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Is One Technology That Is Creating More Supporters Every
Day And They Are All Emotional About It"
Linux fast gaining popularity, many user groups have mushroomed
across the country. The most popular among these is India
Linux User Group, an umbrella society that today spearheads
the Linux movement in India. Raj Mathur, member, India Linux
User Group-Delhi, talks to Network Magazine about the group's
activities and the various reasons behind the Linux juggernaut
you define the structure of India Linux User Group and the
initiatives, issues that are foremost in your discussions?
In India, there is an umbrella organization called India
Linux User Group (ILUG) or Linux India. There are local
user groups in most of the large cities. Each city has more
than 40 Linux user groups. As yet, none of these has the
status of a formal organization; even Linux India hasn't
been registered as a society. But some of them are in the
process of doing so.
The main function of Linux India is coordination and interaction
with external entities. It helps smaller user groups to
reach wider audiences through seminars and road shows. The
Linux User Group-Delhi or Linux- Delhi as it is called,
is under ILUG and functions more or less like other Linux
societies in addressing issues, solving problems and creating
new development ideas for Linux. Our members come from every
walk of life. 70 per cent of them are from IT-related companies,
be it vendors, developers, users or students. Surprisingly,
the remaining 30 per cent consist of bureaucrats, army personnel
and even doctors.
The issues that we have been focussing on recently have
been related to installation of Linux on non-standard hardware
such as Mac laptop, how tos for those who may want to do
graphic design using Linux. We also focus on pure technology
where we look at such aspects as feasibility of Linux in
various environments such as SAN or compatibility with Frame
Relay or ATM. We also focus on logistics and maintenance
you feel that Linux will become the property of fanatics
as is the case with Apple Mac, or will it be easily adaptable
within any environment like NT?
fact, Linux is a bit like both. At the core you have hardcore
developers and user groups, who are pushing it, working
day in and out. They consider Linus Torvalds god. Furthermore,
if you look at the trends in the IT industry, very few technologies
have awakened emotion in users or developers. Apple Macintosh
is one, which did. SGI is another and now we have Linux.
It is one technology that is creating more supporters every
day; they are all emotional about it.
Fanatics apart, there is a lot of activity within the enterprise
or corporate world with respect to Linux. While there is
an overt movement by developers, there is also an underground
transition happening within the enterprise. Slowly, lots
of enterprises are deploying Linux. Obviously, most are
doing it in pockets and as small projects. But testing of
this technology within corporates has already begun.
Most vendors talk about a clearly defined Linux strategy.
What is your perception of the situation on the vendor front?
I don't see anything substantial happening on the vendor
front in real terms. Today most vendors such as SGI, IBM,
HP or Compaq have to support three platforms. They are talking
about Linux and their individual strategies for it. But
they also have to support Windows NT or Windows 2000 as
they don't have much choice at the moment. Another important
thing is most of them have their proprietary Unix-based
systems. So now they have to be careful while treading the
path among the three.
In my perception, when it comes to a choice between Linux
and Unix, vendors prefer to sell their version of Unix mainly
because that way they can hold on to the customer. Secondly,
most vendors offer better support for their own Unix systems
than for Linux. Besides, by selling an open system like
Linux, most vendors will not be able to define the customer's
choice for upgrades and applications.
If we were really to question vendors about number of Linux
boxes sold as compared to their Unix counterparts, more
often than not, the numbers will be negligible. In this
scenario their Linux strategy becomes more of a wish list
than a business plan. I also feel that deep down; most vendors
are convinced that their version of Unix is better than
Linux. I feel these are the factors that are holding major
vendors from going for Linux in a big way.
How are users taking this technology and what are the
issues that are hampering the growth of Linux in the corporate
Linux today is still in a very one-man system kind of
a situation. Most corporates that have deployed Linux will
have ne very strong advocate who has pushed the technology.
It still hasn't reached that level of acceptance where the
CIO or CEO considers it on par with Windows NT or Unix.
The biggest problem perceived is support and also applications
available on the system. Most big organizations tend to
A Rs. 2000 crore enterprise will today look at a technology
only if it is assured of good after sales support. With
Linux, most support set-ups are again either one-man shows
or very small organizations that don't really matter. Naturally,
CIOs of big organizations are not satisfied in hiring a
small set-up to look after their huge operations, so they
tend to select technologies such as Unix or NT, which already
have a strong support system.
So till such time that Linux lacks a good support system,
it will remain in pockets and small departments of most
organizations and not emerge as a complete platform for
In fact Linux was voted the best-supported OS two years
ago despite the absence of any formal support organization.
So what I would like to clarify is that even today it is
the best supported OS. In India, HCL and Hughes Software
Systems are working towards creating a good support system
will you see the real adoption of Linux in the country?
Within the next two years we will see lot of migration happening
from NT and Unix as well as some new deployments in India.
The main reason will be by that time there will be a growth
in support organizations.
The vendors will still be the same and won't offer much
support. Most will be independent companies. Besides, Linux
is becoming popular in colleges and training institutions.
Today, the first OS that a student at NIIT learns is Linux.
In two years time, they will be out in the market looking
for jobs. Naturally then they will become advocates of Linux
and deploy them in organizations that they work for. This
is what AT&T did when it donated Unix to the universities.
When the students graduated, they popularized the next generation
networks with Unix. A similar thing is bound to happen with
Linux too. NM
Bhattacharya can be reached at email@example.com