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SOAP BOX: Linux in the channel

SOAP BOX: Linux in the channel

Welcome to another roving series on ways that you, as a member of the channel, can make money and deliver quality service to your customers by deploying Linux and open-source technologies.

While the focus of this article will be on the systems and technology available, I would hazard a guess that your customers are not normally interested in "operating systems" and "platforms"; they simply want solutions.

Therefore, that is what I plan to articulate - quality, viable solutions that can win you business.

Why are we considering Linux and open-source technologies? The systems presented herein are available at no cost, and have no licence fees attached. This leads us to the following dictum: for every dollar your customer saves on product licences, that's one more dollar they might spend directly with you.

Alternatively, for every dollar that you don't spend on product licences in your solution pitch, that is one dollar less expensive your quote will be compared to your competitors'. In a tight market, shaving that $500 or $5000 off the overall quote could make all the difference in winning the business.

One of the areas of strength that Linux has is as a database server platform. Almost every single major database vendor, with one notable exception, ships Linux-based versions of their product. Being resellers, you are probably well versed in some or many of the systems available, so I will concentrate on describing the less familiar open-source brands.

In particular, I want to introduce you to a database that arguably holds the title of reigning online database server (through volume of installation across the Internet) and fastest retrieval engine - MySQL.

The MySQL database server is touted as having a very different software architecture that makes it extremely fast and easy to customise. The developers have gone for extensive re-use of code within the software and a minimalistic approach to produce functionally rich features. MySQL is available for free under the GNU general public licence.

As a quick personal anecdote on the quality of MySQL, I've had first-hand experience with MySQL in many customer sites over the course of four years. I don't recall a single instance when data was lost or corrupted.

So, how do you go about making a solution with MySQL? Opting for a generic "server" install of any modern Linux distribution is the simplest rollout option.

Once installed, you have a powerful general-purpose SQL database engine to offer to your customers. A tried and proven method of selling this solution is to produce rack-mounted (or standard-case) monitor-less servers, and sell it as a hardware/software combination, which will still cost less than the corresponding MS SQL Server and Oracle licences.

This set-up can then be delivered to your customer as a fully operational system, requiring only an IP (Internet protocol) address configured on the system to get it up and running, or one allocated to it through DHCP (dynamic host configuration protocol).

Beyond the core MySQL server engine, you should also consider installing some of the numerous add-ons, which can help your customers extend the functionality of the database server.

Tools such as MyPHPAdmin (wmf.dyndns.org) offer your customers the ability to fully operate MySQL from any authenticated Web browser. Alternatively, if your customer mostly uses Windows workstations you can give them a similar capability via a Windows-based client with MySQL-Front (www.anse.de/mysqlfront).

Your services may also be required to convert legacy data into the MySQL server. Converters for MS SQL, dBase, FoxPro, MS Access, mSQL, Oracle, Excel and ASCII text are (along with most of the tools mentioned in this article) downloadable from www.mysql.com/downloads/contrib.html.

All these services add substantial value and utility to the system for your customer and are chargeable by you. In our industry this is how you survive and thrive.

Con Zymaris is CEO of Cybersource. Reach him at conz@cyber.com.au


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