The time when the Linux was laughed off by corporates as nothing more than a plaything for anoraks is firmly in the past.
However, there is still a mountain to climb before the penguin mascot of the open source-based operating system, Tux, scales the heady heights of enterprise credibility.
It is certainly true that there is a growing number of top-tier banks, finance houses, governments and blue chip firms that are embracing the operating system, the kernel of which was originally developed by Linus Torvalds at the University of Helsinki in Finland.
Corporates have heard that it is stable, secure and cost effective - very cost effective when compared to Microsoft offerings, even before the software giant kicked off its highly controversial software licensing regime at the start of this month.
But there remain serious doubts among the upper echelons of the business world about entrusting mission-critical IT systems to 'free software'.
However, there is a widely held, but incorrect, assumption among many corporates that Linux today is freeware in the common sense of the definition in that it is the kind of software that can be copied from a magazine cover disc or downloaded from the internet.
In a large part this misperception has been due to the lack of focus within the fragmented Linux community in explaining exactly how the operating system has, and is being, developed.
To try and make amends here it's worth pointing out that Linux companies do not boast the marketing muscle of the Redmond behemoth. Nor do they boast the cohesion or resources to send out a plain message to the corporate world about the benefits or the origins of their respective Linux distributions.
In an attempt to redress this balance it's necessary to take a quick trip down Linux Memory Lane and explain where it came from and why it can be a commercially sound choice.
While Torvalds and other software engineers crafted the operating system's kernel, they used code libraries and system components developed by members of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) for the GNU (GNU's Not Linux) project.
This project was initiated by FSF founder Richard Stallman in 1983, with the ethos that users should be free to modify software, repackage it and make changes to source code: a system dubbed 'copyleft'.
FSF is free by name, but here 'free' means 'freedom' and not necessarily free software. Distributors and redistributors are charged for GNU and it is from this point that the Linux companies create their business models.
Top enterprise Linux firms, such as Red Hat, Caldera, SuSE, TurboLinux and Sun Microsystems, pay this GNU licence and create their own Linux distributions.
Although these firms use a version of the GNU Linux kernel, they add value by packaging additional software and support contracts into their commercial offerings.
This enterprise-class support which is now available for the platform is crucial to building its credibility in blue chip environments where board members have traditionally vetoed IT staff proposing Linux roll-outs because of fears that the operating system is not 'grown up' enough to cut the enterprise mustard.
However, with tier-one players including Sun, IBM and Hewlett Packard fighting to extend their Linux offerings, analysts largely agree that the future looks bright for the open source operating system.
Robin Bloor, founder and director of Bloor Research, said: "There are loads of core Linux applications emerging. Many companies run clusters of hundreds of Linux computers."
According to Jonathan Mills, UK software manager at Sun, the arrival of the IT industry's big guns in the Linux arena will give the platform corporate credibility. "There are only a few suppliers that can deliver the level of integration needed for core business applications," he said.
For corporates with in-house Unix systems, the adoption of Linux distributions need not be difficult. The platform's distributions are shipped with direct equivalents of components found in mainstream Unix operating systems which, for many enterprise firms traditionally running Unix, substantially lowers the learning curve and costs associated with adopting new platforms.
Because Linux has been built to open standards - including the Portable Operating System Interface - developers can code applications that can be recompiled cheaply and ported to other operating systems.
One of its unique selling points compared with more widely-deployed proprietary offerings is its cross-platform capability. Linux ships in compiled versions for all mainstream enterprise platforms including Intel x86, PowerPC, Sun Microsystems' Sparc, and DEC/Compaq/HP Alpha platforms.
It's also available on mainframes, making it the only operating system to scale from the desktop to the pinnacle of the enterprise computing world.
In the next instalment of this vnunet.com Linux Special series we will showcase enterprise companies which have made the leap to Linux and compare notes on their experiences.
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