drink the sweet feeling of the colour zero

Linux Routers Gone Wild (Introduction)

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I have recently embarked upon a difficult professional journey.  The larger part of this journey is in fact an attempt to secure my network and slowly, inexorably retire as much Microsoft software from service as possible.  The reasons for this lie largely in the complexity of Microsoft licensing; I am often beset by so many IT projects that it is honestly a nightmare attempting to comprehend the plethora of licensing options and caveats.  Trying to make sure our company remains in compliance is itself almost a full time job.

The solution to this is simple: cut back on as much Microsoft software as is humanely possible.  There are naturally some fairly enormous barriers to this concept.  The first being that there is simply no way we are (ever) going to be able to ditch Microsoft on the desktop.  There is simply too much industry-specific software we are totally reliant on for this to be anything but a midsummer night’s dream.  To manage these desktops, I need a directory and something that will handle group policy like templates.  After much searching and pondering the simple reality is that Microsoft’s Active Directory is the best bang for my buck in this department, and so there is no reason to abandon it.  (I should state for the record however that Novell’s offerings an unbelievably close second.)

The second obstacle is not a hardware or software limitation, but rather one of wetware.  The wetware, (which will remain nameless,) ultimately responsible for accepting or rejecting my various schemes and proposals consists of two units.  The first unit is logical, rational and driven by nothing more than sounds business rationale.  If you can make a solid business case for something, one of the two decision making wetware units will be easily won over.  Unfortunately, this wetware unit has exceptionally limited IT knowledge; when my recommendations clash with those of the second decision making wetware unit, issues can arise.

The second decision making unit in question is rather less approachable than the first.  Though remarkably intelligent, this unit remains deeply wedded to all things Microsoft and has what I consider to be an incredibly dangerous fascination with whatever happens to be the newest technology of the day.  As a born and bred technology geek, I truly understand the “gee whiz” factor shiny new kit can bring.  As someone who goes to work a loyal company man and puts aside everything except my job, I can’t and won’t let my employer risk the business on untested or questionable gear.  (Let several someone elses walk through that minefield first.)

The wetware obstacles to reducing the corporate Microsoft overhead, (and with it the licensing burdens) are thusly formidable.  An unfortunate amount of my job has devolved into simply playing the politics necessary to be allowed to implement the right solutions for our requirements and budget.  In many cases I actually have to purchase and implement first, and then inform people of it later if I feel it corporately critical that a project be accomplished without being tied up with internal political infighting and negotiations for six to eight months.

This year I am removing Microsoft’s Internet and Security Acceleration (ISA) Server from my organisation.  Like the use of LAMP webservers, LACS e-mail sanitisation servers and the slow introduction of Linux fileserver, this is the story of nibbling at the edges of a Microsoft network with tactical implementations of Linux systems.

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