January 05, 2001, 9:11 AM — You may not plan to deploy Linux on your network, but that doesn't mean that your company's users won't sneak it in. As the operating system makes inroads in the enterprise, you need to decide whether you want it on your network before a renegade user brings it in unnoticed.
The use of unauthorized software and hardware has been the bane of IT's existence. When mainframes were prevalent, the PC-based Novell NetWare often moved in through the back door, led by departments that said mainframes and minicomputers didn't give operating flexibility or application capability they needed. Before long, NetWare was the dominant network operating system and IT managers complained about unauthorized Windows NT workstations and servers entering the company through that same old door. Now that Windows 2000 and NT are displacing NetWare, IT has Linux to worry about.
If you discover Linux on the network should you treat it like any other application added without your control, or welcome it into your overall IT plan?
The answer depends on whom you ask. Some readers Network World interviewed were starkly intolerant; others were more forgiving. In many cases, IT managers dismissed any incursion of Linux as just that -- a hostile takeover of the network that shouldn't be tolerated.
Although, most folks say they would slap the hands of the offenders who add anything to the network that IT hasn't approved; some would take harsher measures.
"Destroy their servers and fire them," says Jeff Shapiro, director of technology for the Kingsport, Tenn., public schools.
"IT organizations have standards and policies and renegade anythings should not be tolerated," he says. "If the company's IT structure is so weak that it's politically impossible to prevent or correct this, then it points to larger problems within the organization."
Chip DiComo, network manager for shipping firm Hellman Worldwide Logistics in Miami, says, "Linux should be dealt with as any other standards violation . . . and removed."
However, DiComo concedes that he recently worked out a compromise with a group of technically adept users in Poland who are running Linux on the company's global network. "We're allowing them to run Linux as long as they allow us to manage it with Novell Directory Service," he says. The IT pros in the Polish office support the Linux box and understand that if anything goes wrong, it's up to them to fix it.
Others recommend taking this type of moderate approach and assessing how Linux fits into the IT infrastructure before you decide to rip it out. Consider the merits of the Linux operating system, such as the fact that it's free and in-house teams can develop to the source code. What's more, look at the applications and hardware your company uses. If Linux will play a part in the network, you need to find a way to support it.