Mass customization is commonplace in the manufacturing of everything from cars to laptops, but not in the software industry. But software vendors and IT departments are beginning to recognize the need to tailor the operating system to specific-use cases, improving the user experience, driving down support costs and enhancing security. Knowledge Center contributor Matthew Richards explains the driving forces behind mass customization of the operating system, the obstacles to Linux customization, and the path toward a more-efficient, higher-performing operating system environment.
wife recently took the plunge and bought a new car. She spent time
mulling the options online, and then chose the color and features she
liked best. A few weeks later, when she drove out of the dealer's lot,
she felt as if she was leaving with a car made just for her. That's
exactly what the manufacturer intended.
Manufacturers of all kinds leverage advanced production capabilities
to better serve individual customers. They're mass-producing products
with a variety of options to appeal to different people. The user gets
exactly what they want (as long as it falls within the manufacturer's
range of options), and the manufacturer gains economies of scale by
leveraging standard components. In this way, manufacturers are able to
produce and support offerings-tailored to individual needs-at a lower
This practice of "mass customization" is used to build all kinds of
products, from cell phones to laptops to furniture. Mass-customization
of hardware is commonplace. Mobile computing, thin client, virtual
machines and cloud computing are just a few examples. Oddly, however,
mass customization is woefully lacking in today's operating systems.
Operating systems remain bulky, overgrown packages that sap IT
resources. As any IT professional knows, operating, maintaining and
continually upgrading the operating system is time-consuming and
fraught with peril. Because operating systems are built to support
every possible software function, they are extremely cumbersome. In
reality, most computing environments only need a small fraction of the
capabilities of these massive systems. The additional components create
added liabilities for corporations.
Everyone in the enterprise has the same operating system. This means
a vast number of employees have access to powerful tools they do not
really need. They could inadvertently breach proprietary data and put
sensitive company assets at risk. Wouldn't it be more logical to avert
these troubles by applying mass customization practices to the
operating system? This approach-known as Just enough Operation System
(JeOS)-is catching on with organizations looking to reduce support
costs, drive efficiencies and lower risk. Tailoring the operating
system creates a smaller technology footprint, resulting in better
performance, improved manageability and tighter security.
Essential benefits of mass-customized operating systems
Businesses reap numerous rewards from applying the JeOS approach. The following are four major benefits for consideration:
Benefit No. 1:
A mass-customized operating system vastly simplifies maintenance
Very similar to standalone devices such as DVRs and wireless access
points, these purpose-built computing systems come only with the
operating system and applications needed to perform a specific set of
functions. These compact, self-contained environments can be deployed
in a matter of minutes.
Benefit No. 2:
A mass-customized operating system also results in far greater business agility
Instead of users waiting in a long queue for IT to bring their new
systems online, they gain precisely-configured systems in near real
time to address the latest needs. This is a powerful advantage for any
Benefit No. 3:
Compact operating systems are highly portable
Compact operating systems can be easily moved from testing into
production or from one virtual environment to another. These
trimmed-down operating systems run more efficiently than their more
unwieldy counterparts since they use fewer resources, and all
components can be tested and optimized to run together.
Benefit No. 4:
Finally (and perhaps most importantly), a trimmed-down operating system enhances security
By only providing the applications, components and associated data
needed by each user type, organizations can all but eliminate the
possibility of unauthorized access to sensitive information. After all,
if the tools to access sensitive information do not exist on a user's
system, there is no way for the user to even have an opportunity to
compromise the data. This provides a very clever way to reduce the
attack vectors available to hackers.