Is Ubuntu Linux Ready for the Enterprise?
Linux is an enigma. It has a loyal following. It's a robust operating system. It's
free. It's superior to both Windows and Mac OS X on a variety of
fronts. And in recent years, it has become more user-friendly than ever
before. It's a fantastic operating system with a slew of distributions
that would satisfy any user.
And yet it's not even close to capturing a significant portion of the market.
But one of the operating system's most popular distributions-- Ubuntu--has the best chance of changing that. Unlike many of its alternatives, it can appeal to the average consumer with
limited knowledge of the Linux environment. It's designed to be easier to
use than other Linux distributions. And thanks to Dell, it's quickly gaining mass-market
appeal. Will it beat Windows anytime soon? Of course not. And
there's little chance that it can best Apple's Mac OS X in market share.
But it has hope in the enterprise. It sports a variety of features that appeal to companies. And more importantly, it's not such a significant jump from Windows that it would confuse employees. Simply put, it's getting close to becoming an ideal platform for the enterprise.
Using Ubuntu Linux is a real treat. I've used it on numerous occasions, and each time it has provided a robust experience.
Ubuntu is intuitive. Users who are used to Windows should feel at home in Ubuntu. They'll find a simple, Windows-like interface, they'll be able to install applications without much trouble, and basic use is made simple with the help of its fantastic design. Whether it's checking e-mail, surfing the Web, or simply taking a few minutes to get some work done, the software is more than capable.
Ubuntu is far more secure than Windows. Although many companies are deploying software to keep Windows safe and even Microsoft is releasing software of its own to improve the operating system's security, there's no such worry with Ubuntu. Critics say Ubuntu doesn't suffer from malware or security issues as much as Windows because of the sheer number of Windows users compared to Ubuntu users. It's simple economics. The malicious hackers are looking to make some money and it's much easier to do that on Windows, rather than Ubuntu.
But those who have actually used Ubuntu can attest to the system's security. It makes users run with limited rights by default. Once installed, it has no open ports. And since it's an open-source product, it's constantly being updated to ensure security is maintained. It's a treat to use and most enterprises wouldn't need to worry about security with Linux installed. It's certainly more secure than Windows.
With the economy ravaging the business world, cost effectiveness matters. What's better for keeping costs down than deploying a free operating system that will work just fine on existing hardware? Unlike Windows Vista, which requires most organizations to update their hardware due to its resource-intensiveness, Ubuntu is a relatively lightweight application. It can be installed on computers currently running Windows XP and most employees shouldn't have any problem using the software. I currently have Ubuntu running on a computer dating back to 2004. I haven't experienced one problem with the software. That's a testament to its development.
More often than not, the enterprise will worry about the compatibility of Ubuntu with existing, mission-critical software that helps the company do business. It's a valid concern. Windows applications won't work with it. But thanks to emulators and virtualization software, most companies won't have trouble running Windows applications on Ubuntu. Granted, it's not ideal, but it works just fine on most computers. I haven't experienced a slowdown in programs I've used. If emulation isn't for the enterprise, it could also use Wine to get the job done.
Ubuntu virtualization doesn't work too differently from Windows XP mode in the
upcoming release of Windows 7. Microsoft's software might work a little
better, but it should be interesting to see how much better of an experience it
will provide. That mystery will be solved on Oct. 22 when Windows 7 is released.
The bottom line
Just a few years ago, the thought of any Linux distribution supplanting Windows in the enterprise was unheard of. More often than not, users would choose Mac OS X as the viable replacement to Windows. But today, that might not be the case.
Thanks to Ubuntu, Linux can finally appeal to the mainstream, and in the process, become a compelling alternative for enterprise users who are tired of running in a Windows world.
Does that mean it's perfect for the enterprise? Of course not. There are still some issues--namely, support--that Ubuntu needs to overcome. But it's getting close. As long as it keeps being updated, it's conceivable that Ubuntu will be perfect for the enterprise sooner than some might think.
And there's nothing wrong with that.