Author: Yogi Schulz
Linux isn’t just for hard-core techies any more. The cuddly penguin Tux, the mascot of the Linux operating system, will soon be making more appearances in boardrooms. Fortunately, Tux occasionally sports a tie.
Linux is gaining momentum in the world of business. Larry Ellison, the outspoken boss of Oracle Corporation, reinforced this momentum by giving the keynote address at last week’s LinuxWorld conference in San Francisco, California. Oracle has made a major commitment to Linux by making its database management system and its application software available to run on Linux servers.
IBM has made major investments to make Linux and IBM application software available for many of its servers; even mainframes. Recently Sun, who has been reluctant to adopt Linux for fear of undermining Solaris (Sun’s version of Unix), announced the LX50 line of servers that runs Linux.
Operating systems are something that we expect to just work in the background and not bother us. We have the same expectation of the fuel injection system in our car or the compressor in our refrigerator. However, the ubiquitous Windows logo that appears on our PC every morning has made us all aware of the operating system. Operating systems connect our applications such as Microsoft Word, Netscape Navigator or a game like Sierra Half-Life to the PC hardware. We know the operating system is failing us when the blue screen of death appears on our monitor.
What is driving the large IT vendors to recommend Linux to their customers for servers? What are the advantages that Linux offers over Windows?
Improved Operating System Stability
Linux is widely regarded as a more stable and robust operating system. Linux is the direct beneficiary of 30 years of Unix development work performed by a worldwide collaborative community. Fewer crashes mean better service to end-users. Similarly, Linux requires less operational handholding. Lower staff effort reduces operating costs.
Lower Cost of Operating System Licenses
Linux is cheaper to license than Windows and is much cheaper than the other variants of Unix. Most of the lower cost is attributable to the open source community of individuals who devote their time, without monetary compensation, to improving Linux. In contrast, Microsoft employees, understandably, expect to be paid. The cost difference amounts to thousands of dollars per year for an organization that operates many servers.
In sharp contrast to Windows, viruses for Linux are almost non-existent. Due to the architecture of Linux, viruses can’t propagate within a machine or to other machines. While we all benefit from the high functionality Windows offers, many of us are tired of the hassle of managing anti-virus software and suffering through the performance slow-downs it imposes.
Linux is much more difficult to hack into than Windows. That’s one reason why almost all firewalls run Linux. The superior security makes Linux appealing to the growing list of organizations (almost everyone) that have rather recently become more security-conscious.
Reducing Microsoft’s Power in the Marketplace
IBM and Oracle, among many vendors, resent the market power that Microsoft has achieved. Making Linux investments helps competing vendors reduce the influence of Microsoft and accelerate the adoption of Linux. As consumers, we enjoy the benefits of lower cost and higher quality that this competitive battle produces.
Reducing Dependence on Microsoft
Customers do not like operating at the mercy of a single supplier. Imagine how unhappy we would all be if the marketplace offered only one brand of car. Recent customer backlash against Microsoft’s Software Assurance plan, which effectively increased software costs for many organizations, created increased interest in Linux.
Linux operates better on large, multi-processor servers that support hundreds or even thousands of concurrent end-users. While Windows is steadily improving with products like Windows 200 Datacenter Server, Linux maintains a lead.
Appeal of the Open Source Community
Some organizations need to look at the source code of the operating system when a crisis occurs. Such a look is feasible with open source software like Linux but not with some variants of Unix and definitely not with Windows.
Some organizations and many individuals achieve a sense of satisfaction from contributing ideas and programs to open source communities of developers. Such contributions are valued for Linux.
Linux now accounts for 27% of the market for server operating systems, up from less than half of 1% in 1995, according to IDC. More than half of all Web servers run Linux largely due to the low-cost appeal of the open source Apache Web Server software.
Expect more Linux in servers and more Tux dolls in cubicles near you.
The Eclipse Project (EC) recently began funding university-based research in programming languages, tools and environments where the Eclipse Platform (EP) is the foundation to conduct the research. EC is an open source software development project dedicated to providing a commercial-quality platform for the development of integrated tools. EP is a universal integrated development environment (IDE).
That ecosystem includes companies like Borland, QNX Software Systems, Fujitsu and Red Hat, a few of the 18 companies marshaling the platform.