Financial Crisis Offers Opportunity for Linux, Open Source

Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, says technologies such as Linux and open-source software can help enterprises cut costs during tough economic times. Zemlin says users should look to open source and Linux, systems management tools, and virtualization technology to keep budgets in line.

In lean times, look for technologies such as Linux and open source to do well. The current financial crisis may just be one of those times.

Well, you might expect to hear that from the leader of one of the most influential Linux organizations around. But in an interview with eWEEK, Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, which represents the likes of IBM, Red Hat, Novell, Google, Oracle and a host of others, said:

"In these times you follow your grandparents' wisdom: Make the best of what you have. That means maximizing utilization of existing infrastructure. I expect open source and Linux, systems management tools, and virtualization technology, all of which allow for better utilization rates of existing infrastructure at a low cost, to do well in this market. I would put in a plug for the fact that Linux can support almost every architecture on the planet and is a good way to consolidate on a single platform, but that would seem a little gratuitous. I would also add that I expect existing data center consolidation projects and IT efficiency projects will move ahead, but some new application deployment may get postponed."

Moreover, in troubling economic times open-source software is "priced right," Zemlin said.

In fact, the Linux Foundation is taking its case right to the source of the current economic woes. "We are holding a Linux event on Wall Street in two weeks, and it is at capacity," Zemlin said. "IT managers realize that by using open-source infrastructure, they will be able to focus their resources on those higher-level areas that can't be cut at any time, such as security and manageability."

Indeed, Zemlin said that despite budget tightening, "You never cut security. In fact, when the economy is shaky in my neighborhood, you tend to buy extra burglar alarm equipment."

Zemlin also said that, even if IT budgets get slashed, he expects things to rebound. "We saw this in the post-bubble economy, and IT rebounded quickly," he said. "There was some disruption in the market, as many Solaris/SPARC users moved to Linux on x86 in order to cut cost. I believe Sun has responded and will not be caught in as dramatic a price/performance deficit as before."

Meanwhile, Zemlin said he expects that offshore outsourcing will remain constant, if not grow, as the economy continues to sputter. "We do a lot of overseas development at the Linux Foundation," he said. "We have worked in India, China, Europe and Russia. Vietnam has great resources and can serve as a balancing force as costs in certain regions go up due to inflation or the devaluation of the dollar. We are happy with all of our development teams, but like to keep a balanced portfolio so to speak."