Determining the success so far of Linux in the enterprise is a little bit like reading a presidential ballot in Florida: Those with different agendas have ways of finding what they want to see. For instance, IBM says it sees enormous promise in the OS and is investing billions in it; Microsoft, meanwhile, looks on it with a fear that is difficult to disguise. At the same time, fickle Wall Street has cooled on Linux stocks, calling into question whether Linux can sustain a successful industry.
A recent eWeek Reader Pulse survey found that Linuxs overall impact in the enterprise is minimal.
Yet, two years ago that impact was nonexistent. So there has been progress, and as we see it, significant advancement toward a permanent and deserved place in the enterprise. But hurdles remain that must be cleared before skepticism about Linuxs worth ceases.
First, its time to stop comparing Linux with Windows. Case in point: IBM lost the battle for OS/2 by trying to win the desktop that Windows inherited from DOS by, among other things, claiming that OS/2 could run Windows applications better than Windows.
And yet, IBM shows signs of trying to refight that long-lost battle using Linux this time. IBM would be far wiser to pitch the innate benefits of Linux for enterprise users. This shouldnt be impossible since Linux has carved out a secure niche as a server platform, while Windows is still far stronger on the desktop than in the server room.
Second, Linux needs to move beyond the role of a Web server platform and into the role of an enterprise applications platform, where ERP, e-mail and database applications reside on forms of Unix such as Solaris. Recent efforts by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and IBM, which include clustering 600 IBM xSeries eServers using Myricoms Myrinet cluster interconnect network, will go a long way in this regard, as will IBMs work in putting Linux on the mainframe.
Third, Linux should continue to expand its presence in embedded systems and handheld devices, where its small footprint and efficient use of resources are ideally suited for mobile and mission-critical applications. Many of these will be on display at this weeks LinuxWorld show in New York.
We suggest that the show is as good an occasion as any for Linux backers to start changing their mind-set, from that of scrappy upstarts to that of steady enterprise players. For Linux partisans, maturity is not to be feared, but embraced.