Is Linux ready for large companies to use as an enterprise operating system? The simple answer is no, as we found out at PC Week's reader round table on the subject. Linux lacks the proven track record of the likes of Solaris, AIX and HP-UX. It lacks the support and pool of skilled contractors that Microsoft NT has. It even lacks the add-ons and tie-ins to other services such as directories that Novell's NetWare boasts.
But Linux does have many advantages over some mainstream operating systems in its reliability, scalability, robustness and security. Plus the open source model offers benefits in terms of the pace of innovation and opportunities for destruction testing. So perhaps the question should be phrased differently.
Are large companies ready to use Linux as an enterprise operating system?
And if not, will they ever be?
The signs for Linux ought to be good. Large vendors with their own versions of Unix, and many years and millions of pounds investment in those Unixes, have been queuing up to endorse the product, port it to their hardware, set up Linux support operations and take stakes in Linux distributors.
Now IBM is even talking about releasing AIX source code to the Linux community.
The danger, however, is obvious. Large vendors with their own versions of Unix. Supporting a rival, and free, variant of Unix. What exactly are they after?
According to the vendors themselves, they are simply responding to customer demand. How thoughtful of them. Though, strangely, these are the same vendors that are unable to name any large Linux installations outside of a few ISPs and universities, so they don't seem to quite have their stories straight on customer demand.
A less laudable reason suggests itself. Could it be that these vendors simply see Linux as a foot in the door through which they can then sell their own Unixes? So that when a customer who has called for a Linux installation wants to expand it, the vendors draw breath sharply, shake their heads, and say: "Well, we could if you really wanted to, but it's risky ... What about a nice bit of Solaris/AIX/HP-UX/Tru64 Unix instead?" Perhaps. Or maybe they just want to take on board any variant of Unix as an ally in the war against Microsoft NT.
Are large companies ready for Linux? Significantly, the main customers for Linux now are ISPs, running huge Web operations garnering millions of hits. Outside of this niche, there is no need for Linux, vendors have claimed.
Look a bit further ahead. When Ecommerce is the standard way of doing business, then many more large companies will be behaving much as ISPs do today, running huge Web operations garnering millions of hits. Maybe you should be looking at Linux now.
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