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Using Debian in Commercial Environments?

Cliff posted about 10 years ago | from the distributions-in-the-enterprise dept.

Debian 506

sydb asks: "I am currently persuading my employer to try out Linux. We are heavily dependent on IBM software technologies just now, and it's a very conservative operations organization. As a challenge, I am trying to persuade them to use my preferred distro but there are hurdles: IBM doesn't officially support Debian as a platform, though I have anecdotal evidence that most of it can be persuaded to work (with alien etc). Does Slashdot have experience shoe-horning Debian into this kind of scenario? Most importantly, how have things gone getting IBM support? My rationale for pushing Debian boils down to its vast array of packages available to apt-get, easy upgrades, apt-get itself, and the overall quality and consistency of the system."

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Conservative and don't like Debian? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10183960)

Imagine if you tried to introduce them to Gentoo! They'd probably faint.

Re:Conservative and don't like Debian? (1)

oKtosiTe (793555) | about 10 years ago | (#10184031)

G3N700 1$ teh r0x0rs?
But seriously, for a company I'd have to advise a distro that offers some level of support. Then again, I'm a big fan of Debian myself.

Re:Conservative and don't like Debian? (4, Funny)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 10 years ago | (#10184037)

Hey, that sounds like a plan! Upgrade all the systems while they're asleep!

Re:Conservative and don't like Debian? (2, Interesting)

Stevyn (691306) | about 10 years ago | (#10184294)

Asleep over a 3 day weekend maybe.

just kidding. You can get away with a compiled kernel and KDE desktop in 24 hours on a 1.8 ghz p4. I've only bootstrapped on a 500mhz k6-2. It took several weeks until KDE was finished.

I wouldn't see Gentoo as a bad solution for a small company as long as the guy doing it was familiar with gentoo. Once you configure a few systems, you get an idea of how the install process should go. It's not difficult, it's just a learning experience.

Re:Conservative and don't like Debian? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10184050)

Not just funny. I think the stability of Debian Stable is actually the strongest selling point of Debian over all the other distros.

Does any other distro match Debian for how long they support bug fixes on a stable release?

Re:Conservative and don't like Debian? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10184057)

Pioneer get shot in back with arrow by Indian.

'nuff said.

Or worse (1)

Trejkaz (615352) | about 10 years ago | (#10184279)

If you introduced them to GoboLinux, they would have several spasms before collapsing in a dead heap.

Debian sux!!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10183961)

oh and a beowulf cluster of debian b0xen 0wns ppl in soviet russia, !!!!!!

Dear slashdot (5, Funny)

Mike Hawk (687615) | about 10 years ago | (#10183965)

Despite the fact that my employer has a software environment that they are comfortable with, and that I have very little to gain and everything to lose, I have moved my software evangelism to the workplace. Can you help?

Re:Dear slashdot (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10183997)

Yes... try Debian. The answer to a question no one asked.

+5 funny (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10184174)

I just busted a gut, thanks.

Re:+5 funny (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10184301)

...and some moderator busted their panties. Do mod points just naturally gravitate to the humourless?

Re:Dear slashdot (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10184039)

Actually my employer was quite happy running Windows servers and rebooting weekly. (They were comfortable.)

Now that we have switched our servers to Linux they wished we could move more.

Put Debian on my ThinkPad (3, Interesting)

bitswapper (805265) | about 10 years ago | (#10183969)

I put Debian on my Thinkpad a20M, and it worked just fine, especially when I put in an eepro ethernet adapter. The windows driver I downloaded from the IBM site for Windows 2000 professional didn't work at all. Debian had the driver right there.

Re:Put Debian on my ThinkPad (1)

marcello_dl (667940) | about 10 years ago | (#10184367)

I switched to debian because potato was the only distro not to hang while installing on a mac 7300 with a Fujitsu scsi hd that gave me problems even on macOS. Also, the new debian installer is quite straightforward, if you choose the default answer for the things you dunno about ;)

simple (3, Insightful)

linuxislandsucks (461335) | about 10 years ago | (#10183972)

Ask them to read and point to Bruyce Perens previous papers and work.. he was the former head of Debian/GNU and now heads the UserLinux project..

just goolge the name and you will find his website with the paper links..

Or the hard way.. start your own business and demand it as per your ceo status.. I went the hard way :)

Re:simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10184186)

If you're going to Google, fix the name. "Bruce Perens [] "

i heard... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10184210)

that brooce perens is the goatse this true?

Debian and capitalism? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10183974)

That's like Damien Thorn dipping his fingers in Holy Water on the way into a church.


Re:Debian and capitalism? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10184314)

Except for the fact that capitalism is the evil one of the two, and communism would be like the church.

Getting what you pay for (5, Insightful)

MORTAR_COMBAT! (589963) | about 10 years ago | (#10183976)

In general, you're buying IBM software because you can call them up, tell them "it don't work, nosirree" and your contract says they get to send out some engineer(s) and make it work.

If they support your environment.

The gains you might think you'll get by using Debian are absolutely not worth losing your service contract, which you've likely already paid for. There's nothing horribly wrong with SuSE or Redhat, both generally supported IBM environments. If you succeed in getting your boss to install Debian, you're on the process of going up a river without the proverbial paddle.

Re:Getting what you pay for (1)

wobblie (191824) | about 10 years ago | (#10184081)

While this is true, it is generally overstated.

Re:Getting what you pay for (5, Insightful)

Zweistein_42 (753978) | about 10 years ago | (#10184090)

I would tend to agree with this viewpoint. It seems to me we are talking about a commercial environment, not enthusiast shop or basement. Anecdotal evidence of what Slashdot readers have successfully installed on their laptop or home (and I've played with Debian successfully on my T30 too:) has no bearing on this decision.

If your company, as it appears, uses IBM software/hardware, it prefers to pay some (ok, a LOT;) extra $$$ to have the peace of mind of having a large, monolithic corporation a phone call away:). As a hacker, you'll adapt easily to SuSE or RedHat (sure, we all raise hell about the differences, but let's be honest here;). As a company though, and especially a "conservative" one, they'll have -much- harder time adapting to a different model of doing things. In all honesty, sounds like you might be doing them a disservice by offering what is, in the end, an officially unsupported OS. Do you want to be the one who inadvertently nullifies their support contracts (no matter how unreasonable their requirements may be)?

You need to think beyond what you would like to play with, and extend your viewpoint to all the possibilities and risks your company might encounter in the years ahead. If they're more comfortable knowing somebody is guaranteeing, supporting, and in the end, taking the blame for their software/hardware, then it's a strategic policy you should follow.

There's little other then deception to persuade them to use Debian, if they are the type of company you describe.

I know! (5, Funny)

blankslate (748549) | about 10 years ago | (#10183979)

... just skin it up like XP and don't tell them?

Re:I know! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10184328)

I have an idea... []


Your rationale vs. their rationale (5, Insightful)

Dancin_Santa (265275) | about 10 years ago | (#10183980)

You want to put Debian on the systems because of the vast array of software available for it.

They want to run IBM solutions because they can trust that the few apps that they actually want to run on the system will run with no trouble.

The trouble here is that you want Debian on the systems for your own selfish reasons. They want to run their systems as reliably as possible. Since this is a business and not a college dorm room, the business case will always win out.

Debian is a fine distribution. But no company in their right mind would go through a migration just so you can install the latest and greatest software via apt-get. You see, they've already got the software they need running on the system.

he wants... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10184234)

to run debian so he can directly have an effect on the size of his e-penis. Getting your corporate office to run a hobby OS increases your e-penis by +3.

poop (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10183984)

in my mouth

Debian - harder to support (5, Interesting)

otisg (92803) | about 10 years ago | (#10183987)

I cannot speak about the IBM support, but I can speak about using a less main-stream Linux distro, such as Debian in a serious, commercial software development shop. What I found was that a lot of time was wasted on getting some of the more complex applications to work on it (e.g. Oracle 9i), while getting the same sw to run on something more 'standard', such as RedHat, was a bit easier. In fast-paced environments where every developer's day counts, this does matter. This experience is a bit over 1 year old, so maybe (hopefully!) things have changed since then.

Re:Debian - harder to support (-1, Troll)

Slack3r78 (596506) | about 10 years ago | (#10184086)

I'll have to second this. Debian is absolutely horrible IMO about wanting to do everything the "Debian way". Config files are stuck where Debian wants them, special Debian config tools, etc. This is fine if you're only running GNU software that can be installed via apt-get, but I'd never consider Debian for a production environment. If I were to push any non-standard distro, it'd be Slackware simply because it just works 90% of the time - everything is standard and everything is as basic as possible. Through in an update manager like Swaret and you're set.

That said, if I was using a commercial app and getting support relied on RH or SuSE, I'd be running RH or SuSE. Both are fine distributions, and being able to call support without being fed a "I'm sorry, we don't support your software environment" is worth it.

So you can like Debian all you want, but for your company's purpose, you'd be doing them a disservice by migrating them away from the distribution(s) supported by your software vendor.

what do you mean? (4, Informative)

dh003i (203189) | about 10 years ago | (#10184171)

What do you mean by "doing everything the Debian way"? Are you saying Debian doesn't adhere to the FHS? Or are you just saying that -- while complying with standards relevant to a *nix -- it does things differently than RedHat or SuSe?

If you're simply saying that it does things differently from RedHat, then who says that the way RedHat does things is "the standard"? As for "special config tools", etc, why are Debian's config tools "special Debian config tools", and RedHat's config tools not "special RedHat config tools"?

It seems to me that your either saying that Debian doesn't adhere to standards (such as FHS), which would be a good criticism (even though sometimes standards are wrong), but in which case I'd want some examples; or you're saying that it doesn't do things the "RedHat" way, which is like complaining about it because all of its programs aren't in C:\Program Files.

PS: Personally, I use Gentoo.

he means what he says (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10184204)

debian is not supported by major commercial applications like oracle and not supported by ibm. therefore things take longer to do "the debian way" instead of "the redhat way." why are you so defensive about your operating system? is your dick small, too?
PS You're retarded

Re:he means what he says (2, Insightful)

dh003i (203189) | about 10 years ago | (#10184329)

In that case, it is not correct to say that Debian is a "non-standard distribution". It simply isn't supported by Oracle and IBM. This really shouldn't be much of a problem if the distros supported by Oracle and IBM and Debian adhere strongly to standards (like FHS).

As noted in the above message, I don't use Debian, but Gentoo (and I probably wouldn't recommend Gentoo to a corporation, due to lack of big-company support, unless there were special circumstances that hyperbolized the benefits of Gentoo).

I'm not "defensive about my operating system". I'm just curious by what the person meant when they were talking about "non-standard". RedHat is not a "standard", nor is Gentoo, or any other distribution. They are simply implementations. It is simply one among many distributions of GNU/Linux. FHS, on the other hand, is a standard. Thus, any Linux that doesn't adhere to FHS (such as GoboLinux) is non-standard.

Re:Debian - harder to support (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | about 10 years ago | (#10184250)

AFAIK, Debian supports the Linux Standard Base. So the standards are there.

Personally, I'd be more worried about a lack of commitment on the Debian maintainers' end to avoid library breakage, etc. Maybe the support is there...I'm not in a position to check.

Why dont (4, Insightful)

kevin_conaway (585204) | about 10 years ago | (#10183993)

you focus on whats best for your company and ultimately your client by using the right tool for the right job instead of trying to hammer the proverbial square peg (Debian) into the round hole? Sorry to not really answer your question but hobbies and personal preference shouldnt take the place of a better solution (e.g. whatever distro of Linux IBM prefers for their hardware)

Move First, Change Later (2, Insightful)

usefool (798755) | about 10 years ago | (#10183998)

If I were you, I would find out what distro is acceptable to your Boss, and move to that distro first.

And like others said before, once he's hooked, the rest is history :)

It's difficult enough as it is to convince PHB switching to Linux, and I wouldn't try jumping over two hurdles at once.

Re:Move First, Change Later (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 10 years ago | (#10184110)

More importantly, Debian is more risky than a distro supported by IBM -- it's more likely to screw up and cause problems. Would you rather your PHB have a good experience with a less "cool" distro, or blame Linux for the complete disaster that could ensue if you push something unsupported?

Re:Move First, Change Later (1)

void* (20133) | about 10 years ago | (#10184302)

I don't think it's an issue of 'more likely to screw up and cause problems'.

It's an issue of 'any problems experienced will leave you without the support of your vendor ... you'll be on your own'.

I've used debian at work, but only in situations where there would be no support anyway. In cases like that it's a good fit. Get another vendor in saying 'our app runs on RedHat' - you may be able to get the apps to work, but any support goes out the window.

Arch (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10184000)

Why not try Arch Linux? It has a similar package system to Debian.

No problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10184001)

Of course your boss wants to feel backed by a large company but with debian you have thousands of people working like you, working with things that just work and no marketing behind.

if it's just apt.... (5, Interesting)

levl289 (72277) | about 10 years ago | (#10184011)

apt has been ported [] to RedHat.

I went through this same discussion at my company, as Debian is my preferred distro as well. The thing is, beyond the distribution scheme, I really don't get to experience the true differences between the distros, as I'm usually running an unstable release anyways.

The link above also documents creating an apt RPM repository - we did this at my company, and to be honest, 99.9% of my gripes with RedHat went away completely.

I'd suggest looking into apt for RPM, it fixes a lot of the problems, and doesn't introduce those posed by a totally new distro on your production boxes.

Debian + Commercial (4, Funny)

starling (26204) | about 10 years ago | (#10184012)

Wouldn't that result in some kind of explosion?

Good Luck (1)

panth0r (722550) | about 10 years ago | (#10184013)

I wish you the very best of luck, many times I have tried to get my employer to switch to Linux, every time failing by being told that it is too inconvient and that the entire company requires Microsoft for standardization issues, it does sort of tick me off. So again, I wish you the very best of luck.

Re:Good Luck (1)

Logicdisorder (686635) | about 10 years ago | (#10184133)

I too wish you luck and am in the same boat, I to hear the words "but we are a MS house" even after pointing out the cost saving in software alone but I still get the big fuck off.

But this is how I look at it you are the client and if IBM want to keep you they should support what ever Linux you want to install and from my point of view I think debian is a better than Redhat or Suse. I have friends who work at ISP that run on debian alone.

Re:Good Luck (1)

chris_mahan (256577) | about 10 years ago | (#10184246)

Do like me.

My boss is running knoppix 3.6 right now because his win2k pro install went south and hanged during boot. We called desktop support (internal) and their solution was, as always, to reimage the drive. He went nuts because they had reimaged the drive 1.2 months ago and he had about 3 gigs of database files (yes, network shares are maxed out already) that he just had to keep.

I ran filezilla server on my machine, booted his with knoppix, and showed him how to drag and drop from the mounted ntfs drive to the ftp window.

He's seen the light.

Re:Good Luck (1)

Trejkaz (615352) | about 10 years ago | (#10184343)

I suppose the irony is that Microsoft can't even decide on a standard for Windows. The Windows family is defined by a complete lack of standardisation, outside of running the exact same version all through the office.

demo (4, Interesting)

mr_burns (13129) | about 10 years ago | (#10184016)

I would say that what you want to to do is set up a technology demo. Put a server together doing a task using debian. The reasoning being that you have expertise in debian, so it reduces cost of the tech demo if you do and support what you know.

When it comes time to decide on an actual rollout they have to make a decision to go with a distro that they know is proven in their environment, or go with what IBM pitches.

But in either case, what you're doing is making the haters defend on two fronts: the vendors pushing for one linux and you pushing for another. With the debate being "which Linux" it stops being "why Linux". It's a win-win.

Re:demo (1, Insightful)

PopCulture (536272) | about 10 years ago | (#10184387)

if app "A" that the company depends upon for their day to day operations and survival is supported by distribution "Y" and not "Z" then why would any sane individual waste their time (and, yes, company credibility.. because the CTO/CFO's time ain't cheap) trying to demo distribution "Z"????

Am I missing something? Really now. Really.

I can't agree with you. (2, Interesting)

Rolloffle (806330) | about 10 years ago | (#10184021)

I don't think that Debian is the best choice in this situation. I know the whole subject is "Using Debian in Commercial Environments", but that's like asking "How To Fly From New York to London in My Volkswagen?". Debian is a pretty good distro, with a nice and fairly simple way of updating, but it is in fact too conservative for a corporate environment. Ideally, you want to be at the cutting edge of GUIs and the like, but Debian-stable (I can't imagine using Unstable in a business block) normally lags behind a bit; it's still on GNOME 2.4 and KDE 3.0.

So, what do I recommend? Predictable as it sounds, a corporate version of Red Hat like Red Carpet. It comes with groupware (Evolution), a decent browser (Firefox) and more updates than you can shake a stick at via up2date. You can make a profile to mass-install it on a batch of machines, and they guarantee corporate support against copyright lawsuits to the tune of three million dollars.

Even so, it's still cheaper than Windows, and far far harder to get infected with viruses, trojans and spyware. Everything on it but the Red Hat logos is open source, plus you won't get wormed in the process of installing it. You'll be essentially invulnerable to hacking attempts and the like, and will be able to more easily roll out updates than on Windows.

This should provide the kind of reassurance your employers need.

Re:I can't agree with you. (1)

oKtosiTe (793555) | about 10 years ago | (#10184307)

If you would have taken the time to inform yourself, you would have known the following:
stable: Gnome 1.4.0 KDE 2.2.25
testing: Gnome 2.6.1 KDE 3.1.2
unstable: Gnome 2.6.1 KDE 3.1.2

My personal favourite: WindowMaker.

Re:I can't agree with you. (4, Insightful)

wobblie (191824) | about 10 years ago | (#10184331)

You could not be more wrong. Production environments require stability, period - not the latest glitz. Most Sun shops are using Solaris 8 - it's ancient. Most windows shops are using Windows 2000. Conservative and stable is debian's strength. The reason Red Hat is such a mess is because they keep changing shit, and the wrong shit into the bargain. Worse yet, they put "enhancements" and bug fixes into up2date, which is in my opinion a big no no. I've had up2date break systems more often than update them. You point was?

Go HP! (5, Informative)

Schreckgestalt (692027) | about 10 years ago | (#10184024)

Go HP, they support [] Debian.

PS: No, I am not an HP employee.

Re:Go HP! (1)

Stevyn (691306) | about 10 years ago | (#10184220)

But does HP make the specific IBM software they use?

Re:Go HP! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10184244)

Does HP make ANY software for Linux? And if so, is it supported on Debian?

Re:Go HP! (1)

Chicks_Hate_Me (528837) | about 10 years ago | (#10184322)

Hmm...*looks at the picture to the left captioned "HP ranked #1 in outsourcing (InformationWeek PDF)"*

Yea, I think I'll pass :P .g if

apt for rpm (1)

mo (2873) | about 10 years ago | (#10184033)

You can use apt for RedHat, Fedora, and Mandrake distros too. If that's your only reason for using debian, then you might consider a compromise.

See atrpms [] for more info.

Let's use something unsupported.. that'll go over (4, Insightful)

Kope (11702) | about 10 years ago | (#10184034)

Ok, I love Linux. I use it at work. I work in a really big, international company.

Here's my take . ..

If it's not supported/approved by IBM and you are dealing with IBM then find out what they support and use that.


Because 1) it's easier, and 2) you want to succeed.

Your job is not to move the organization. Your job is to make your boss look good. IBM is very very talented at making their customers look good at very reasonable prices. You will make your boss look better with IBM's willing help than by trying to fly it yourself.

Apt-get is nice and all, but frankly, support is nicer. If you don't understand that, btw, then you are not experienced enough to be making the decission on what to move forward with. I'm not saying this to be an ass . . . but simply because it's true. Moving them to Linux is smart, but moving them to something the hardware vendor doesn't support is stupid

Re:Let's use something unsupported.. that'll go ov (1)

Trogre (513942) | about 10 years ago | (#10184136)

Or just use apt-get on another distro like Redhat.

Re:Let's use something unsupported.. that'll go ov (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10184292)

Moving them to Linux is smart, but moving them to something the hardware vendor doesn't support is stupid.

Should read:

Moving them to linux is smart, but moving them to something the hardware vendor doesn't support is suicide, for you, your boss, and possibly the company in some cases. Improper changes like this can make or break a lot of places, and looks bad on your resume too..

RedHat is more appropriate (5, Insightful)

tedhiltonhead (654502) | about 10 years ago | (#10184054)

Everybody get your fire-retardant suits on for the ensuing flamewar...

The core differences between distros are package management, the version of the kernel, and the version of libc. Debian might work fine for what you want it to do, but a subtle problem might occur that you didn't catch during testing, due to a version difference. I've found that shoehorning, as you mentioned, is generally a bad idea. Shoehorn too much, and your feet will hurt.

Given your conservative environment, I think RedHat's Enterprise Linux product line is more appropriate. RedHat can sell you a commercial support contract, and they promise software updates for 5 years. Also, future Linux admins are more likely to be familiar with RedHat, which avoids needing to learn Debian's quirks. Also, IBM or other commercial software (like Oracle) is more likely to be supported on RedHat.

Support? (2, Interesting)

maxbang (598632) | about 10 years ago | (#10184058)

IBM? Support? Ha! My company (a large multinational financial corp) made the mistake of outsourcing all the technologies through IBM. Some of the stuff works, but their websphere Host-On-Demand system for terminal emulation is crap. The support angle of it is absolutely awful. I have a job thanks to their miserable support of anything they don't provide to us at astronomical costs. My team supports everything they don't. Their policy is, "If we didn't provide it then 1) we don't give a damn about it, and 2) we won't even attempt to help you integrate it into the environment we provided for you." Good luck. It took us years of badgering them before they would clear the way for installling Apache on a workstation to provide automatic updates of image processing. And on top of that, they didn't even try to give us a solution - it was just plain no. When we want to do something now, we just do it. Then hell with 'em. If you can wean your company off of their teat, then my hat is not only off to you, but also covered in mustard as I will be happy to eat it.

Re:Support? (1)

wiggles (30088) | about 10 years ago | (#10184143)

... But you're not bitter.

IBM has helped us out... (5, Informative)

Howard Beale (92386) | about 10 years ago | (#10184060)

We're running Debian on several xSeries systems. At first, we were having problems with server lockups. While it turned out to be a problem with the XFS file system, IBM supported us by swapping out just about the entire server.

They won't support the software, but they will support their hardware running it.

Distro fights (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10184063)

I've had the same conversation in my workplace, when deciding upon a distro to standerise on. It was a tossup between SuSE and Debian.

It eventually boiled down to a single point: SuSE had commercial backing from Novell. Debian is purely a community-maintained distro. If we built a server for a customer, and then that customer decided they wanted to buy support for it, the only safe answer was to use SuSE or Redhat... and frankly, none of us (including the management) liked Redhat a whole lot.

At the end of the day, you need to ask yourself a few questions:

1) Are you happy supporting %DISTRO linux?
2) Are your management types going to be happy with it?
3) Are your customers going to be content with it?
4) Is it compatible with commercial packages? (Really important... although you might be able to shoehorn say, Chilisoft onto Debian, do you really wanna do that across a couple of hundred servers, and then end being responsable for manual updates or whatever?)

Easy answer... (3, Insightful)

LnxAddct (679316) | about 10 years ago | (#10184065)

In all seriousness, go with Red Hat, you won't regret it. They have the best support I've ever had to deal with and their enterprise line is the most consistent, stable, and feature filled distro that I've seen for the enterprise. I use Debian on personal servers, and while it's a great distro, and Debian stable is *extremely* stable, it is not anymore stable then Red Hat. Also, most enterprise applications are geared towards Red Hat. Alien is a nice utility, but sometimes craps out on me. You'll have no trouble finding RPMs of any major application on linux. Also, I love apt-get as much as you do, but yum is great, up2date is nice(although I rarely use it), and apt for rpm is awesome, although I'm not sure what its like on RH's servers, i've only used it on Fedora. Apt-get should not be a major point in your decision considering that once a server is up and running, you should rarely ever have to install or modify many things (other then security update, which RH handles nicely). IBM can't support Debian's repositories anyway because they have no clue what is in them and they have no jurisdiction over their distribution. Just spend the money on a good corporate server and I assure you that you won't regret it. It will also keep the higher ups happy, and if the shit ever hits the fan you can just toss the problem to Red Hat, who are btw very good and very quick at solving damn near any problem in the world.

RPM vs. something better (1)

rayde (738949) | about 10 years ago | (#10184068)

This brings up an interesting point. The two "corporate" flavors of Linux, SuSE and Redhat, are both RPM based. The advantages of apt or portage are fairly obvious, so why haven't distributions based on "easier" software installation methods become more mainstream in the corporate world? are corporate customers being forced to use these "more difficult" distributions simply because it makes it more likely the end-user will need that costly support? if you switch to something like Debian with a strong user-community, will you even need to pay for software support anymore?

Of course I'm generalizing on the "ease of use" of a Debian system opposed to a Redhat system, but i think you can see my point.

Re:RPM vs. something better (1)

LnxAddct (679316) | about 10 years ago | (#10184179)

Wow you missed the clue train about 2 years ago, relax I'm kidding. Apt has been out forever for rpm based distros, not sure how it is on SuSE, but I use it all the time on Fedora. Also, rpm based distros have a pretty graphical utility known as Red Carpet. It does everything the commandline tools do, but in a "prettier" way. There never was anything hard about RPM distros, I mean the hardest it ever got was d/ling the rpm and typing "rpm -i ". Dependency hell sometimes occured but thats true for any packaging system, including dpkg. Its the centralized repositories that fixed all that.

Re:RPM vs. something better (1)

tigerc (628630) | about 10 years ago | (#10184316)

if you switch to something like Debian with a strong user-community, will you even need to pay for software support anymore?

You buy Redhat or SuSe because of support. When you have a critical application that goes down, you want it fixed NOW. Not after paging through newsgroups or googling for hours, that's wasted time. Besides, Redhat and Suse test their enterprise grade linux with major applications that a customer would use, like Oracle. It's designed with that in mind. Debian supports a broad range of architectures and a wide variety of users. With RedHat and Suse, a specific group is targeted. Support is where they make their money, not selling linux to home users.

As for package management, you don't need a repository of thousands of applications. Besides, all of the apps you'd ever want to install are well documented. It's not like your going to use portage to install Oracle.

IBM support (1)

chameleon3 (801105) | about 10 years ago | (#10184078)

you might get it to work, but bottom line, if IBM doesn't support it, and something goes wrong, they'll tell you to get Red Hat/Fedora, which is the Linux distro that they officially support AFAIK. You'll be going out on a limb if you go Debian. (ironic b/c Debian is the most stable, has the most packages, etc.) I'm a Debian user myself.

many packages (1, Insightful)

dh003i (203189) | about 10 years ago | (#10184091)

"The latest greatest software via apt-get"

Since when has Debian ever had the "latest greatest" anything? (responding to another post)

There are advantages of Debian, but being up to date on the latest software isn't one of them.

Debian offers easy upgrades with few problems, and great stability. If the company can get IBM or another company support Debian, then they should switch, if the switch-over costs aren't larger than the gains, compensating for time-preference (the present value of the future benefits of switching to Debian, compared to the present cost of switching over to Debian).

Whatever money the company has sunken into support for RedHat is irrelevant. People here saying that the company should make a decision based on that don't understand economics. Past costs are already sunken, and are a given. The only relevant thing is which course of action is going to be the most beneficial into the future.

If the benefits of switching over to Debian -- minus the costs of switching over, and the cost of getting support for Debian -- exceed the benefits of staying with RedHat (for which we must consider the support to be a "part of it"), then the switch should be made. Otherwise, it shouldn't.

If the switch shouldn't be made now, then it will probably be something that will be worth pursuing when the support contract runs out, if there are reputable companies offering good support for Debian.

'Sunk' not 'sunken' in that context (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10184356)


Mandrake - Gentoo (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10184096)

Forget Debian, go Gentoo!

We are about to upgrade our firewall and fileserver from Mandrake to Gentoo because Mandrake just aren't following the technology curve fast enough with respect to recent updates of software that we need. We recently moved our desktop machines from Mandrake to Gentoo as well, for the same reasons.

Go "emerge"!

IBM Knows All - Not (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10184102)

... As a challenge, I am trying to persuade them to use my preferred distro but there are hurdles: IBM doesn't officially support Debian as a platform, though I have anecdotal evidence that most of it can be persuaded to work (with alien etc). Does Slashdot have experience shoe-horning Debian into this kind of scenario? Most importantly, how havw,,

If you ever have read a EULA agreement? You will see there isn't much support in anything anyone sells, IBM is no different. EULA is just a very long way of saying no support. So claiming "supported" is usually limp at best.

Ultimately any organization has their best support in their own people. Some monkey sales type will of course disagree - as they want their staff in on the cake. They usually play management like a piano with FUD. Hope you win as where management isn't F'CKed with FUD the environment is good for everyone, including employees and shareholders.

Any distro that works and adds to your business needs shoudl be used.

sandbox it (4, Insightful)

Chuck Bucket (142633) | about 10 years ago | (#10184111)

make a sandbox running Deb on your network to start showing them what it can do. this is what I did at my work, and it worked. Currently CVS and the Build machine are running my Linux distro of choice; Gentoo, for mainly the same reasons you mention.

RHCE's aren't going to do what we can do with *our* distro's, it's more than just LInux to us.


Why? (5, Insightful)

Mullen (14656) | about 10 years ago | (#10184112)

So, you need to ask these questions to yourself and your co-workers:

If you have a stable working enviroment, why change?
Is this move going to be cost effective?
Is the distro I use going to be the proper one?
Why am I really using this distro? If you say, because it is the one I use at home, then you need stop this project right in its tracks.
How easy is it to manage this distro in my enviroment. Running "apt-get upgrade" on 500 servers is not do-able.
Is there proper management software out there for my distro/platform of choice?
Does my software I need even run on my distro/platform of choice?
What about support for my software on my distro/platform of choice?
Can I keep my system software in sync across all servers?
Can I easily manage the distro install process?
Can I trim down the install time?
Can I make the install process automated?

These are just the basic questions you need ask. Don't get stuck on one distro. Be flexable and look around. Redhat or Gentoo or something might be better choices.

Notes from a former IBM employee. (4, Informative)

Yaztromo (655250) | about 10 years ago | (#10184113)

I used to work for IBM in the division that developed DB2 for Windows, OS/2, Linux, and various Unicies (but not OS/400 or other "big iron" systems) three years ago, and worked on code for DB2 v6 through to v8.

At that time, our Linux testing was primarily against Red Hat and a few others (from hazy memory, Turbo Linux, Red Flag, and one other I don't recall at the moment). Debian was not tested at all for any of their products. Red Hat was their primary focus, and seemed to be the Linux platform most of the developers ha on their desktop systems (although a lot of the Unix development was actually done through AIX-based systems).

Things may have changed since this time, but I haven't seen any outside evidence of this. Do you really want to try running these applications on platforms and with packages that the original vendor hasn't done any testing with? The IBM products you mention are not cheap -- why risk having them break by running them on an unsupported platform?

If you're a big account, talk to your IBM account rep and tell them you'd like to move to Debian. You'd be suprised how much IBM will do for a big account (or, at least, would do when I was there).


Re:Notes from a former IBM employee. (1)

dh003i (203189) | about 10 years ago | (#10184195)

Maybe not as big a problem as it seems, if both the test Linux distribution and the untested Linux distribution adhere to standards (such as FHS).

Re:Notes from a former IBM employee. (1)

Yaztromo (655250) | about 10 years ago | (#10184369)

Just a quick reply to myself -- thinking about it some more, I'm sure we also tested on Mandrake, and I think on Slackware. But certainly not Debian.


One of the things I love (1)

Trogre (513942) | about 10 years ago | (#10184115)

about Debian is the ease of upgrades.

An apt-get update;apt-get upgrade will most of the time do everything you need to update your machine to the "latest" version of whatever you have installed. Of course "latest" depending on whether you're running stable, unstable or testing.

There is really little necessity to go through the old windows-esque way of reinstalling every time a new release of your distro comes out (or take your life in your hands and attempt an 'upgrade'). I guess it's just a change in mindset for how to upgrade a system.

Having said that, I would still love to see some decent management tools like chkconfig appear in debian.

Using Debian (0, Offtopic)

papasui (567265) | about 10 years ago | (#10184125)

I've recently developed several cable modem network applications that run off a Sparc box loaded with Debian with PHP and mySQL. They connect into the cisco 7200 and 10k series uBR chassis and allow our field techs to resolve the hybrid fiber coaxial mac address on the modem to it's internal 10.x.x.x ip address. This allows them to pull snmp data from the modem, such as RF levels, bandwidth, errors, etc.

Now getting back to the topic, the reason I went with Debian is that it allows me to easily install what I need knowing that it's going to work without any trouble. I can dedicate my time to development rather than trying to figure out why line 5234 in blah.h is giving me some error.
Incidently, the combination of my software and my Debian server got me a presentation in front of the company president. That's really saying something when there's 16,000 employees. As a side note if there's interest I'm considering creating a sourceforge project for my work (assuming it gets approval from my boss.)

Never thought I might say this... (3, Insightful)

diggem (74763) | about 10 years ago | (#10184129)

Stick with the supported platforms, son. Dink around with your favorite distro on your own box(es). I've gone one dedicated FreeBSD 5.1 box and one dual boot windows/Debian testing box. I wouldn't think of pushing Debian branded linux in favor of something like RedHat. With RedHat or SuSE you've got a substantial corporation behind you. Not just the distros but the companies who support those platforms as well.

There's plenty of help on the internet at large, but they arent paid to have an answer to you in any amount of time. They don't even have to answer your questions at all. In fact they could simply call you a tart and a fop and go frig yourself or something strange like that instead.

Evangelize Linux, to be sure. But stick with what's supported. You'd rather have IBM or RedHat to point a finger at when it doesn't work rather than sitting on your thumbs and trying to explain to your boss once again why Debian was the superior choice.

Be a man! Use Slackware! (1)

arfonrg (81735) | about 10 years ago | (#10184142)

I mean, if you're going to fight the system and go with a distro that your contracts won't support, you'll end up being THE SUPPORT for the Debian users. Been there done that!

So why not at least pick the best distro?

Of course, you really have an ice-cube's chance in hell of getting them to adopt Debian so, this is really a moot point and I might as well use this moment to annoyingly tell everyone which distro I like best-

Found where better OSes are sold.

-----end shameless plug----

Re:Be a man! Use Slackware! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10184256)

I, for one, am proud to be second to this flamewar.

If you've got balls, go Gentoo!

Found where better OSes are downloaded and compiled

Some advice (2, Interesting)

Performer Guy (69820) | about 10 years ago | (#10184164)

Don't turn your companies first encounter with Linux into a science project with your favourite distro. Even if you've heard it can be 'persuaded' to work. You're on a salary as are others, keep it sweet & simple and don't waste your own time, because that creates an impression too.

Go with a flavor of Linux that IBM supports, then later when you're feeling adventurous introduce a Debian box or two. Making the Linux transition any more difficult than it has to be seems utterly pointless, especially inside a conservative organization. Make sure they take the right lessons away from this, not some ambiguous point confused by distro issues.

Muddying the waters with unsupported distro complications is just bad judgement.

Shoehorning (4, Insightful)

ceswiedler (165311) | about 10 years ago | (#10184167)

The fact that you're talking about "shoehorning" Debian in, using "anecdotal evidence that most of it can be persuaded to work" should answer your question.

This isn't a PHB issue, either. Anyone with a real production system should be scared off by language like that.

Two hurdles instead of one (2, Insightful)

HuguesT (84078) | about 10 years ago | (#10184168)

Your scenario is a bit vague.

What would Linux be used for? desktop or server room? Debian makes more sense for the latter (stability, consistency and good response time to security issues) than for the former (unease of install, antiquated desktop on Debian Stable, lots of work needed to maintain essentially your own desktop-ready distribution, obvious support issues with IBM, look on the management people face when you tell them your wonderful distro is based on "Debian Unstable", etc).

Maybe you can make the pill easier to swallow if you go to a more commercial version of Linux first, e.g. SuSE or RedHat? This way you only have to clear the first hurdle of making Linux acceptable in your company. It will still come with support contracts, releases, and other things management can cope with. Not to mention that these distros and others have to some extent caught up with Debian, using apt themselves or yum.

If your setup is Linux for the desktop, how much experience do you have with managing more than a handfull of machines and a couple of users under Debian Linux ? Debian currently makes a fine meta-distribution but don't make the mistake of assuming it will be as easy to maintain as your own machine. You'll have to cope with more user demands than just your own and a wider array of hardware.

Our debian production server story... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10184187)

Our department (Computer Science and Engineering) recently charged our unix sysadmin team to create a new linux server for software development, grading and homework for all students. We ended up choosing Debian over SuSE and Redhat "Enterprise" products. Redhat did not have the polish and maturity of an enterprise-quality product, and SuSE, while it was extremely polished, did not seem flexible enough (overdependancy on LDAP).

We chose the Debian "Sarge" release and have not looked back. It has been nothing but a pleasure to administer and maintain. We run it on a Dell Poweredge.

My boss was jittery at first about using a distribution with no marketing department behind it ;) But one cannot discount the ease of maintainance and consistancy of Debian. It was natural that it finally won out on merit alone.

c. thomas
CSCE dept, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville

Give them a working example. (1)

dodgy_knickers (793417) | about 10 years ago | (#10184196)

Nothing sells like a working system. I've done this before in the engineering labs where I used to work. Set up a debian system, and leave it where people can get to it and would likely use it. Make sure it works exactly as you promised.

When they need something that isn't installed, introduce them to APT.

Once my fellow engineers were able to witness just how well debian works, the whole lab was converted to debian (and a few desktops as well).


Debian should be the standard server side (1)

HawkingMattress (588824) | about 10 years ago | (#10184218)

What other posters say is true, don't put your job at risk if you have to install Oracle or other Redhat only things.
But I hope debian will be better supported in the future, it's really better serverside. It seems big players know this, but only support what PHBs want. For example I have read in numerous places that HP uses debian internally. But their server tools can be only installed on redhat or suse, even if they probably have an internal debian version. But it seems things are starting to move slowlyn as more and more users are installing debian anyway when it is possible and stating it in the forums.

Simple question (3, Informative)

joke-boy (744718) | about 10 years ago | (#10184232)

Say for the sake of argument that you talked them into it. And say that a week later, you decided to quit. How screwed would your company be, in terms of maintaining the solution you implemented? If the answer is "not at all", then your proposal is a fine thing. If your answer is anything else, then it's a bad idea.

Doing something like this is just like trying to use Perl or Python (or Java or whatever) in an all-C/C++ shop for the first time. It may be the best solution for the problem you happen to be solving. But if the company doesn't consciously maintain a knowledge base in the "new" technology, any of the new work is essentially dead once the author leaves. Same thing applies to a new OS, a new third-party app, or whatever.

The best technology solutions are maintainable, extendable, and reusable. And the most common error is to overlook maintainability.

I am experiencing this as well (2, Insightful)

wobblie (191824) | about 10 years ago | (#10184254)

And please, windows gimps with no linux experience need not moderate nor reply, because you don't know what you're talking about.

It is true that Debian does not have much commercial support, beyond Progeny and a few others.

However, it is the easiest linux distro to support, hands down. It is far more deterministic, more polite to it's user base, and far easier to support your commercial software on that anything else (provided you do it right). Why debian is not more popular with big houses is a topic up for grabs, but it has more to do with psychology, intertia and plain ignorance than anything else.

and to those who are saying "shut up and go with what's there" I might remind you that the reason they're using linux in the first place is because users (in this case admins) wanted to use it. The demand came before the supply, OK?

I believe Debian is so far superior to the other distros that wide support for it is inevitable. It makes too much sense. I think partly the reason is isn't widely commercially supported is because Debian spent the first years of it's existence more concerned with infrastructural matters than anything else, without much concern for usability. Now that they are very actively working on usability issues and other assorted superficialities, look out. they have a solid, modular architecture supported by well designed political process.

Lastly I might add Debian is not a company that can be bought or influenced by money; it is a non-profit with protected legal status. It is very politically stable and is the only software producing organization I know of that has a social contract with it users. Gentoo or FreeBSD (both being somewhat "cathedral like" in their organization) may have the quality of Debian, but they can't match the political stability, and neither can any commercial company.

Debian (1)

jschmitz (607083) | about 10 years ago | (#10184263)

Wow all I can say is I work closely with IBM and Linux and if you actually get your boss to go with Debian you are gonna regret it. IBM will not support it and what is your rationale anyways?? what is wrong with RedHat?? I understand that you are confortable with Debian and I know its a fine distro but the costs to you (your job) far outway the gains here.

Solution (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10184265)

Run your critical application on Debian. But make sure that if and when something goes wrong, you can reproduce the problem on a supported distro (Redhat, I guess).

We've Actually Done It (4, Interesting)

DaGoodBoy (8080) | about 10 years ago | (#10184290)

We have had a government contract that required Oracle 8i for odd reasons. Debian still has available the older libc versions needed for Oracle 8i. I don't if any current versions of RHEL or SLES support 8i, but I know Debian + the older 1.1.8 JDK allowed the Oracle installer to run and work with minimal shoe-horning.

The other Debian box we built for this application was for running Tomcat with the Sun JDK pushing a web-based reporting tool. We were able to demonstrate how Debian supported removing all unrelated packages (including compilers) and lowered the security profile lower than their Solaris boxes. (They still used telnet, God help them) The demonstration worked and the server is running Debian in production on the [redacted] government network.

Don't push it. We recommend Debian because of access to the build/distribution system and the ability to craft custom loads for specific purposes (point-of-sale, thin client, rich client, etc.). Controlling the build/distribution environment is a bigger issue than many people realize. But we really support anything because after a certain point, Linux is just Linux.

Comment on DebianPlanet about how we do it []

We use it in our business and support it for our customers. No problems here! Go Debian!

shoe horning is part of the problem (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10184293)

The reasons you cite for using Debian are contradicted by your stated approach. The reason that apt-get and dpkg are strong is the features they have vs rpm--using alien squanders any advantage you may have gained by going with .deb .

You find yourself using terms like shoe-horn, this should be an indication to you that the shoe doesn't fit.

Red pill blue pill (1)

lanner (107308) | about 10 years ago | (#10184305)

I have a saying for this. "You can't force someone to take the red pill". It goes for alternative operating systems, and many things in general. If they aren't ready, giving it to them isn't going to help.

I have done exactly what you want to do (4, Informative)

digidave (259925) | about 10 years ago | (#10184306)

I, too, am in a heavy IBM Websphere and DB2 environment and when we bought new hardware I looked into upgrading the distro from Red Hat 7.3.

First, the install on Debian isn't smooth. I tried the latest stable Debian as well as some updated packages that I knew I'd need. I installed Websphere and had some problems. Stuff worked, eventually, but it was a pain that I wasn't willing to deal with on an ongoing basis (fixpacks and such). Java GUIs were particularly troublesome, although the web console is really all you ever need. Java problems worried me a lot.

I tried Suse and Red Hat's enterprise offerings, which I had been given demo disks for, as well as their free counterparts. One major hurdle with Red Hat was that there are some major Java threading issues with RHEL 3.0 and Red Hat 9 and above, so I'd be stuck with RHEL 2.1 or RH 8. I decided to go with Suse 8.2, which is supported as a development platform (no free Linux is supported for production use).

What I found on my distro adventures is that IBM supports anything, but they do complain about it. For instance, even our old environment had RH 7.3 while only 7.2 is supported. During my Debian install it was IBM who helped me get it working. When supporting these distros they constantly question the Java version and go through a checklist of software versions to make sure everything's ok. But like I said, they will support it.

While I have gotten bad support from IBM before, overall they are much better than any other company I've had to deal with on an ongoing basis. They really do try to help out. A couple times I've had some idiot at their help desk so I asked to be transfered to someone else, but other than that they've been great.

Support contract issues (1)

MarkTina (611072) | about 10 years ago | (#10184319)

If you have a support contract with IBM for the applications your company has purchased then you might not want to change the underlying OS .. cause IBM could quite easily turn around and tell you to bugger off and fix it yourself if you have a problem (because you will be running an unsupported configuration).

Please contact your IBM sales rep (4, Interesting)

metamatic (202216) | about 10 years ago | (#10184342)

Many of us inside IBM would like to see at least one free distribution supported. However, IBM won't support Debian unless there's customer demand. You're a customer, so demand it. Keep demanding it.

SuSE or RedHat... (2, Informative)

stirfry714 (410701) | about 10 years ago | (#10184371)

You know the right answer. The fact that you're even asking here means you already know deep down that the best thing to do is RedHat or SuSE.

With that said, use SuSE. The last thing we need is more RedHat customers. Competition is vital to keep Linux from turning into a RedHat-only proposition (in the enterprise). Support SuSE, at least keep it a duopoly between Novell and RedHat - they'll beat each other up and keep things fair.
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