Telstra standardises on Linux, Unix

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Telstra chief information officer Jeff Smith has revealed plans to shift the telco's back-office systems to the Linux operating system “wherever possible”, to take advantage of the platform's commodity pricing.

And where Linux cannot scale to cope with the company's gargantuan applications – such as its billing systems – Telstra plans to shift to a Unix base, Smith said. Or more specifically, the shift will be to the Sun Solaris flavour of Unix.

Telstra has already standardised all enterprise application development work on the Linux platform, Smith said. And it has already implemented Linux extensively across its IT infrastructure, particularly in Web servers, and increasingly application server functions.

Within three years, Telstra's entire back-office architecture will be either Linux-based, or Solaris-based, Smith told the IT Leaders Summit in Sydney on Thursday.

“(Linux) is an area that is just exploding,” Smith said.

“I have always been a Linux fan, but I don't think I have ever seen anything in the last 10 years – outside of the Internet in the mid-nineties – that has exploded the way that Linux has,” he said.

Linux had become a fundamental cornerstone of Telstra's longer term plans to build an entirely IP-based network architecture, Smith said. The IP network would become the fundamental platform from which Telstra will sell its range of utility-based products and services ranging from voice telephony to data storage, to collaboration and application services.

“We're going through a whole blueprint right now at the application level on the migration of all our legacy systems, and that will primarily be to Linux and Unix,” Smith said.

“But because Linux can't scale all the way up, you can mix and match. I can use Linux application servers and Unix database servers – I think that's the mix that you're going to see,” he said.

“For our billing system, for example, we're going to need a big, honking Unix platform. And on the Unix side, it's going to be Solaris.”

Telstra announced mid-year that it would standardise its back-end infrastructure on the Sun Microsystems SunONE network architecture. Smith revealed yesterday that all of that back-end, J2EE application development work was being done entirely on Linux systems.

Although Telstra had committed to standardising backend development on the SunONE J2EE platform, Smith said Microsoft's competing .NET platform would still have its place, and may be used to develop customer-facing applications at Telstra.

In a wide-ranging discussion on the future of telecommunications services – and the future of Telstra services specifically – Smith said Linux would also become a primary component of the network architecture.

Switch manufacturers were quickly moving from building proprietary boxes running proprietary operating systems to Intel-based commodity switches running Linux.

Smith said it had been the amount of work being done within universities on the Linux platform that had convinced him it would be a dominant business of the future.

“If you're out there looking at solutions, and wondering which environments are going to win, then (Linux) is not a fly-by-night kind of platform. This is very serious,” Smith said.

“If you look at the universities, everybody is building things on Linux – and the basic reason is that it's free,” he said.

“If you look at the last 20 years of innovations – like Microsoft being born, Sun being born, or Yahoo, or the Mosaic browser and FreeBSD – the common characteristic among all these developments is that they were all formed by students.”

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