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Why aren’t you migrating to Linux?

Mar 10, 20034 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsIBMLinux

Wow. Did you see the recent Business Week story titled The Linux Uprising?

I’m not pointing it out because it’s good (it was pretty poor), but because of what it represents – the leading edge of a forthcoming wave of popular press stories focusing on Linux.

The story is poor because it used “pop” descriptions with wild abandon – for example, its subheading: “How a ragtag band of software geeks is threatening Sun and Microsoft – and turning the computer world upside down.” Right.

This spin is disingenuous. The people working on Linux and all the other related open source projects are not “a ragtag band” – they are skilled, intelligent people with a commitment to creating something that could have profound value and meaning to the computer world. That is something to admire and applaud, not wrap up in a glib sound bite for the great unwashed.

Yet at the core of this hype is a real story: Linux is gaining ever more momentum to the extent that even non-IT people are becoming aware of its impact and importance.

Now some of you might be muttering, “More momentum! Linux is already a behemoth.” While you are right in many ways, the current surge in popular awareness of the operating system will be a significant boost to the acceptability of Linux in the corporate world.

If you’d told your shareholders a few years ago you were jettisoning, say, Windows in favor of Linux on your servers, you might have had a rough time defending the move. Now you might just get some grumbling (unless your shareholders also have a lot of Microsoft in their portfolios).

What I’m wondering is what it will take to get you – yes, you reading this column – to accelerate the shift to Linux? I ask because I hear endless griping about Microsoft’s poor coding, high price, weak security, poor support and bad attitude, but I don’t see people migrating en masse.

Is it because Linux is that much harder to use in the real world than Windows? Or so you’ve been told? The fact is that on the desktop Linux has some way to go to be really user friendly, but in the datacenter there’s no arguing with the facts – Linux is easier to deploy and manage.

The truth is that Linux is more than ready for the big time. Just look at the millions of dollars IBM has put into Linux development. As far as I can determine you now can run Linux on every IBM platform. Linux is even available for the company’s latest eServer zSeries mainframes.

Of course not everyone is so gung-ho about Linux. But this is not, in the majority of cases, for technical reasons – oh no, it is for (you guessed it) marketing purposes.

The thing about Linux that disturbs Microsoft, for example, is its business model relies on the market mechanics it has created and driven over the years. Obviously a move to Linux will change all that. But Microsoft has demonstrated that when a market force appears that it can’t stop it will turn on a dime and try to embrace and own it. Watch Microsoft try to do that with Linux over the next few years.

Anyway, along with many other pundits I’m banking on Linux dominating the server market within a very short period and eventually (within a few years) we’ll see a workable Linux desktop solution.

So the most important question I have for you is, why aren’t you moving your servers to Linux? What’s holding you back? It can’t be cost, so is it a fear of the unknown? Or is it just easier to stick with Windows? Are you so paralyzed by years and years of soaking up the Microsoft marketing messages that defection to the competition no matter how inexpensive is unthinkable?

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Mark Gibbs is an author, journalist, and man of mystery. His writing for Network World is widely considered to be vastly underpaid. For more than 30 years, Gibbs has consulted, lectured, and authored numerous articles and books about networking, information technology, and the social and political issues surrounding them. His complete bio can be found at

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