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Dell switches internal servers to Linux

Dell Computer switches 14 of its internal servers from Sun Microsystems machines to its own systems running Linux and a new version of Oracle's database software.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
2 min read
NEW YORK--Dell Computer has switched 14 of its internal servers from Sun Microsystems machines to its own systems running Linux and a new version of Oracle's database software, Chief Information Officer Randy Mott said Thursday.

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The new systems, which spread the database across a "cluster" of interconnected lower-end machines instead of using a single more powerful system, cost less and work faster, Mott said in a keynote address at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo here.

Dell uses the Oracle 9i RAC (Real Application Clusters) version of the database running on Red Hat's version of Linux.

Among the systems Dell switched to Linux were its sales operations database and its sales force compensation database, Mott said.

Running databases on clusters of computers has been a technically difficult task, which so far has been achieved only by Hewlett-Packard's NonStop group (formerly the independent company Tandem) and by NCR's Teradata group, said Illuminata analyst Jonathan Eunice, but it's starting to become workable. It works best with databases from which computers read data often but don't have to write as frequently.

Also at the Linux confab, IBM showed a version of its DB2 database software running on a cluster of Linux servers connected with the InfiniBand high-speed networking technology.

IBM's cluster database technology is now respectable, Eunice said. "There's a point of maturity there that's quite nice."

Mott cited the server swap as an example of how information technology can be used to increase productivity. "There's not any area, any person that cannot be more productive through technology being applied," Mott said.

Mott warned that without constant attention to such improvements, the computing industry is in danger of stalling the way once-promising industries such as the way airlines and railroads have.

"You have to wonder why these industries were left behind," Mott said. "We're not immune."

To keep from becoming obsolete, the technology industry must concentrate on constant, dramatic innovation, Mott said. Dell is increasing the percentage of the resources it spends on development from 25 percent three years ago to 55 percent today and 75 percent in two years, he said.

To bring about a world in which productivity increases by as much as 50 percent per year, companies must come up with long-term plans and not just quick fixes.

"Being aspirational as opposed to tactical is really where we've got to get to as an industry," Mott said as images of Star Trek and Mars colonies flashed on screens around him as examples of what can be achieved.