Linux Is the Enterprise Operating System

Linux's day as a mainstream enterprise server operating system isn't coming. It's arrived, says Linux & Open Source Center Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Im sitting here at the Linux Enterprise Forum. Around me are about 350 attendees, half from the government, half from the corporate world; half with technical titles, half with management titles. But it seems they all share the belief that Linux is the enterprise operating system of today, not tomorrow.

These people do not have the religious zeal of Linux fans; they are serious people doing serious work, and they have either already deployed Linux in their enterprise or theyre about to. And dont mistake me: These are not executives and techs who are merely putting Linux on the edge of their enterprise as Web servers. They are not people who are simply deploying Linux as a dynamic host configuration protocol (DHCP) or file/print servers with Samba. No, these are people deploying Linux at the heart of their agencies or companies.

And why shouldnt they? Oracle (you know Oracle) is taking everything, and I mean everything, it has from the core servers to the desktop to Linux.

Now look at Oracles customers. runs its shopping carts off Oracle on Linux. You want to talk mission-critical? What could be more business mission-critical? If Amazons shopping carts stop working, not only are thousands of customers inconvenienced but the entire world knows that the biggest Internet retailer of all has had a major foul-up.

Its not just the private sector that has already made the jump to Linux. Federal agencies and contractors are also already there. This groups questions arent about how Linux would work for them; theyre about how to make Linux work better for them. Its to find out exactly HPs plans are for open source and Linux. Its to talk to IBM representatives about DB2 clustering on Linux. Its to ask about problems with a particular Oracle configuration on Red Hat Enterprise Server.

Get the idea? This isnt a show trying to convince CEOs, CIOs and CTOs of the advantages of Linux (although theres a lot of programming for those folks). This is a show filled with CEOs, CIOs and CTOs who already get that Linux has a home in the heart of the enterprise.

Maybe its just me, but this strikes me as an important sea change. Ive written oodles of stories about how Linux is almost ready for the enterprise and about how Linux can be used in the enterprise or how this one company is using Linux in the enterprise. But this time around, Im seeing not just a few technical people with one or two executives who understand that Linux can be at the core of their businesses. Im seeing a small show full of people who already have, or are about to have, Linux in the core.

It is, I must say, a rather exciting experience. Im used to hearing people who love Linux telling me how wonderful its technology is or how great it is at the department or on the business network edge. Im not used to people telling me how they love what Linux is doing for their business infrastructure.

I know, however, Ill be hearing a lot more of this.

Business Linux has had many steps up over the years. First, it was embraced by ISPs as a Web server platform. Then it started getting used by bleeding edge businesses. And then people started using it as a departmental file and print server. After that, the major DBMSs moved to it; as Linux expert Jon "maddog" Hall said at the show, "When I saw the DBMS moving to Linux, I knew Linux would be a success." And more recently, Ive seen IBM and HP embrace Linux as their own. Ive seen technical support for Linux go from "How-to" files to the kind of 24/7 coverage that an enterprise expects from its software vendors. In short, I saw broad enterprise Linux acceptance coming.

Today, Linux arrived. For the first time I can say that Linux, just as much as Solaris, Windows 2000, HP/UX OS/400 or AIX, is a mainstream enterprise operating system. The day was long in coming, but its here. This isnt just my opinion; this is a business fact.

Discuss this in the eWEEK forum. Linux & Open Source Center Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been using and writing about Unix and Linux since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way.