Time for Tier 3 Service Provider Technical Teams to Adopt Linux

In a recent video call with a service provider technical lead, it seemed that every question I answered, whether it was about Wi-Fi or network testing/analysis or troubleshooting, I kept referring to, and sharing what I could do on my Linux laptop.  It was not surprising that toward the end of the conversation, I was asked about it.  My response was simple: I urged that using Linux is the best way forward due to the wealth of tools and the low cost of implementation.

What insued was a discussion as to implementation.  I wanted to share the main points with everyone in this blog post.

Why Linux?  The answer to this question is that Linux is light years more flexible and capable than Microsoft Windows when it comes to networking and tools.  As I stated above, I was easily able to answer questions and demonstrate my responses using Linux, instead of Windows.  I would further state that Linux is not some experimental OS, nor is it dangerous.  To the contrary, in most cases it is better maintained and easier to use than Windows, and it is free.  Because Linux is lighter weight than Windows, it is also able to run on older hardware that would only support essentially manufacture discontinued versions of Windows.

To put some icing on the argument I will quickly point out that most serious penetration testing and hacking is done using Linux – a true testament to its flexibility and power.  I would also point out that the highest percentage of data center servers run Linux, not Windows.  This means corporate IT departments are leveraging Linux based systems and operations.  Most network automation and SDN tools are also Linux based.  Therefore as networking is continuing to evolve, network operations are moving to Linux based software.

None of those arguments are new.  What is probably new is the need to recognize this in the Tier 2 and 3 Service Provider technical space.

The best way to implement Linux with the technical team is two-fold:

  1. First, the selection of a Linux distribution to use combined with Linux training (which of course we will be glad to provide) so that the technical team understands Linux. 
  2. Second is the mode of deployment – I recommend a dual boot scenario as so many of the technical team support apps are Windows based, they will need Windows, but having Linux as a dual boot scenario (not a VM) doubles the capability of the laptops already deployed.

Let’s address the Linux distribution.  I think Kali Linux is a good one.  It is really Ubuntu based, and it comes with almost all the tools needed preinstalled.  The down side to using Kali Linux is that it probably has more tools that the normal tech would need.  But the training should offset that worry.  More conservatively, Ubuntu could be used and then configured with only the necessary tools.

Why not as a VM?  The answer to this is that running Linux as a VM is perfectly good, except that it is generally harder to configure and manage over time.  If this is not a hurdle for the team, then running the Linux as a VM bridged on the PC’s network should be fine, but there will be limitations with Wi-Fi adapters.  This has to be explored for each individual company and will add cost to the decision to deploy.

If you need help to implement a plan and get your team on this path, please contact us, we will be glad to help.

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