Linux: The Real Enterprise Choice

Linux & Open-Source Center Editor Steven Vaughan-Nichols understands why people think Linux is an enteprise-level operating system. But what is it with these folks who think Windows is a real enterprise system?

I just dont get it. How can people still think that Linux doesnt belong in the enterprise? Surely these people cant be serious? Now, Windows, thats another matter.

You dont have to buy Linux hype. Just look at what CIOs are already doing with Linux.

According to both Gartners and IDCs most recent server surveys, Linux is going great guns.

Gartner tells us that HPs Linux system revenue grew from $581 million to $927 million from 2002 to 2003, while IBM jumped from $345 million to $552 million year-over-year. IDC found a 63.1 percent year-over-year growth for Linux servers, generating $960 million for the industry in the last three months of the year.

Let me add that up for you: Linux is a multibillion-dollar play in servers alone.

As Jean Bozman, an IDC research vice president, said in a statement at the time, Linux servers are taking on important roles in IT customers computing infrastructure. What began with edge and Web-centric workloads is branching out to include high-performance computing] and commercial workloads.

IDC goes on to speculate that Linux server shipments will have a compounded annual growth rate of more than 28 percent through 2007. A recent survey of 500-plus IT users in North America done by SG Cowens Securities Corp., an investment research house, found that Linux was already in use at nearly 80 percent of respondents sites, with 72 percent running it on their servers and 15 percent already running it on their desktops.

Why? Because, quite simply, Linux can deliver better performance for less cost than Windows.

Yes, I know all about Microsofts Get the Facts arguments, or, as I like to call it, Get the FUD.

Technically, though, Linux already delivers everything that Server 2003 can—and usually for lower overall costs.

Usually, at this point, Microsoft fans bring out statistics showing how Linux administrators cost more than Microsoft MCSEs (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineers). You know what? If thats all there was to it, those Microsoft fans would be right. But theyre not.

Take, for example, Server 2003s vulnerability to viruses and the like. You can barely look at our daily security updates without seeing yet another worm story or the need for yet another Microsoft patch. Making sure your Windows servers stay bug-free is a full-time job. On the other hand, I invisibly update my Linux servers without the need for third-party patch-management software or any real concern that, if I miss an update on Friday, on Monday Im going to find my site participating in a distributed denial-of-service attack on the Recording Industry Association of America.

What does that have to do with cost? Well, somebody has to make sure your Windows boxes arent overgrown with weeds. It certainly looks like thats a full-time job right there. If you were running Linux, you wouldnt need anyone for that position.

In any case, Linux administrators are comparatively expensive right now because there arent enough of them to keep up with demand. This situation is changing even now. Thats especially true now that Novell, all-time master of certification programs, is in the Linux business.

What else do you want? Server applications? Its the rare server-program provider that doesnt now offer a Linux version. Just in the last few weeks, PeopleSoft announced that the next version of its EnterpriseOne suite will run on Linux in the next quarter. In addition, Novell will have its GroupWise workflow and collaboration program on sale by next tax day.

You want mission critical? First, lets dismiss any notion that good old "reboot-every-month" Server 2003 is mission-critical-capable in the first place. Its better than reboot-once-a-week Windows 2000 or every-other-day NT, but mission critical? Please!

Indeed, anything that runs on Intel architecture is suspect as far as Im concerned for real mission-critical applications. But, besides being more stable than Windows on x86 designs, you can run Linux on SPARC, POWER-based midsized computers like IBMs i- and pSeries, or an IBM mainframe. You really want systems that are bedrock-stable? Then I suggest Linux virtual machines on IBMs mainframe OS, z/OS. Now that will give you stability.

Finally, lets look at support. You can, if you want, roll your own support from online Linux resources. But why bother? This isnt 1999. Today, IBM, Novell and Oracle, all enterprise companies you probably already work with, will be happy to provide you first-tier Linux support.

The real question isnt whether Linux is enterprise-ready. Doh! The real question is, Why do people keep thinking that Windows is enterprise-ready? I can only believe its because they havent really compared Windows with Solaris, AIX, z/OS, OS/400, HP/UX or, oh yes, Linux. Linux & Open Source Center Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been using and writing about operating systems since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way.

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