Businesses should embrace Linux or risk losing control over their IT infrastructure by driving the operating system underground.
Andrew Butler, a research director at GartnerGroup, advises businesses to have an open Linux strategy.
"A lot of organisations see Linux as a threat. They fear it represents a free spirit which doesn't gel with their conservative approach," he said during Gartner's first UK briefing dedicated to Linux.
"They are nervous about a product that is free or cheap. But if they try to suppress interest they risk subversive proliferation of Linux which could mean losing control of the IT infrastructure," he said.
The biggest driver of Linux adoption identified by Gartner is a low initial cost, followed by reliability and uptime, low on-going cost of operations and few bugs. Looking for a Microsoft alternative is last on the list.
"Autonomous departments within organisations see the cost and simplicity of setting up a website and will not necessarily solicit the approval of the IT department," said Butler. "The ease of purchase and deployment exacerbates the problem creating hotbeds of enthusiasm over Linux."
Gartner's message is "don't be scared", said Butler. "Evaluate Linux as you would Windows 2000 or Unix and plan how best it should be deployed."
Butler recommends that "users with Unix experience and related infrastructure services should assign in-house programmers and Lan integrators to try out Linux deployments in appliance-like services such as proxy, cache, firewall, mail and intranets."
However, he recommends that users with a risk-averse strategy should "avoid major commitments to Linux through 2000".
Steps to qualifying Linux are determining the roles for Linux, making an impact study, driving high level buy-in, planning and leveraging resources, skills and cost, delegating open source project leader, understanding distributor and vendor strategies, and assessing vendor support and service.
Butler urges users to "use Linux as competitive pressure on Microsoft in negotiating licensing costs and services".
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