Blending Operating Systems for Enterprise
Use of Linux in large organizations has grown substantially since its inception 13 years ago and, in all likelihood, will continue to rise in popularity. According to the projections of IT research firm IDC, 29 percent of all servers shipped in 2008 will have Linux running on them, more than double the 12 percent share the system held last year.
However, this doesn’t necessarily indicate a plummet in usage of Microsoft Windows or other operating systems (OS), but rather heralds a blended approach to OS implementation. In fact, many IT departments are grappling currently with deployments of more than one OS within the enterprise.
“People need to use the right tool for the right job when it makes the right economic sense,” said Ross Brunson, author of “Linux and Windows Integration Toolkit.” Brunson also serves as director of UNIX/Linux training for The Training Camp, which offers preparatory programs for the Linux Professional Institute’s (LPI) certifications, as well as CompTIA’s Linux+.
More companies have taken an interest in Linux because it is a sufficiently effective, low-cost OS. When compared with Windows and UNIX in terms of licensing and re-licensing fees, support costs, implementation costs and other charges, Linux comes out very favorably, Brunson said. “It is a matter of understanding where the dollars are coming from and where they’re going. The interesting thing is, when you look at Linux, UNIX and Windows, UNIX and Windows both have a licensing cost. You can’t get a copy of it without paying a price to have that download. Linux is automatically not going to have that initial cost.”
Because of the costs associated with training staff, writing applications and acquiring new servers and directories, initial expense for Linux implementation generally will be high, especially compared to Windows, Brunson added. “Microsoft spent a lot of money and development time making it really easy on the front end to get (Windows) installed.”
In spite of that, he also said Windows customers ultimately will pay more on costs involved with needed changes and maintenance to the system, whereas Linux, once installed, is relatively unproblematic. “Some of the difficulty (with Linux) is up-front, but there’s a lot less maintenance that has to take place at the back end,” Brunson said.
While Linux had not yet matched Windows as far as features or range of applications were concerned, it didn’t really have to, Brunson said. “Linux doesn’t have to be the world’s best; it doesn’t have to be the one people flock to. It needs to be a decent enterprise alternative, so that people who don’t have the resources to run Windows can access the same types of enterprise-level of activities of services that other organizations have.”
To deal with the blending phenomenon, Brunson recommended that IT professionals proficient in one system should seek to enhance their understanding of another, and eschew any rigid attachments to a particular OS. “I think that blended skills is one of the best things you can have these days,” he said. “In today’s job market, you don’t usually see somebody who just has Windows skills or Linux skills. Do you want to be a hungry purist or do you want to be an employed and relatively happy person who does both environments?”