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Windows-Linux integration hot spots

There is little doubt that Linux is gaining headway in the enterprise. The big question is: "Where?" One consultant thinks he has the evidence to answer that question.

Part of an ongoing series on Windows and Linux integration.

There is little doubt that Linux is gaining headway in the enterprise. The big question is: "Where?" Much of the evidence points to the fact that proprietary older and larger Unix systems are being ousted in favor of smaller, nimbler Linux installations.

And this makes sense.

Many Unix applications (home-grown and otherwise) are available from the source code. Therefore, to transfer an application from a proprietary Unix system to a Linux system is quick, cheap and usually not fraught with too much peril. Beyond applications, it's also possible to transport entire ways of performing administrative duties -- lock, stock and barrel – from Unix to Linux. This is because, in general, the same commands, programming languages and administrative shells are equally available for both operating systems.

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Windows and Linux: Unraveling support options

Totally different forces are at play in Windows environments. Rather than Linux "taking over" Windows, what seems to be happening, according to my own first-hand experience and that of my colleagues, is that Linux is being brought alongside Windows for specific reasons. For example, a Linux server might run a specific application that Windows simply doesn't. Or, a specific application -- like a Linux firewall -- might have a stronger reputation than a Windows counterpart.

These are areas where Windows and Linux each do their thing a little better or a little cheaper, or they are more established. And that's where the integration needs to happen.

Here are a few areas where Linux-Windows integration is a good bet.

Authentication services

Active Directory is already hugely entrenched in many of the world's companies. And rightly so. Active Directory does a great job at authentication services, identity management, security, and certificate services. The ideal integration strategy is to take existing Linux systems and leverage Active Directory as a unified "go to" place for all authentication in the organization. And most Linux distributions support that. The goal here is to allow Active Directory users to log on to Windows and Linux machines with the same ease.

File and print services

Both Windows and Linux share files and printers equally well, but it can be a challenge to unify those services in a way that makes sense. Imagine making it easy for users to get to their Windows and Linux files -- regardless of what kind of system they're using. Making Linux printers available to Windows clients (and vice versa) is another huge cost savings. The downside is that traditional Unix file-sharing methods are somewhat outmoded and can be difficult to integrate with Windows without the right guide.

Mail services

In big environments, Microsoft Exchange is still the reigning champion. However, free Linux mail servers are very popular add-ons at the departmental level. The trick is figuring out an easy way to produce a unified directory between Microsoft Exchange and the Linux mail servers. An integration plus: Linux can be an excellent free antivirus and antispam engine -- perfect to relieve Microsoft Exchange of this duty.

Networking services

Unix and Linux Domain Name Servers (DNSs), firewalls and other critical networking services are often firmly entrenched in the enterprise. There's little penalty for keeping these services running as they always have -- rock solid and secure.

The bottom line for IT managers and administrators is this: Find the balance between Windows and Linux. Then use Windows where it makes sense, and use Linux where it makes sense. Along the way, continue to integrate the two. The days when the Windows and Unix-Linux camp didn't talk much in the enterprise are over. The time for peace has begun.

Jeremy Moskowitz, MCSE, MCSA, founder of Moskowitz Inc., is the author of the upcoming Sybex book Practical Windows/Linux Integration . He helps educate businesses about integrating Linux into existing Windows environments (or vice versa). He runs to help people get their Windows-Linux integration questions answered. Moskowitz has authored or co-authored six additional books, including Group Policy, Profiles, and IntelliMirror (Sybex) and Active Directory Administration Essentials. His two-day, hands-on intensive Windows Group Policy training has been attended by many of the world's leading companies. Find out more about it at

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