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Geeks - the Force Behind a Revolution

Geeks - the Force Behind a Revolution

It's 2:00 in the morning, the Coca-Cola buzz is starting to fade, and it's been hours since Domino's Pizza came calling. The only light is the white glow emanating from the monitor. It's time to run the last test and - poof - the system crashes. Welcome to the all-too-familiar world of software developers.

They're a breed unto themselves. The geeks. The nerds. The trendsetters. That's right - the trendsetters. This motley crew is the driving force behind a revolution. Developers from around the world have shifted the course of the IT industry.

Like most revolutions, it started small. A young developer by the name of Linus Torvalds got tired of dealing with commercial operating systems like Windows and set off to create his own platform. But instead of keeping his operating system to himself, he made Linux open to all the geeks on the Net so the best and brightest minds in the development community could look at the code and make it better. He wasn't the first person to use this open method for developing software, but his little chunk of code has certainly been among the most successful.

The popularity of Linux is unprecedented. It continues to be the fastest-growing server operating system in the world. The primary driver for its success is the development community.

The development community collectively created a highly reliable, low-cost operating system. Over the past couple of years as businesses from a variety of industries realized the benefits of Linux, they turned to the developer community to create applications, in areas such as e-commerce, banking, accounting, customer relationship management, and inventory management systems, which support the open source operating system.

The geeks have responded in full force. In the past few months, the number of new Linux-based applications has skyrocketed. PeopleSoft is moving its entire application portfolio - more than 170 different applications - to Linux. IBM alone has seen a huge shift in the number of corporate developers and ISVs creating Linux-based applications to run on its software - WebSphere, DB2, Lotus, and Tivoli. More than 100,000 developers have cranked out more than 13,000 Linux-based applications built on IBM software. Developers are clearly moving applications to Linux at a rapid rate, but that's not the only thing they're doing with Linux. Developers are embracing Linux on multiple fronts.

As software vendors, developers see the opportunity to impact their bottom line and add incremental revenue by porting their existing applications to run on Linux. Look at ACCPAC. They deliver one of the leading accounting software offerings around. By supporting just one operating system, e.g., Windows, they might go head-to-head with Great Plains, another accounting software vendor. But ACCPAC is looking to get an edge over the competition.

Now ACCPAC supports both Windows and Linux. For all the mid-size companies moving to Linux, software vendors like ACCPAC, who have ported their applications to Linux, are the only accounting software in town because their major competition doesn't support the open source operating system. For these software vendors, it is a business decision to support Linux to help drive incremental revenue beyond the Windows market.

Developers are also starting to use Linux instead of Windows as their development environment of choice - they're saying, "Bye-bye system crashes. Adios reboots. Hello Linux." In a recent report from an Evans Data study, more than half of Linux developers, 52 percent, formerly wrote primarily for Windows, while only 30 percent came from Unix.

The reasons for the shift boil down to reliability, low cost, and the fact that Linux easily ports to a variety of different servers. Developers can create a Linux-based application and it can run on Intel-based servers, all the way up the chain to the mainframe. Windows-based apps don't have that level of flexibility - they can't run on the big iron, which is a staple in large enterprises.

The open movement started with the development community, and as the popularity of Linux has crossed over to CTO offices around the globe, developers are delivering the applications for retail, finance, government, and manufacturing businesses to function more efficiently.

Just a handful of years ago no one would have imagined that Linux, the little operating system that could, would alter the course of the IT industry and become the de facto development platform for the next decade.

Flexibility and choice are the drivers in today's marketplace. The geeks set the trend. I for one can't wait to see where they take us next.

More Stories By Scott Handy

Scott Handy is currently the Vice President, Worldwide Corporate Linux Strategy. He has held numerous executive, technical sales, marketing, and strategy positions covering Large Accounts, Channels, Small and Medium Business, and IBM solutions for Windows NT, Sun Solaris, and OS/2 Warp. He has been with IBM for over 19 years and is currently based out of Somers, New York.

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