hat Enterprise Linux or through IBM or Novell for SUSE Linux.
IBM offers its three-year limited warranty for selected components along with 9x5 next business day parts replacement. If you need better maintenance or service, IBM has it available.
5. Penguin Computing
Another under-the-radar Linux server supplier is Penguin Computing, although it's been in business for more than ten years. The company focuses more on high performance computing (HPC), cloud computing and high-efficiency computing solutions than on standard data center workload fodder. Its line of high-efficiency systems for server farms compare to other server systems on this list. Unfortunately, there's no pricing information on the website. System pricing is by quotation only.
Systems ship with a standard three-year parts warranty. On-site support is an extra charge. You can customize systems with the online configurator page but, again, your system's price is a mystery until you submit the configuration for a quote.
Oracle has optimized its hardware and its Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) knockoff for its database product, which means that, if you need an Oracle database, Oracle has the highest performance solution for it. Oracle boasts that its RHEL is up to 75 percent faster than Red Hat's Linux and 51 percent lower TCO compared to similar IBM or HP solutions. It also asserts that the Oracle VM Server 3.0 product is up to four times more scalable than VMware's.
Of course, you'll pay the price for such performance, but if you need Oracle's database, you're fully prepared for the associated sticker shock. Oracle offers 24x7 expert technical support, proactive tools and updates for a single price. And, Oracle's crack support team understands the term, "mission-critical."
7. Pogo Linux
Pogo Linux is another well-kept general public secret. With a dozen years in business, it knows Linux and Linux-compatible hardware. The company offers the most flexibility in hardware options and Linux operating system choices of any vendor on this list. You can choose from multiple versions and platforms of almost every Linux distribution including Ubuntu, Debian, Scientific, CentOS, OpenSUSE and Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
And, if yours is like most companies, you need Windows servers in your heterogeneous data center, Pogo Linux also offers Windows on its systems.
Ken Hess is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of open source topics including Linux, databases, and virtualization. He is also the coauthor of Practical Virtualization Solutions, which was published in October 2009. You may reach him through his web site at http://www.kenhess.com.