The pick of the Linux litter

By Christine Burns, Network World |  Development

To find out which Linux-based products are most popular with network professionals, we solicited online comments from our readers during a six-week period.

Readers responded not with accolades for products shipped by traditional enterprise network giants, such as IBM and Novell, which have only recently joined the Linux fold. Instead, they pointed to products developed by companies and open source zealots that have historically not been enterprise players but have from early on hung their hats solidly on the Linux hook.

Readers say they use these particular products because they are inexpensive, easy to deploy, customizable and work well in their large networks.

Topping our list of useful products is a Linux-based Internet server appliance from Cobalt Networks called Qube 2, as well as its higher-end cousin the RAQ 4r, which is targeted at the ISP market. (Sun announced plans last month to buy Cobalt in a $2 billion stock swap to help bolster its growing server appliance business.)

Users raved about the ease of installation and the versatility of Qube 2 appliance, which costs only $1,799 when shipped with 64M bytes dynamic random-access memory, a 20.4G-byte hard drive, a PCI slot and dual Ethernet slots. You can get less hardware intensive versions of Qube 2 for as low as $999. This product can support up to 150 users and be used as an Internet mail server, a firewall and a cross-platform file server. Additionally, the product ships with Web publishing tools for creating and hosting a Web site and software for creating private discussion groups online.

Users gushed about the Qube 2's "ridiculously easy" 15-minute configuration time, its reliability (some users said they don't have to reboot for six months at a time), and its low power consumption. On the downside, users pointed to the inability to upgrade the processor and its tendency to slow down under a large user load as potential weaknesses.

Another product repeatedly nominated by Network World readers is Win4Lin, produced by NeTraverse of Austin, Texas. Most readers nominated this product in its first iteration, but Win4Lin 2.0 is currently in public beta testing.

Win4Lin, which costs $35 per copy, is an application that enables Linux users to run the MS-DOS and Windows operating systems concurrently on either their desktop or server machines without requiring additional hardware. This product does not require a dual boot process as Win4Lin can run in a window on your desktop or as a separate display attached to your existing machine. Users say the chief benefit of this product is that it runs Windows inside Linux as fast as native Windows, but is much more stable. They point to the sometimes difficult installation process and the lack of support for 3-D applications as weaknesses in the product.

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