So-called "enemies of Linux" are conducting a systematic campaign of disinformation which aims to undermine the enterprise credibility of the open source operating system, a senior executive from the Open Source Development Labs has told vnunet.com.
Nelson Pratt, marketing director of the pro-Linux organisation, which boasts Linus Torvalds among its top brass, said that unnamed vendors are trying to scare firms with a campaign claiming that Linux is inadequately supported for enterprise use.
However, Pratt argues that these charges simply do not hold up. "There are enemies of Linux that will introduce questions about the stability and ability of some companies to offer service and support, but there is the same quality of service and support available for Linux as there is for any big enterprise version of Unix," he said.
Linux is expected to become a $36bn business by 2008 and well over a quarter of all servers shipping are running the open source OS, according to Pratt.
"It's not surprising that the revenue is so great. More and more commercial organisations choose to buy Linux rather than download and deploy it independently," he said.
"They are increasingly treating the operating system as an enterprise product and engaging commercial firms of the calibre of Computer Associates, HP, IBM and Dell to support deployment."
Pratt also insists that the security of Linux is perfectly adequate for enterprise use. "Linux is absolutely a secure operating system to the extent that it does not suffer any more or less than any other mature enterprise operating system. The 2.6 kernel is a key step forward in terms of boosting security and reliability," he said.
Specifically, Pratt disputed recent US research suggesting that measuring the time between security patches shows that Linux is less secure than Windows.
"Not every patch going into an operating system is in response to a security breach. Some enemies of Linux would say that the issue of patches shows how secure an OS is. I'm not calling out one vendor here, but it depends which side of their mouth they are talking out of," he said.
"They say that too many patches and we are not secure, or not enough patches and we are not addressing security well enough, but the arguments begin to sound specious."
Another allegation disputed by Pratt is that the distributed development processes of Linux make it impossible for any one firm to effectively take responsibility for the platform.
"It is nonsense to say that nobody owns Linux and nobody is responsible for it. Linux has a development process that is very similar to any enterprise operating system. It is not like we are talking tens of thousands of developers responsible for the kernel and subsystems," he said.
"Full time kernel core operating system developers number in the hundreds. There are very well defined professional processes in place for the development of the kernel and subsystems.
"Is there a kernel development community to fix problems fast and professionally? Yes, absolutely. There are requests for changes that come from mature enterprise users and these requests are taken very seriously, even if the enemies of Linux say differently."
Current market share figures detailing operating systems on shipped servers are potentially misleading, Pratt claimed. "It is not what has shipped. You need to look at redeployments when firms have taken a server and installed Linux onto it after purchase," he explained.
"The true installed base of Linux is being undercounted if all we do is look at the server shipments alone. We need to look at what companies actually do with the servers after they have purchased them."
To support these assertions, Pratt cited a recent poll of OSDL members which asked how many had purchased servers with an OS pre-loaded and then removed and replaced it with Linux. Virtually all of them claimed to have taken this action.
"However, going the other way was totally different. We asked how many had swapped out Linux and installed Windows and nobody had," said Pratt.
Linux is moving beyond its traditional role as just a web server platform, according to Pratt. "Look at Oracle and IBM. Oracle is using Linux as the OS for its grid. This shows that there is a solution stack on top of Linux that is not just Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP/Perl, but a mixture of open source and proprietary software. ISVs such as Oracle, CA, SAP and IBM are fleshing out the Linux stack," he explained.
"As the big sophisticated software vendors start putting more and more deployments onto Linux, all the questions about Linux only being suitable as a web server go away."
Pratt was careful to emphasis that Linux is not a panacea and should only be deployed where it is appropriate.
"At OSDL we are trying not to be religious about Linux. We do not want to be evangelists about Linux where it is not practical to put Linux. For example, enterprise resource planning and data warehousing are on the horizon but there are not robust solutions yet," he said.
"We are not saying that all applications need to be Linux when the operating system is not ready for it. If there is a failure this could taint the feeling for Linux in general, so we say that the OS should only be used where it is appropriate."
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