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Linux.SYS-CON.com's Mark Hinkle: Confidence in Open Source

"I am a believer in Linux as an enterprise solution."

Mark Hinkle (pictured), editor-in-chief of LinuxWorld Magazine, writes: I recently attended a concert with a friend and one of his clients. My friend runs a storage practice for a systems integrator and his client works as an IT manager for a pharmaceutical company. During the introductions my friend mentioned to his client that I was "an expert" in Linux and Open Source. The IT manager made the comment, "We have a few boxes around but we really haven't gotten into Linux yet." I smiled and we continued to talk about kids, cars, home improvements, the typical topics that thirtysomething professionals in the suburbs gravitate to when socializing. However, the question remained with me, "Why was it that they have a few Linux servers lying around but hadn't gotten into Linux?"

Obviously he had some need for the Linux servers otherwise why have them taking up space? I suspect that he, like many others, might be hesitant about moving into uncharted waters. I know that for years the saying among IT buyers was, "No one ever got fired for buying IBM." Then OS/2 came along and the saying became, "No one ever got fired for buying Microsoft."

Stepping outside of the solutions comfort zone provided by industry leaders brings an inherent risk that has to be offset by some potential benefit whether it's better performance or cost savings or both.

I am a believer in Linux as an enterprise solution. I have come to that belief through my own research, observations, and real-life experience. Those without that experience often need some kind of guidance. I think we all gravitate to things we know so what will help build the confidence to gain new experience?

In our May issue (Volume 3, Issue 5), LinuxWorld editor Greg Wallace asked who should be behind the Linux Get the Facts Campaign? The more pointed question is, "How should I make my decision to move to Linux and/or Open Source technologies?" It would be nice if there were a great and powerful oracle (not the database company though it's a big proponent of Linux) that could tell you if you're making the right choice by moving to this new technology. But there isn't and you don't know for absolutely certain, just as you don't know that by keeping Microsoft on your desktop or Solaris in your data center you won't be wasting your IT dollars.

So what it all boils down to is confidence. So I thought I would share a few facts that might alleviate some of your doubts in Open Source's viability.

  • The world's two fastest supercomputers are IBM Blue Gene systems. The faster of the two, BlueGene/L, is a joint development of IBM and the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration and set the speed record this year with 136.8TFlops (that's 136.8 trillion calculations per second).
  • The Mozilla Firefox browser has been downloaded over 76 million times since its release and has taken 10.28% of the web browser market, according to an April 2005 study by Janco, with no formal company support for the product.
  • HP has shipped over one million Linux servers since 1998.
  • IDC forecasts that by 2008 customers will spend $9.1 billion on Linux machines.
  • According to Gartner, the research firm, by 2008 Open Source applications will directly compete with closed-source products in every software infrastructure market, and by 2010, Global 2000 IT organizations will consider Open Source products in 80% of their infrastructure-focused software investments and 25% of their business software investments.
  • A survey last year by Evans Data Corporation shows Linux has the security advantage with 78% of Linux developers saying that they have never been hacked.
You could probably find numbers that would make Windows or even a commercial Unix like Solaris attractive too. The point is they are all acceptable choices in the right circumstances.

So the mentality of being a Windows, Unix or Linux shop has to go away along with the fear that Open Source technologies might be inferior. That's hooey. Sure you can still run your whole company on Microsoft and be a Windows shop but only if it's the best choice for you, especially when you factor in convenience and the cost of training technical personal. You must strike a balance between the things that might be offset by licensing costs or security risks.

Whatever you take from this, remember one thing - you can be confident that Open Source software can provide as good or better an experience as you've had with your commercial or proprietary infrastructure.

More Stories By Mark R. Hinkle

Mark Hinkle is the Senior Director, Open Soure Solutions at Citrix. He also is along-time open source expert and advocate. He is a co-founder of both the Open Source Management Consortium and the Desktop Linux Consortium. He has served as Editor-in-Chief for both LinuxWorld Magazine and Enterprise Open Source Magazine. Hinkle is also the author of the book, "Windows to Linux Business Desktop Migration" (Thomson, 2006). His blog on open source, technology, and new media can be found at http://www.socializedsoftware.com.

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