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Tux Enterprise Ready?
widely accepted as a technology and deployed in enterprise
departments, Linux is yet to mature as a serious enterprise
The user and developer communities hail Linux as an excellent
operating system. Enterprises are slowly waking up to its
usefulness as a networking and mission critical applications.
According to Sandeep Menon, ESG Linux, sales manager, IBM,
Bangalore, the primary advantages of Linux are lower total
cost of ownership, ruggedness, reliability, flexibility,
interoperability; and horizontal scalability.
Today, almost all major hardware vendors, barring Sun Microsystems
(a staunch Unixread Solarisfollower) have clearly
chalked out their plans for Linux. HP, SGI, IBM and Compaq
are now bringing out machines with Linux pre-installed on
them. Despite NTs popularity, these biggies are carefully
nurturing this technology and continuing to make investments
in developing applications for this OS.
Says Avinash Fotedar, director, marketing and channels,
SGI India, Delhi, "We believe it is the platform that
will unify the world of Unix mainly because it is Unix-like.
We also believe that all the latest versions of Unix are
likely to converge. That does not mean that Unix will die.
The OS market is huge, and in each segment there is so much
development happening that it will be very difficult to
wipe out a particular technology. The feeling today at SGI
and I do not believe it to be any different at IBM including
Sun, which is strictly a Unix company, is that we see Linux
as the operating system of tomorrow."
Most of these vendors have now started doing their bit for
the Linux community. SGI, one of the major supporters of
Linux has even donated some technical concepts and patches
to the developer community. Explains Fotedar, "What
we have done is collected the jewels of IRIS such as journal
file systems, digital media libraries, and given it to the
open source community. The developers at all levels will
have access to this technology and will adapt it to Linux
and incorporate newer versions of various distributions
that are coming out. In fact SGI has recently stepped up
its efforts to create a Linux graphics environment that
will be able to support a wide range of applications."
Moreover, both IBM and SGI are working together to optimize
IBM's DB2 Universal Database for Linux on both IA 32 and
IA 64 systems. Even HP's lab is busy experimenting on the
easy portability of Linux on the IA 64 architecture. HP
also has defined its Linux strategy and is bringing out
hardware, software and peripheral solutions that are Linux
compatible. Most of these vendors have donated and collaborated
with Linux distribution companies such as Red Hat, SuSe,
As the platform is growing in stature, so are the takers
for the application development platform. Today, Oracle
boasts of selling 500,000 copies of Oracle 8i on Linux.
Even in India the company has seen a steady growth in its
Linux based products. Says Gaurav Varma, Oracle9i marketing
manager, Oracle India, New Delhi, "We have been seeing
a steady growth in our database server products and also
in the application server space. For the developer community,
Linux is a very powerful platform for developing applications.
At Oracle we are constantly working with them to close the
gaps that are there in Linux applications."
In fact, SGI is also working with some Indian developers
to create digital graphic solutions on Linux for SGI systems.
However, Raj Mathur, an independent consultant and CEO of
Kandalaya, a Linux support company, is skeptical about the
initiatives taken by these vendors. He feels that vendors
prefer to sell their own version of Unix or Windows NT rather
than Linux, thus slowing down its growth. As a matter of
fact, Oracle clearly mentions that it treats Linux as any
other platform and does not take any additional efforts
to push to this technology, as it is a technology independent
But that does not mean that the Indian market is seeing
no growth in this area. Linux is growing at a rapid pace,
primarily because it is free and more robust, as user friendly
as NT, and requires minimal hardware resources. Mainly because
it is free and more robust, the growth in India for Linux
has replicated that of the global trend. An IDC survey puts
Linux at second place with 24% after Windows NT's 36% and
has surpassed the growth rate of all combined Unix shipments.
It is growing faster than NT. "Even by the most conservative
estimates, it is expected that Linux will be the No.1 server
OS by year 2004. This is in spite of the fact that there
is no foolproof method to track Linux installations. Little
wonder then, that the whole industry is taking notice and
making Linux a priority in their future strategies,"
points out Sandeep Menon of IBM.
Linux distribution companies like Caldera and Red Hat have
already setup distribution offices and have plans to start
development centers here.
Though Linux offers compelling array of features, it has
not yet to capture the enterprise segment in a big way.
"Linux despite its popularity lacks in certain areas.
Also there is no major support for Linux in the country.
That hinders most big corporates from adopting this technology
full fledged," points out Mathur of Kandalaya.
Reiterating this point, says Vinod Gupta, GM (IT), JK Corp
Ltd., Delhi, "We definitely find Linux interesting.
We are even using it as our mail server, but the main hitch
in adopting Linux full fledged is that there are not enough
value added solutions on it."
Today, the Linux usage pattern in the enterprise is very
incoherent. It is mostly a part of a heterogeneous environment
and is used for mail or Internet applications. The deployment
mainly happens because of one advocate of that technology
within the company who feels strongly about it. A point
in this case is Manoranjan Kumar, divisional manager, Corporate
IT, Samtel Group, New Delhi, who went ahead and deployed
Linux for his company's intranet solutions as he was used
to working on it in his earlier organization. But Samtel
stopped him from deploying the mail server on Linux and
went ahead with Windows NT. It proves that most enterprises
are apprehensive about deploying Linux across the network.
Says Kumar "Though it is very robust and secure and
cost effective it will not be deployed in bigger enterprises
as most of them are scared about not getting enough support.
The smaller organizations might deploy it as the enterprise
network platform but it will take time with the bigger ones.
In large companies we will see Linux in departments and
The big vendors today are concentrating on making Linux
more secure and robust so that it can be stable and scalable
enough for large enterprise computing. But very few are
actually working on supporting the technology. After sales
support is one factor that is preventing enterprises from
deploying Linux. Oracle has only recently announced its
support plan for the Indian clients. HP has also defined
its support strategy. "But the need is actually for
independent support organizations that will take care of
clients after it has deployed the technology," informs
Moreover, Mathur sees maturity of Linux in the Indian market
in the next two years as most education and training institutions
have adopted Linux in their study curriculum. Even vendors
have started providing some high-end training for Linux
to their customers. Despite the fact that Linux is slowly
making inroads into the country, there is only one exclusive
Linux training center in India. Headquartered in Bangalore,
the Linux Learning Center, besides offering exclusive training
on Linux, is also involved in R&D activities and extensive
support for those users who want to deploy Linux. The Center
attracts students from all over the world.
1999, when we opened the training center, we attracted only
hobbyists, as Linux had no corporate identity. Red Hat has
gone a long way in creating this corporate identity for
Linux. Red Hat attracted biggies like Compaq and IBM. That
is when Unix lost popularity as it wasn't as user friendly
as Linux", explains Ramesh Kumar, director, Linux Learning
The Linux Learning Center offers three-day and four-day
full time courses on Linux system administration and advance
system administration and has recently started a course
on database administration. "The database administration
courses involving MySQL and DHP are very popular. These
courses are aimed to cater to the demand for Linux system
administrators by several database portals which are all
on Linux," explains Ramesh Kumar.
Ramesh Kumar has helped deploy Linux for several corporate
users such at ISRO, Sriharikota, Icope technologies, buildindiainfo.com
and so on.
The Linux Learning Center spearheaded by Ramesh Kumar in
association with G.T. Enterprises, an exclusive Linux distribution
center is promoting Linux in a big way by working with government
agencies and educational institutions. "We not only
offer training in a commercial way but 25 per cent of our
activities are promotional, trying to make people realize
that there is this software which is virtually free, yet
as good as its competitors," says Ramesh Kumar.
He adds that there is lot of documentation for Linux and
that 14-15 percent of the R&D activity that is happening
worldwide is on Linux.
The Linux movement has slowly begun taking shape in India.
There is now a concerted effort from both the vendors and
the users to identify the problems and finding solutions
within the existing Linux framework. As the developers work
full swing, Linux is slowly entering the enterprise. There
is acceptance albeit with hesitance, but once the independent
support companies evolve and developers create new applications,
Little Tux might become the icon on every server and desktop.
Let's give it two years.
- Priyanka Bhattacharya and Shubha Murthy can be reached