MS? H.A.? Fault tolerant?
Security! Please escort the salesman out of building.
So you want to build a Microsoft-based private cloud. While using the latest software is not always the best move (never use version 1.0 of anything) Microsoft's 2012 stack of products is mature, stable and capable of meeting all your cloudy needs. Let's take a look at what's required for a private cloud in Microsoft's world …
I haven't really tried Server 2012 yet, but as far as I'm aware the core of the Failover Cluster Service is still the same and has some fairly huge failings.
I have a couple of Hyper-V failover clusters on Server 2008 R2, with a wierd NIC driver bug that causes the network connections to stop working. The interfaces IPs still respond to ping, but nothing else, file shares aren't accessible RDP doesn't work and the VMs suffer the same loss of connectivity.
However because the interfaces are still pingable, the other hosts in the cluster insist that the problem host is still up and that the VMs are running.
You can't pause the host in the cluster because when you try it fails to contact the service on the problem host. You can't live migrate or move the VM because it can't communicate with the problem host. The only way to resolve it is to shut down the problem host, at which point the cluster becomes aware it is off.
It's hardly High Availability or Failover, if its method of host status detection is just ping. I haven't tested it, but what if a duplicate IP occurs with one of the hosts, screwing it's connectivity but the IP is still pingable.
I've suffered the same issues with either ESX 4.0 or ESXi 4.1. Our issue was around our fiber cards losing connectivity to the SAN briefly and all the VM's continue to be pingable and the hypervisor as well so it doesn't recognize it as a failure. Rebooting the host was the only way to "fix" the issue when that happened. We determined that the firmware on the fiber card hadn't been certified with our storage vendor and running a certified version fixed out issue. My point is they all have their quirks.
Is this a known bug from Microsoft or the hardware provider? Just curious as I'm wanting to start playing with Hyper-V in our lab and have very limited experience with MS Clustering.
I believe it's a firmware problem, and have a maintenance window scheduled to fix it.
But that's really beside the point. In a failover and high availability service, ping is not a suitable status check.
It would not be terribly difficult to make the host status check be based upon communication with the cluster service on the server. If the host is pingable but the cluster service fails to communicate with the cluster members then the host should be marked as failed. It's obvious and relatively simple.
"Another change in Windows Server 2008 Failover Clustering is the cluster heartbeat mechanism. While it still uses port 3343, it has transitioned from a UDP broadcast health-checking mechanism to a UDP unicast communication. It’s similar to a ping in that it uses a Request-Reply process, but it includes more sophisticated features such as security and sequence numbering."
So actually, you've got a heartbeat which goes all the way up the stack on a dedicated port, requires active processing and has number sequence check to make sure that it's not responding to heartbeats out of sequence. I've done a fair bit of work with Windows clusters (post 2003 R2) and I've never ended up with split brain or other such problems. It's worth mentioning that if you're using fibrechannel HBAs there is also quorum services run on these as well. If an HBA goes down, the node will failover, even if there is still a heartbeat.
"A professional solution architect that knows what he is doing will use a Linux / hadoop / Open stack architecture."
Let me correct you. A professional solution architect that knows what he is doing will make an assessment of the technology to be used based upon the requirements of the solution, balanced against available options in the market place.
In other words, only bring bias to the table if you work for a vendor/reseller with a vested interest. A Linux bias is no better than an MS bias and would do a customer an equal disservice.
@Eadon: It's not bias, unless you do it again and again and again and again, with supporting evidence which is made up and accusations of incompetence to anyone who disagrees with you. Which is what you do.
You don't debate, you shout what you believe and accuse anyone who doesn't believe you of being a shill.
Hmm. I note you've used irony and ironic in your most recent posts - once "ironic" was used on you. Imitation is lame, Eadon - especially when incorrectly used. Just say, "I know you are, but what am I?" Seems more your level, I'd say. Be true to yourself!
OK then, how is the fact that Linux is open source relevant specifically to its suitability as a cloud platform?
How is its licensing model relevant specifically to its suitability as a cloud platform?
Answer: they are not. Rather than consider the actual task at hand you've pulled out the same usual arguments as if they were universal game changers. They are not. Let's say the hypothetical job for the cloud is fundamentally tied to SQL server specifically, for example, though it could equally well be any of the other thousands of Windows-only apps. Porting it to another app is not practical for economic or technical reasons. On what planet is Linux the best platform for hosting a Windows app?
Don't get me wrong, given a perfectly free hand I'll generally choose some flavour of Linux over Windows if there are no compelling reasons to opt for the latter. However, people making these kinds of decisions need to base them on solid facts, not opinion, and you haven't given any "engineering and commercial reasons" to speak of. Instead you've rolled out the usual excitable, poorly informed advocacy. That isn't engineering, it isn't even technical support. It's the kind of zealous "my way is always the best" argument that does so much damage to the free software movement over the long term.
Linux is better up to the task because it is a better server OS and is more flexible. If you wanted to get all PHB about the situation you could replace AIX with Linux and still end up with something that won't cause professionals to snicker behind your back.
Windows is for small businesses that can't afford IT staff.
That isn't true,
Windows isn't for small businesses. Love it or hate it there are multi-site Active Directorys with hundreds of servers and tens of thousands of users all with Exchange mailboxes, and infrastructure with SQL and other MS stack dependancies.
That isn't small business, and saying such shows you have a very narrow grasp of multi flavour IT.
The last company I worked for had ~3000 Windows servers and exchange servers covering 400k users, we actually had a presence on every continent. Obviously we had a load of Linux, UNIX, TANDEM, OS/400, VAX, z/OS etc. etc. as well, but really rather a lot of Windows and the AD controlled access to everything. We didn't seem to have a problem.
the free software movement
It would also be beneficial if people stopped calling it a "movement" which for some seems to imply bowel action or fanatism (which conjures images of sandal wearing bearded geeks frothing at the mouth as soon as you dare mention any other OS).
Call it "free software concept", maybe? That could also incorporate the whole idea of open, unencumbered standards that were arrived at through consensus rather than through mounting a denial of integrity attack on the ISO voting processes, but I digress.
You forgot Open Standards.
One of the nicest things you get under Unix is the ability to glue together almost any set of platforms. Yes, it's more work if you don't have existing frameworks set up, but the advantage is that you have to do this basically *once* and it'll keep working.
As long as you don't make it depend on the presence of any GUI :)
You are just embarassing. I made an account just to tell you that.
I read reguarly sitting in the background not getting drawn into these arguemnts.But I couldnt actually read anymore of your bias nonsense. I love Linux and would opt for it over windows given the choice, but you are just ridiculous. Your arguements rarely even relate to the topic and just bash MS. Please just give it a break.
Yeah, yeah, you're not a fanboy...
Some serious players don't use MS, some do. Apple, for example use MS' Azure.
I'd contend that pretty much all companies run at least some FOSS and at least some COTS software, it doesn't mean that one is somehow correct and the other is somehow wrong. The fact that IBM, Google and Amazon run a particular type of software doesn't make it an appropriate decision for my company. CERN run some pretty gnarly FOSS database systems, but that's no good if I need to use SQL Server or DB/2 for a particular piece of software.
"Before the usual AC trolls come out calling me a fanboi or whatever, it might be worth pointing out that all the series players - Amazon, IBM, Google, FB, Twitter and so on, they all use Linux / open source solutions."
Actually, although the foundation of what they use is indeed the Linux kernel many of those vendors have put a whole team of programmers to work in order to shape their Linux environment to match their specific needs. That is something many people forget to mention: while those companies may use a Linux solution its not Linux as we commonly know it. Most of them don't simply download a distribution and rely on whatever that manufacturer provides for support.
Which is something most companies do tend to do; they pick up an existing environment where the goal is to get to the result as optimal (or as easy) as possible. Once a product isn't supported any longer they usually move on to the next supported version.
And this is automatically also an argument as to why Linux isn't the best solution by definition.
When looking at such environments: Windows Server 2003 was released around 2006 and support stops around 2015. That's 9 years worth of (continuous) support. You can see Microsoft's own comment on that here.
Around that time (2005) Debian 3.1 'Sarge' was released. Its security updates stopped around 2008, that's merely 3 years. Read about that here.
Sometimes one needs the robustness of Linux, at other times the extensive support of Microsoft is in favour. That's the way the real world works.
You get through to an Indian in Bangalor, unless you happen to have professional support contracts with one of Microsoft's many gold certified UK (or whatever nation you're in) based partners. I find the blokes from Hemel Hempsted that we deal with very easy to understand, and when they can't answer it they escalate to Microsoft, where we usually get to speak to a native English speaker.
Also, on a non-Microsoft point. I dealt with HP's Indian support people recently as part of one of their premium care packs, and although they did have a fairly strong accent, they went to great effort to make sure I understood them and were extremely competent in the product I had a problem with.
I love Linux, but it's a bitch to learn and can be rather inconsistent , and documentation very varied.
Also professional support service contracts for Linux are INCREDIBLY expensive in comparison to MS support, to such a degree that it way more than off sets the cost of licensing.
And RedHat supports RHEL V6 for 10 years.
selecting use of stats methinks.
In reality BOTH Windows and Linux (I'm a RHCE) are equally good for many of the same jobs. Personally, Windows just gets in my way a lot more than say RHEL but you soon get over it and get on with your job.
My biggest beef with Server 2008/12 is jon scheduling. I really wish that MS would include a decent and simple to use job scheduler in their O/S though. cron is really simple to use and it 'just works' and is easy to manage. But that is my personal beef but just don't mention 'powershell' to my colleagues. They will probably give you a glasgow handshake.
Of the complains that I've heard about schedulers being too flexible is one that I've not come across before. I'm a big fan of both Linux, UNIX and Windows, however I have rarely found a scheduler which comes close to something like CA-7 or TWM. The only OS based scheduler that does is Windows, CRON is pretty much limited by the scripting skills of the OS administrator, Windows scheduler has a hell of a lot of functionality built in, which is just not possible with CRON - for a start triggering of jobs based on specific OS events, the ability to terminate jobs based on run length, prevention of running tasks if the OS is in certain states (running on battery, etc).
Poor comparison, your paying for he support from MS, your example compared an distro thats free to use. There is no commercial license there to compare.
Ubuntu offers a LTS (Long Term Support) version which in the case of 12.04 is all the way until 2017 and its all ready a year old so if its long term support you want feel free to give them a call. Think its actually 12.04.1 after its first service patch.
"Poor comparison, your paying for he support from MS, your example compared an distro thats free to use. There is no commercial license there to compare."
He wasn't comparing licence fees. He was saying that the paid Linux support costs are such that the Windows licence cost becomes negligible. Whether that's true or not I dunno as I haven't looked into it, but then you've provided nothing to counter his argument either. It wasn't whether Linux has long term support, but what it costs.
Eadon, sorry to butt in here, but without knowing their criteria for their choice you cannot proclaim their use as any evidence of being "better" - it also depends on how they use it.
Most of these setups started with Linux because they are tech startups, and so have plenty of Linux talent at hand. Available expertise is quite important in a selection (which is also why OS migration can be such a pain), and a Windows shop is going to spend much less time cooking up a Windows solution in a relatively stable fashion than switch expertise, cook up a Linux model and then get beaten over the head with security problems because they don't yet *control* their technology.
I'm old school so to me, building a private cloud using Windows feels like building a prison with frozen butter but that's more because I'm simply more comfortable with Unix derivatives - Windows would simply not fit in. Others may find it works for them, though.
I am not an Azure fan but it isn't true to say that it is 5 years behind. It is divergent. It is following a different path where it feels that the abstraction layer should be in a different place. This makes it harder to measure against the competition including overall TCO. The manpower required to run an Azure instance is significantly less due to the placement of the abstraction layer.
"Amazon, IBM, Google, FB, Twitter and so on, they all use Linux / open source solutions"
that may be the case, but there is also a significant argument that if you are google/amazon etc and you use Windows, then all it does is strengthen the competitive story for MS so MS could say "well FB, Google etc all run on Windows so why not use Azure" - so technical reasons aside, even if (avoiding the debate for a moment) the Windows stack was streets ahead of the competition there is no way they would flip.
I dont know the implementation details of those players but you can put money on they are not running a vanilla version of any of the distros. They will be tweaked and modified all over the place (inc stuff that hasn't made it back into the "community")
I've just come off a rather large _not_ perfect cloud project <in frustration>. While it all looks good on paper, once you start ramping up the load to below planned capacities things would go all pear shaped in inexplicable ways. Really. And the whole MS stack is so opaque when it comes to answering the question why rather than <how>, its just about impossible to get and traction in making thing right.
But this post isn't opaque what-so-ever. When you take out the recyling your supposed to separated the glossy advertisements from the plain newsprint. This post falls in the the former catagory.
Trever Pott, instead of schmoozing us with what you can do with this whizzy MS stack. Why don't you do a nice concrete report on an installed cloud application? Replace 'can' with 'is' and include numbers.
This technical article has a great of "but.." regarding compromises for missing features and functionality normally found in the other more popular, more robust and more secure Cloud software technologies, meaning non-Microsoft based.
Which begs the question. Why would any competent, knowledgeable and astute technology professional recommend and or use Microsoft Cloud technology over OpenStack for example, thus sacrificing reliability, scalability, security and costs savings - just to say it's from Microsoft? Remember, Microsoft is an "also ran" and far less competitive or of good value in this segment of technology than any other entity.
To-date, January 14-2013, every major Microsoft Internet/Networking technology including Exchange, SharePoint, Active Directory and support services of SQL Server, and Windows Server 2012 can be quite literally replaced with alternatives, mostly Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) that has proven superior in every respect. Even for runnnig Microsoft Office with Outlook. Strange !
"If someone wants to debate me, they had better come out with some strong engineering principles that might have a chance of contradicting my assertion that Windows is not fit to be a serious cloud."
Number 1: You mentioned Hadoop, an *application* that's useful to few real world cloud projects. Not everything is about data mining.
Number 2: Interoperability. If a customer uses an entire Windows ecosystem, you're just going to stick your own stack in there and then spend the rest of your days maintaining it separately. You're trading 'Microsoft lock in' for a paid salary or a support contract. Fantastic for the customer!
Number 3: Your Powershell argument was out of date half a decade ago. It does what a shell is supposed to do - provide a syntactically consistent interface for an administrator to efficiently manage his systems. If you make the effort to learn it, it'll be as useful as your choice of UNIX shell.
The only valid point you make is about licensing, which has nothing to do with engineering.
As someone firmly in the Unix camp I don't enjoy Microsoft's success, but credit where credit's due - if Server was useless crap no-one would be using it. The only reason I wouldn't go near a Windows deployment is because it'd take me an order of magnitude longer to get the job done, but that's down to the shortcomings in my own skills.
None of my Windows servers need hand holding.
As for saying you can run 60 unix boxes easily with bash shell scripting, this is equally true of Windows. Despite what you may think/say, PowerShell is a very good and now quite mature interface, which supports quite complex scripting an provides remote connectivity.
As for enterprise licenses shooting up fast. The majority of 'enterprise' class organisations have site licensing agreements with MS which means the per server cost of a Windows Server license is negligible to non-existent, since it is all covered in a single annual fee.
I love my CentOS boxes that I use for mail relays, Cacti and Nagios, and darkice MP3 streaming. But equally I wouldn't trade my Exchange 2010, Lync 2010, Hyper-V Failover clusters for linux variants.
"Hadoop is a solution that MS cannot provide yada yada yada..."
Exchange is a solution Linux is unable to provide, though I understand they have shitty copys with limited functionality. Now I never said everyone needs it but it's an iconic, industry standard example of how open source solutions aren't keeping up with real world business requirements.
Having a non-Linux cloud is a good way of escaping shoddy open code if you had to one day, those RedHat licences are ALREADY MORE THAN WINDOWS.
Powershell - I'm not an expert (and neither are your "experts") but with Bash you're unable to pipe objects, making the whole platform very limited compared with the more modern and feature rich PowerShell. One day MS might kill it, sure, but we still have VBscript, command scripting and various other technologies, none of which MS have killed in the past. Silverlight is an odd example to compare Bash with considering they are nothing alike.
As for getting things done with Windows deployments, one Windows admin who knows his stuff can easily manage tens of thousands of servers without writing a single script using the System Center suite whereas Unix admins require constant Googling and are usually unable to produce a simple report on what is running on which server, or which host has which dependencies. The Windows guy just prints the picture of the environment from SCOM, or exports to Visio (the resulting diagram of which can be kept up to date by linking to the CMDB for name, IP and other information). I'm no expert on open source diagramming....because there is no Visio equivalent...
Dia is an open source equivalent. Its actually quite good, doesn't have the polish of Visio but really good for network diagrams etc. Its what i used when doing my dissertation. Not sure about its functionality compared to Visio as really i only have used both for network diagrams. But its is there :)
> Powershell - I'm not an expert in Powershell but engineers who
> are expert at both see Powershell as not being as flexible or as
> powerful as bash.
Oh yeah, your Linux fanatic friends who are self-proclaimed "experts" in PowerShell? You are *so* trustworthy! So far you have demonstrated absolute *no* knowledge on the subject, yet you dismiss it without further ado.
PowerShell blows bash, ksh and zsh out of the water, on functionality, on robustness, on consistency, on connectivity, on documentation, on features, on scripting, on accessibility and yes, on performance.
Unix *sh scripting is 40 years old. Pipes have proven tremendously useful. But there are issues and MS has innovated with PowerShell and addressed most of the pain points of *sh scripting, such as:
* brittle and error-prone constant formatting and parsing
* inability to process and pipe complex data such as trees or graphs or networks
* inability to leverage commands and scripting for automation within applications
* brittle and hard-to-manage (insecure) key-based remoting (a criticism by the very author of SSH himself)
* poor datatype support and inability to perform integer, floating point and date/time arithmetic
* poor support for XML, json etc.
* poor resilience of scripts in case of failures (no support for persisting script state and resume)
* poor support for interactivity in scripts/jobs
* poor support for a common expression/filter language. Tools implement their own ELs. case in point: find.
> Certainly bash is open, whereas powershell is closed. One day MS
> might kill it, like they killed VB and Silverlight. With bash, your
> skills will always be relevant into the distant future.
A load of BS and FUD. BTW PowerShell is an open specification. Bash has no specification - just an implementation. POSIX.2 is a shell specification, but I don't think you want to compare barebone POSIX shell with PowerShell.
> As for getting things done with Windows deployments, often have I heard it said that
> one admin can run about 60 unix boxes easily with bash shell scripting, whereas
> windows boxes forever require hand-holding and you need at least twice as
> many windows boxes to do the same work.
More conjecture and no sources. Somehow I don't think that the circles where you "heard" such things are entirely trustworthy.
@James O'Shea - That's funny
It may be funny, but I would buy it as probably (>80%) true. I work for company that has been pure GNU/Linux for 12+ years, before that we were predominately Unix (The nearest we get to MS is supplying WinXP vms for two clients who require them to access archived accounts). However I could/would never approach a . prospective or existing customer with the attitude that you show here. There has to be a sound business case for any acceptable solution, and it should be presented rationally.
AC- 17:16 and W. Anderson-17:20 made good arguments against the validity of the article's general premises. Once these arguments are accepted there is no point in railing against Microsoft products. Many of the points you eventually raised were valid. However your initial hysterical rhetoric does give the impression that you are a double-shill working for MS. This is reinforced by your continual advocacy of "Open Source"; true believers shun OSS in favour of Free Software.
Now, please, for comparison, an article about building your private cloud using
. Solaris Zones
. IBM WPARs
. IBM PowerVM
. Oracle VM
. VMware ESXi
. KVM on Ubuntu
. or a mixture of the above
Please together with licensing and maintenance factors and costs, hardware constraints and list of how many OSes that can be hosted, vertical scalability and high availability aspects, follow up licensing and maintenance costs resulting from that, security and privacy aspects etc.
Though it was mentioned in another recent Reg Server 2012 article, it was missed here where I think it most applies. Windows Server 2012 and its SMB 3.0 implementation comes with baked-in support for SMB Direct (SMB over RDMA), as well as Windows Update-supplied drivers for commonly used Infiniband and Ethernet RDMA adapters.
This brings a huge new performance dimension to all kinds of scenarios with Windows Server, especially the storage of Hyper-V guests, and can seamlessly switch back and forth between IP and RDMA as interfaces/fabrics come and go.
No additional configuration needed, if the necessary hardware, drivers and fabric are in place, a regular SMB mount will switch to RDMA transport (massive speed boost while lowering CPU utilization). I mean, why wouldn't you?
Not only the fastest files-over-RDMA solution fully baked into an OS, but the easiest to work with... IMO a big feather in Microsoft's cap and quite unsung by the tech community so far. If you buy into Windows storage and Hyper-V and consider them "reliable enough" for your needs, you can build an insanely fast private cloud solution for a steal.
No bias here... I'm a consultant that regularly works with Linux, Windows, VMware, Solaris, BSD, etc. using storage from vendors large and small or built with open solutions. Just drawing attention to a compelling option Windows admins probably want to look into!
RDMA is all well and good if you have the HBAs and fabric already, but even if you do have the required hardware you still can't put Exchange databases on a virtual disk using SMB 3 so most companies using Hyperv will still need a proper SAN environment since they will almost certainly be running Exchange if they have Hyperv!
I have found dozens of examples of people making good use of virtualisation. Some examples of people incorporating on demand, self service type interfaces. I have even found one or two organisations that are starting to test pay as you use cost models.
None of these are private clouds.
On the worst end of the spectrum I have come across “Private Cloud” projects in Government organisations for which the business case reads something along the lines of “We will buy heaps of servers, we will use VMware, and we will be cloudy”! Even if these projects condensed water vapour from the atmosphere until precipitation occurred you still couldn’t call them private clouds.
I am beginning to form the view that Private cloud is a seriously dangerous concept, proposed by fearful IT organisations that want to be seen to be leading edge but aren’t prepared to give up the chattels of traditional enterprise IT.
Maybe we should start to stigmatise the words “Private Cloud”. Maybe we should force people to use the word Hypervisvirtualisondemandify instead; it would make them feel as silly saying it as the concept truly is.
If you could build a private cloud and out-compete Amazon (or any other public cloud provider) on price then go right ahead, otherwise put the money towards something more useful.
The word "Private" in the expression generally tends to denote an acknowledgement that Cloud concepts are by nature rather fluffy when it comes to where the data resides, which is one of the primary weaknesses of the whole "Cloud" idea in the first place.
Given that "Cloud" is by itself such a fantastically vague concept that it can be used by all and sundry (read: clueless managers, politicians and sales staff) without exposing their serious lack of knowledge, "Private" Cloud is simply a flag on the concept that says "if you built this thingimajig, for God's sake make sure we don't end up handing off data to the competition/government/any old hacker that comes along" - usually only because the speaker in question is vaguely aware that there may be some compliance thing floating around that might impact their budget, promotion or reputation if things go wrong (no, impact on clients don't usually feature in that equation).
Thus, from a marketing perspective we are presently building a *very* Private Cloud in a particular country, from a tech perspective it's a redundant, high end, 2 data centre setup with the full works on security surveillance, APT detection and seriously competent people to run it, with most of the controls 4 eyes, log anonymisation where we could manage it and *very* precise definition of what information is stored where. From a legal perspective it is a single entry with a clearly defined set of legal obligations and a container of confidentiality that encompasses the entire supplier chain, with the whole shooting match an exclusively local affair to avoid legislative subsidiary backdoors. Again, nothing fluffy about that either.
Personally, I hate this "cloud" BS with a deep purple passion, but you need to speak the lingo to get through to decision makers - only after uttering that Open Sesame phrase will they start taking in the rest of the information. If you speak tech to start with, they will go with the well dressed chap who doesn't scare them but who has never been closer to a secure system than his car when he forgot his keys in his office.
The term Cloud when used in IT context is not vague, NIST have a definition on their website which the majority of vendors adhere to. It's only 7 pages long with only 2 of them being the actual definition yet the vast majority of IT people are unaware of it and refer to cloud as an undefined nonsense. NIST is American, yes, but so is the majority of the industry in terms of vendor so this is the one to use.
A couple of comments state that Windows is only for small businesses with no IT department. I guess that could include the business for which I work some of the time. Circa 35 users, 2/3 of those overseas using virtual desktops and most applications fairly vanilla (a bit of Word, Excel etc).
I'd love to consider alternatives that might be cheaper and easier to administer but then the whole setup becomes so fragmented as to require multiple vendors for support with the inevitable finger pointing when something doesn't play nicely with something else despite everything supposedly being "standard".
It's all very well those of you who are uber-programmers or work for massive corporates with extensive departments, skillsets, laboratories etc performing your digital wizardry but most businesses in the UK employing most people tend to be smallish and we just don't have the ability, time or money to do all of that. Outsourcing fills us with the heebie-jeebies for various regulatory and reputational reasons and there have been enough comments elsewhere on this site over years about how sales will promise anything and then leave it to the techs to see if it can be made to work. The stuff we're after has been around for long enough that it should be "consumer simple" enough to set up by now. We'd just like something that we can install on our own server(s) and tick through the various sensibly set up option/configuration menus to get it set up the way we want. (e.g. secure by default, not requiring a swat/tiger team to then tell us how to harden it). We don't have command line skills in the same way as when most customers go to a bank they are not expected to get the calculators out for a semi-annually compounded discount to yield to work out their 25 year mortgage repyaments. Simple GUI would be nice too.
If there are other offerings that provide a server OS, mail "exchange" (and support for e.g. blackberry server), mail and web filtering, file, print and can serve virtual desktops (with reasonable security) to users both locally and remotely, and are relatively user friendly to fix should a problem occur then I'd be grateful for details.
If not then for all you writing about how we should use linux over Windows etc, there's customers waiting. Lots of us. Get something that meets our needs and sell to us before we all fall prey to the big outsourcers and you end up going the way of HMV.
There's a small UK outfit called Forget About It (yes, seriously) which gives businesses of your size exactly what they need. Their whole setup is based on Linux, they support VPN access in all sorts of formats and I think they have groupware as well, and it's all hands-off from your perspective to the point that they even do a backup for you every day and make your data disaster proof (you have an automatic offsite backup).
What they do NOT do, however, is run your website but there are plenty of other companies for that. It shows in their SEO, I had to do some digging to find their URL :). See forgetaboutit.net.
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