There is no technical reason for companies to mistrust Linux, according to one of Unilever's most senior IT executives.
Last week AMR Research claimed that Linux is still not suited to mission-critical applications.
But Martin Armitage, senior vice president in charge of Unilever's Global Information Organisation, confirmed that the company is already running firewalls, a web system and its newest mail-servers on Linux, and achieving greater throughput and cost savings.
"I never know what people mean by 'mission-critical applications'," he told vnunet.com. "If you're involved in a merger or acquisition, email can be mission-critical. Are firewalls mission-critical?"
Unilever has committed to moving its global IT infrastructure to Linux by 2006, and expects to cut around £66m from its IT budget.
AMR warned that companies may have concerns about supporting Linux, a point on which Armitage conceded that there are some issues.
"Support requires a slight intake of breath," he said. "Currently IBM may hand it off to Red Hat."
But Armitage questioned whether the support model is any worse than for Unix.
AMR also identified difficulties in selling Linux to senior management as a barrier to adoption, but Armitage sees no such problem.
"It's pretty simple really. You don't focus on the technology; you sell the reason why you are doing it," he explained.
Unilever justified its Linux plans because it meant moving to a single hardware platform and server operating system which increases staff focus and reduces costs.
"Then you just have to put the numbers to these," said Armitage.
The AMR report singled out enterprise resource planning (ERP) as a mission-critical application.
Unilever is not yet moving its ERP systems to Linux, because there are still some elements missing related to performance. But the company plan to move over by 2006.
Armitage said that the missing elements include support for 64bit Intel chips, multithreaded kernel and debuggers, and a journalling file system, all of which should be in place by the end of 2005.
"We are putting together a roadmap through to 2006," he said. "By then our [PeopleSoft and SAP] ERP systems will have moved to Linux with 15-20,000 records."
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