28 November 2007

Textbook Enterprise Open Source

There's no more powerful argument in favour of using GNU/Linux in an enterprise context than big names that are already doing so. Google and Amazon are the obvious ones, but we can now add PayPal to the list:

PayPal is currently processing $1,571 worth of transactions per second in 17 different currencies on about 4,000 servers running Red Hat Linux.

The article also gives some very concrete advantages of running a GNU/Linux-based grid in this way:

As PayPal grows it's much easier to grow the grid with Intel (NSDQ: INTC)-based servers than it would be to upgrade a mainframe, he said. In a mainframe environment, the cost to increase capacity a planned 15% or 20% "is enormous. It could be in the tens of millions to do a step increase. In [PayPal's] world, we add hundreds of servers in the course of a couple of nights and the cost is in the thousands, not millions," he said.

PayPal takes Red Hat Enterprise Linux and strips out all features unnecessary to its business, then adds proprietary extensions around security. Another virtue of the grid is that PayPal's 800 engineers can all get a copy of that customized system on their development desktops, run tests on their raw software as they work, and develop to PayPal's needs faster because they're working in the target environment. That's harder to do when the core of the data center consists of large Unix symmetrical multiprocessing boxes or mainframes. In neither case is it cheap to install duplicates for developers, he said.

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