January 3, 2006

Sun sets, Linux rises for Datastream

Author: Tina Gasperson

Before Linux, asset performance management provider Datastream ran its enterprise on proprietary Sun hardware and the Solaris operating system. But Jim Plourde, vice president of hosted solutions at Datastream, says he wasn't happy with the performance or the price of Sun hardware with its mission-critical database operations. In 2002, a move to lower-priced Intel servers was on the horizon, but Plourde still had operating system choices to make.

Datastream's custom asset performance management software and hosted solutions allow clients around the world to manage big dollar capital assets like manufacturing equipment, buildings, and vehicles, and to analyze performance for future improvements. Before the advent of application services providers, Datastream's solution, called Datastream 7i, was strictly an on-site installed and maintained package. After it launched its initial hosted solution, customers no longer had to purchase their own instances of the Oracle database on which Datastream's software is based.

Plourde had already been using Linux in "supporting tasks" on DNS and email servers. "Over time, as we became more comfortable with it, we started using it in the application server tier. Finally, we rolled it all the way back into the database server tier." Since Oracle and IBM had "jumped in big time" with Linux support, Plourde felt good about using Linux in circumstances where high availability and zero downtime were critical.

"We were replacing a four-way Sun server with a two-way HP server, and the new one was seven times faster," Plourde says. "What used to take 45 minutes, we could now do in five. Sun is a good operating system, but for what we needed, Linux was just fine."

Plourde considered migrating to the Linux version of the Veritas cluster management software he had been using on Solaris, but "it was their 1.0 version and we were a little nervous." Instead, he chose Steeleye's Lifekeeper software, specially designed to monitor clusters running Oracle databases.

Plourde says big cost savings coupled with high reliability have made the Linux-Intel combination Datastream's "de facto" standard going forward. "The only time we'll use anything else is in situations where there isn't a Linux version of the application we need," he says. "Begrudgingly, we'll use Windows where we have to -- but our biggest concern with that is the frequency and number of patches required."


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