Feature: Review of The Business and Economics of Linux and Open Source, by Martin Fink
Posted by Terry Shannon (Tuesday March 04 2003 @ 11:19AM EST) [ ]
Reviewer: Terry C. Shannon, IT Consultant and Publisher, Shannon Knows HPC

Is the Linux operating system ready for the enterprise? That’s a good question, and one which author Martin Fink, General Manager for Hewlett-Packard’s Linux Systems Division, takes nearly 240 pages to answer in his new book, The Business and Economics of Linux and Open Source.

Having spent three years leading Linux development activities at HP and managing the firm’s Linux development processes, Fink knows whereof he speaks. The fact that Fink is Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Open Source Development Lab global consortium adds even more credibility to the author’s opinion and writings.

Rather than looking at Linux from a “ready or not” perspective, Fink bypasses the trade press, OS holy wars, and industry analyst hype surrounding the up-and-coming freeware OS. Instead, he provides a cogent, readable, and in-depth analysis of the role of Open Source software--Linux included--in the corporate environment. Fink writes specificially for the business manager, and provides plenty of ammunition for adding Linux and Open Source software to the software and applications portfolio of modern businesses.

Part I, “Groundwork,” begins with a discussion of The Business of Linux and Open Source and familiarizes readers with Linux, the Open Source community, Linux “celebrities,” and legal and licensing issues. At all times, Fink focuses on factual data and remains objective in his writing. This book is by no means an advertorial for HP or any other hardware or software vendor.

In Part II, “Operational Linux,” Fink explains in detail just what it means what it means to implement Linux in your IT operations. While Fink discusses the myriad Linux distributions available today, he does not endorse any specific distribution. No less important is the discussion of the total cost of ownership of Linux, a subject dear to the hearts of hardware and software vendors, all of whom have self-interests to exploit. Instead, Fink enumerates the items one must consider when evaluating and calculating Linux TCO. No “magic bullet” is provided, as one does not exist.

As Linux distributions vary, so do businesses and the manner in which Linux can impact the bottom line. To help prospective Libnux adopters assess these issues, Fink addresses the activity of deploying Linux, taking great care to cover the all-important issues of migration, coexistence, hardware, support, and training. Here again the author provides essential guidance without covering all the details of such undertaking. (As the author of “Introoduction to VAX.VMS” and the co-author of “Migration and Interoperability of OpenVMS and Linux,” I found this information to be invaluable!)

Part III, “Open Source in Business,” explains how to go about integrating Open Source software into your own business. There’s plenty of added value here, as Fink draws from his vast experience introducing and managing Open Sourcery in one of the world’s largest IT organizations. After providing a suggested functional model for an organization developing software, Fink focuses on leveraging an Open Source process instead of the typical “buy the software, hire a consultant, and hope the results are successful” approach endorsed by prorietary vendors and, of course, systems integrators and consultants.

Be warned: adopting an Open Source approach will require cultural change--some of it disruptive--in your organization, but the results are often worth the effort put forth to close the door on the traditional closed-source development process. Finally, Fink discusses how--and when--Open Source can be used to your organization’s advantage, and the facts you must evaluate when deciding whether to make the Great Leap Forward.

If you are an IT manager considering the introduction of Linux to your IT environment, this book is a must-read before you approach your CTO, CIO, and CFO to conduct a discussion about the “L-Word.” The book is equally valuable for anyone with an interest in Linux, and is, in my opinion, far more concise and readable than the intriguing book that spawned interest in the Open Source movement, Eric Raymond’s The Cathedral and the Bazaar. I highly recommend The Business and Economics of Linux and Open Source to anyone considering the adoption of Linux and Open Source, and to those individuals desiring a different and fresh perspective on the topic.

Get the book at Amazon now...

(c) 2003 by Terry C. Shannon

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