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Linux in Business - Case Studies "Vignette"

Jul 14, 1999, 04:50 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Tom Adelstein)

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By Tom Adelstein

from the archives of the Linux Consultants Support and Resource Center

Of all the business cases received in our archives, the Vignette story ranks very high on the list. It might even rank at the very top. When Ernst & Young named Ross Garber as 1999 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, no one ever deserved it more. I guess that very few people know the Vignette name. Even so, if you browse the Internet, Vignette touches you at every turn.

Red Herring Magazine named Vignette as one of its Top 50 Public Companies in its 1999 Top 100 Companies of the Electronic Economy. As quoted in Red Herring's June issue, "Vignette, winner of the Best Products and Best Overall awards among our top private companies last year, continues to impress us..."

Vignette Corporation (Nasdaq: VIGN), the leader in the category of Internet Relationship Management (IRM) software products and services, provides enterprise solutions for companies that are building businesses online. More than 225 global companies, including First Union National Bank, U S West, National Semiconductor, DaimlerChrysler, Nokia, Qualcomm, CNET, Bertelsmann and Ziff-Davis' ZDNet, use Vignette solutions as part of their online strategy.

The more one knows about the company, the reasons for Vignette's success becomes more obvious.

For example, from the Company's web site, a quote on why they use best practices:

"A consistent goal for every project we embark upon is to dedicate the time necessary to insure we are able to share our knowledge and best practices experience with our customer technical teams. This helps to guarantee that future StoryServer projects that are done without our guidance have a sound foundation from which to begin."

From the investor's stand point Charles Schwab's profile merely states, "(Vignette) Provides enterprise solutions software and services for companies that are building businesses online. The company's applications enable small- to mid-sized enterprises develop and manage online customer relationships to increase Web-based revenues and market share." So, if you haven't heard of Vignette or you just heard the name in passing, get down and do some research. I think you will find a surprise.

From a technology point of view, Vignette is innovative, leading edge and stable. Their products work, their solutions work and they have vision. These attributes exist in the Company as part of its cultural fiber. What they do on the outside, they do on the inside. Their solutions arise out of their use of the best technologies for their stake holders.

Among the Company's diverse platforms, one will find Linux.

According to John Bell, the Company's Senior Systems Administrator, Vignette initially had to solve a problem of cordoning their production environment from their customer training areas and chose Linux as a low-cost solution.

In evaluating various mail platform solutions, Linux became the one of choice due to its flexibility and low cost (in the form of both free licensing and price of required hardware, since redundancy was a driving requirement).

John says, "gaining approval for Linux-based solutions was easier than one might imagine. One of the enabling factors for this is the fact that the company had a previous positive experience with Linux. Back in the "start up" days, Linux was utilized to act as the core router for the company's internal network. We have since moved to an Accelar 1200 switch from Bay Networks (switched 100 Mbps full duplex to all nodes in the company, utilizing a 1000Base-SX backbone, is a mighty improvement), but during the time it was in service the Linux router served us well."

The Information Technology group uses Linux to provide a platform for their primary and backup mail server (Sendmail Pro 8.9.3 as MTA). They use it for several mission critical functions which includes procmail filtering for spam and virii, in addition to handling bidirectional forwarding and rewriting for the internal MS Exchange server .

John Bell says, "I am constantly on the lookout for ways to use Linux. It's great as 'network glue' between our Solaris and NT machines.

Linux is deployed for Internet services as the Secondary DNS server running bind 8. The Company says that server is soon to become the primary DNS server.

Other applications deployed on Linux include:

- NIS slaves (serving maps to Solaris machines - works well).

- HP WebJetAdmin servers (manage all printers from web interface,
served up via Linux).

- Firewall systems for the Training group, and for the subnet
servicing the Executive Visitor Center (EVC).

- CD-ROM servers (Samba 2.0.x and NFS).

He then added, "the production Linux machines have been integrated into our Legato Networker data zone using the Legato Linux client. So, they meet the requirement to fit within our backup scheme as well."

Vignette has won numerous industry awards including the Red Herring Magazine's 1999 Top 50 public companies list; Red Herring Magazine's Best Overall Private Company in 1998 and 1998 Best Product Award for StoryServer; and Crossroads A-list Award. In April 1999, the company's StoryServer 4 was included in the Permanent Research Collection on Information Technology at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.

Vignette spearheaded the Information & Content Exchange (ICE) initiative with more than 80 other member companies including Microsoft, National Semiconductor and Sun Microsystems. Based on the Extensible Markup Language (XML), ICE 1.0 is the world's first protocol to enable content syndication. Vignette's product line includes Vignette StoryServer 4, Vignette Development Center (VDC), and Vignette Syndication Server (VSS), the world's first ICE-compatible product. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, Vignette Corporation also has offices located throughout Europe and in Australia and can be found on the Web at

Tom Adelstein, CPA, is the CIO/CFO of Bynari, Inc. He's the author of several books and articles on business and technology and has management, consulting and hands-on experience in the Information Technology field.