Linux: Time for Cooler Heads to Prevail

eLABorations: When it comes to discussing Linux, some people become temporarily insane.

Over the three years Ive been with eWEEK, Ive come to realize that when it comes to discussing Linux, some people become temporarily insane. A journalist covering Linux-based OSes will always be accused of being in cahoots with Microsoft, regardless of how they try to spin a story.

Take the gentle reader who responded to my Linux on the desktop story last month by asking if I write my stories while being wined and dined by Microsoft. Microsoft, he asserted, naturally foots the bill, using all the licensing fees it has been collecting from him.

Sir, we pay for all the occasional meals we eat with Microsoft and other vendors. And for the record, Im eating Doritos for lunch today.

Some readers, on the other hand, bring up valid points. And these are the types of Linux advocates, I believe, who will eventually allow Linux to receive the same recognition that Windows sees today from the people who count the most: CIOs, CEOs and other top enterprise executives.

These readers took me to task for focusing the on initial training and deployments costs related to Linux. Failing to look at the long-term benefits and cost savings from running Linux on the desktop, they said, was unfair.

Fair enough.

As consultant Eric Fisher points out, Linux training and support costs often represent a one-time bubble in the overall total cost of ownership. The same type of bubble, he says, existed when the original 32-bit Windows environment was first introduced to the world of enterprise computing.

"Now that Windows desktop technology is well understood, both by support departments and end users, support, maintenance and upgrade issues are more of an ongoing task than a new installation," he wrote. "I think that when Linux gets to the same position in an organization that a Windows currently occupies, people will find that their support costs drop also. These characteristics will make a difference in the long term."

One reason I concentrated on the short-term costs of Linux in my story is because CXOs across the board today are looking at the bottom line—for next quarter. They need to save money immediately, not over time.

But as Bill Weaks, director of MIS at Industrial Molding Corp., points out, a savvy IT manager can seize bad economic times as the window of opportunity for introducing Linux into the enterprise. And his response would make any Linux advocate (and badgered journalist) smile.

"My current estimate is that my company will save over $300,000 during the next 5 years by switching to a hybrid Linux-Windows desktop—based on 100 users," Weaks wrote. "A lack of budget carried over into 2002 and we had nothing set aside to even consider the new MS licensing regime. This gave me the opportunity to point out the considerable cost savings to be found in pursuing an Open Source operating system."

This move will require a strategic commitment to non-Windows software, and Weaks knows it. But its going to take that kind of real commitment and advocacy—not over-the top raving—to put Linux onto enterprise road maps.

Want to accuse me of being a Microsoft lackey? Think Linux will never make it into the enterprise? Write to me at