Wednesday, May 26, 2004

6 Reasons Linux Has Enterprise Appeal

Rather interesting article::::
6 Reasons Linux Has Enterprise Appeal
The open-source OS has momentum on its side

Those VARs and solution providers who aren't convinced about Microsoft's Software Assurance program might want to consider Linux (see "Squeezing Microsoft," April 19, page 65). The operating system that grew organically from thousands of brains around the world has finally settled into general enterprise acceptance, so now more than ever it is time for VARs to become familiar with Linux, profit from selling Linux solutions and start building their own Linux applications.
Why has Linux taken off? Six reasons.

First and foremost, it has gathered momentum and a critical mass of developers, hardware vendors and software tools that enable the most complex of corporate applications to be created. It has become a standard part of the enterprise bag of tricks.

"Significant numbers of our enterprise customers are making Linux decisions and creating this as their new corporate OS standard," says Mark Hardardt, vice president of global sales at Novell.

Jim Stallings is general manager for IBM's Linux business and oversees more than 6,300 engagements for IBM that are Linux-related. "Those are the ones that I know about, and that is more than double what we did last year," he says.

Second, Linux has appeal because it isn't Windows and doesn't carry with it heavy usage fees, disk footprints, and consumption of memory and other resources that typical Windows applications carry. Linux is also a lower-cost alternative to SPARC/ Solaris and HP-UX Unix-based computing: Put a collection of Intel rack-mounted servers together under Linux and you have lots more CPU horsepower-per-dollar. In some cases, enterprises are funding their Linux developments out of their saved annual maintenance contracts when they turn off their larger Unix mainframes.

"In 2004, we'll see a lot of adoption of Linux," says Dave Dargo, vice president at Oracle's Linux program office. "The maintenance costs for those large Solaris boxes are going through the roof."

Some of the motivation for being the anti-Windows OS comes from foreign governments, which are looking to standardize on a cheaper desktop alternative and don't want to continue to pay the Microsoft desktop support and licensing fees.

"Worldwide government sales for Linux passed $2 billion last year," IBM's Stallings says. "We are seeing greater than 50 percent adoption rates for Linux in China, India and Brazil because, as these countries have gone with Linux, many of the customers for these governments are also adopting Linux."

Third, Linux has important backers in the form of IBM, Novell, Oracle, Sun and others. These companies aren't doing it for the altruism of supporting open source or because they want an alternative to Microsoft, but because it makes good business sense, and because their enterprise customers are now demanding Linux in their server rooms and for their applications. And the latest versions of Linux are enterprise-ready, Oracle's Dargo says.

"The newest Linux kernels can run big systems really well and solidly for enterprise applications," he says. Oracle gets a varying degree of business from Linux, but on some of its new suites, such as its collaboration server, it is selling upward of 60 percent on Linux.

Stallings sees many opportunities for partners to get involved with IBM's Linux universe; Windows NT to Linux migrations are one way. "Now that Microsoft has pulled the plug on its support for NT servers, we offer someplace for these 2 million customers to go," he says.

Then there is high-performance computing, selling the advantages of running Linux on clusters of IBM's Power CPUs. Some of these high-powered applications have to do with high-density processing, using server blade enclosures that can marry dozens or even hundreds of processors together to work. According to VARBusiness' State of the Enterprise survey, a robust 40 percent of respondents with 10,000 or more employees report they are likely to deploy blade servers this year. And most of these servers will be running Linux.

"Linux runs on every hardware we sell," Stallings says. "Linux is the fastest-growing business within IBM, growing at more than 50 percent a year%85We sell Linux into 98 out of the top 100 Wall Street customers of ours, and we find Linux in just about every sector and every customer."

Fourth, the differences between Windows and Linux are rapidly disappearing. The desktops have similar looks and feels, the browsers and Web servers pretty much act and do the same things, and the development tools can create the same Java applications and run the same database structures.

Fifth, Linux is the embodiment of choice; the trick going forward is to keep the choices down to a small number and not repeat the mistakes of Unix past when every vendor offered its own flavor and distribution. Fortunately, the market has brought two Linux distributions to general acceptance: Red Hat and SuSE, the latter now owned by Novell. Hardware vendors such as Dell, HP and IBM are excited that these two versions are strong competitors and that the number isn't greater than two. That gives their customers--and yours--a nice, bounded problem and keeps enough competition to make Linux interesting, but not overwhelming.

"IBM has to remain agnostic when it comes to Linux, and they are happy to see us compete with Red Hat," says John Dragoon, vice president of marketing for Novell.

Sixth, Linux is a lot like Unix, and once enterprise IT support staff knows Unix, making the leap to Linux isn't all that difficult. Oracle's Dargo compares Linux today to where Unix was in the early '90s.

"Back then, Unix wasn't proven in the marketplace, the skill sets weren't there in the enterprise, and we didn't have any critical mass with regard to running Unix on RISC machines from Sun and HP," he says. "Now it is just an accepted fact that anyone can run Unix, and the skill sets are easily transferred from Unix to Linux."

The same ease between Unix and Linux holds for the vendor community, too. Oracle, which last year began selling what it calls "unbreakable Linux" as part of its partner offerings, has widened its support to both Red Hat and SuSE Linux distributions, and has expanded its line to include the various IBM hardware incarnations of Linux, including Power CPUs.

"This isn't hard work," Dargo says. "It takes one person very little to port our apps to new platforms."

Model Citizen
A good example of the enterprise Linux boom is The Austrian-based database company has 1,215 employees around the world, with almost half of them based in the United States. It has the leading open-source database-server solution and has very cleverly insinuated itself into the hearts and minds of key Linux players, including Novell and Sun, by offering a two-tiered licensing program. In the best traditions of open source, one tier offers a free license to noncommercial users to allow developers to get their feet wet with the product and understand its idiosyncrasies. The other is a commercial license that mimics the traditional database-server world. That is where the company makes its money, and the trick is to price its commercial server aggressively and continually entice and grow its pool of developers with the free stuff. It is a model others have begun to emulate as well.


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