Linux: Are You Ready for the Challenge?
By Derek Wise
President/CEO, Global Netoptex
The following is adapted from a speech delivered at Indiana University
on April 14, 2006 as the keynote address for LinuxFest 2006
If the Linux operating system is to continue its success, the Open Source community must take it to the next level in meeting the demands of larger corporations.
The OS is ready. Now I challenge you: are you ready? Are you ready to:
• Meet corporate and industry demands for the quality necessary for big business to adopt Linux?
• Package Linux to attract users?
• Support Linux with an unwavering commitment to its success?
These, in my view, are the cornerstones for the future success of Linux.
The applications challenge
Let’s be honest: Linux is not a viable operating system for every corporate business application today. Often we attempt to push Linux for applications where it doesn’t excel …yet.
Instead, we need to focus on applications where Linux and Open Source products clearly outperform currently available commercial software. We also need to educate corporations about the bottom line advantages Linux offers in price, performance, productivity, lower operating costs and superior return on investment (ROI).
For example, we recently assisted a client who was anticipating spending more than $1 million on commercial OS and DB licensing. The company wasn’t aware that Linux and MySQL could uniquely meet their performance demands. Through our efforts, the company switched over to Linux, spent a mere $80,000 on hardware, installation and support contracts, and experienced a net gain in performance and scalability.
Of course, this doesn’t mean it will always work out this way. In fact, all too often corporations have a difficult time finding what they need from the Linux community. And therein lies our challenge.
The marketing challenge
We must promote Linux’s valuable benefits to the corporate community. They need to know there is an alternative to the expensive, highly-marketed commercial software that is available. They need to know that Linux can be their hero. That knowledge is achieved through marketing.
We must move beyond our own “geekyness” and determine how to apply Linux’s practical aspects to organizations that would benefit from the unique elements of this operating system.
Too often we develop software to solve our own problems. While this is an excellent starting point, the development process and refinement must go beyond us.
We must bring the potential of Linux and Open Source to the world’s doorsteps or, better yet, to the world’s servers.
We must let Corporate America know that Linux is more than a “quirky” alternative. It is a proven, successful OS with the cross-platform testing, quality assurance (QA) and bug tracking procedures commercial solutions provide.
The Internet challenge
The Internet has moved beyond ARPA Net, ASCI maps and “hello world” scripts. We are now in a new age of enhanced end-user multimedia experiences where everything is available on the Web. Increasingly it is becoming more difficult to do business with a company that doesn’t have a website and Web services. Unfortunately, too many of these companies still can’t comprehend the value of the Linux OS and what it can do for them.
For example, ticketing systems are critical success factors for our industry. After wasting, $50,000 on a commercial ticketing system that required our company to run Windows with an un-patched OS and IIS, we found a wonderful piece of Open Source software and hired a couple of talented software engineers to enhance it. As a result, we developed one of the most robust and reliable systems we’ve ever worked with; in fact, it’s a better solution than any available commercial software.
When an inspector came through to ensure we met SAS 70 industry requirements, she checked out our Linux solution and was so impressed, she told our COO, “Don’t ever let them make you change over to [industry-leading brand-name] commercial software. We threw it in the trash last month.”
The ultimate challenge
You are the ultimate challenge. You are the most important part of making Linux a success. Without developers, programmers and administrators who are willing to expand the OS and tailor it to support the needs of many, there is no Linux.
There is much more to working with Linux and Open Source than Rockstar Soda and the late night IRC chat about how cool your blog is.
Reaching the next level requires talented, experienced and committed individuals to push Linux into the limelight. The demand for such people is high.
We need developers who can focus on innovation without losing sight of quality control. I challenge you to become one of them.
We need programmers who can take advantage of performance enhancements available in both hardware and operating systems to propel companies to greater success. I challenge you to become one of them.
We need system administrators who experiment, multitask, and keep an open mind on distributions and program options to provide an invaluable resource to companies. I challenge you to become one of them.
Linux can become the hero Corporate America is looking for. But it won’t happen without your commitment to quality, your youthful enthusiasm and your ability to develop and promote Linux and Open Source software to large corporations that would benefit from Linux’s unique capabilities.
The opportunities are there. You can create a very successful career from becoming proficient as a Linux developer, programmer or administrator. The only question is:
Are you ready for the challenge?