Linux Integrators: Cracking Windows

In the eyes of Microsoft's Jim Allchin, Linux and other forms of open-source technology are almost threats to the nation.

Now we did it. We talked to people involved in Linux and probably landed ourselves on an FBI list suspected of anti-American activities.

After all, in the eyes of Microsofts Jim Allchin, Linux and other forms of open-source technology are almost threats to the nation.

"Im an American," Allchin was recently quoted as saying. "I believe in the American way. I worry if the government encourages open source, and I dont think weve done enough education of policy makers to understand the threat."

His was not the only the anti-Linux commentary to come from Microsoft, diatribes that, instead of damaging Linuxs chances for growth, probably do more to bolster the OS image as a bona fide threat—or, at least, an alternative—to Windows.

But talk is cheap. The fact that IBM is planning to invest billions into Linux software is more substantial proof that Linus baby has a chance to grow up. It also means that theres money to be made by Linux integrators and their Linux professional employees.

The relative shortage of Linux experts is keeping the Linux-versed in demand. An informal [email protected] Partner survey found that Linux integrators get paid $50,000 to $110,000 and are billed out at $150 to $225 per hour.

"Roughly a third of all Web servers today run on Linux," says Kerry Brock, VP of worldwide channel marketing for Caldera Systems Inc. "It is the most popular operating system for Web servers and Web front-end servers."

Thats not to say Linux has saved its commercial distributors from the current economic doldrums. On Feb. 8, SuSE Linux AG announced it was slashing 30 from its 45-member U.S. staff. Less than two weeks later, VA Linux said it was reducing its 556-member workforce by 25 percent. But in doing so, the company asserted the "overall slowdown in IT spending will ultimately create more demand for open-source technologies among enterprise customers as they tighten their IT budgets."

Reflecting on the criticisms being volleyed from Redmond, Lisa Sullivan, Red Hat Inc.s VP of marketing and communication, takes a "What do you expect?" approach.

"Certainly it behooves them to say potential competitors are not going to be successful because it makes them seem more successful," reasons Sullivan. "But we certainly dont think open source or Linux is doomed." She figures theres a "huge opportunity for Linux integrators as more companies choose to deploy Linux technology."

IDC analyst Dan Kusnetzky says Caldera, Red Hat, and other Linux companies will thrive as Linux becomes more mainstream. In the past, most Linux users were "highly educated, highly technical people" who didnt really need the services offered by Linux retailers.

Michael Han, sales and marketing director for Texum Technology Inc., a Long Beach, Calif., solutions provider that deals in both Red Hat and Microsoft products, says customers are rapidly losing their fear of the unknown and are choosing Linux over Windows for their servers. "Its slowly becoming our number one market focus, rather than Windows," says Han. "We want to ride the wave. We want to be in the forefront of it."

By most indications, its a pretty strong wave. One thats liable to break some Windows.