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The Year of Linux


© February 2008 Anthony Lawrence

We've heard it year after year: *this* is the year when Linux pulls ahead and becomes a real force.. Well, maybe. Certainly low priced Linux boxes have been snapped up quickly whenever they have been offered, and it's certainly true that the general public grumbles more about Microsoft than they used to. I think it's even common wisdom now to avoid Vista when buying a new computer, but so far that's translated more to "ask for XP" rather than trying anything else.

Linux absolutely is doing well in embedded devices, and I'm sure that trend is going to continue. But Linux has not yet regained the ground that Unix lost in the SMB application market. Back in the 80's and even into the 90's, that market was strongly pro-Unix. A lot of it was SCO, of course, because this was all before Linux existed. Microsoft took that market away, but I see no reason that Linux couldn't take it back - Linux SHOULD take it back because Linux servers make much more sense than Microsoft and of course cost far less.

This is a market where the GUI arguments (KDE, Gnome) don't really matter - in most cases you'd want your application controlled through a web interface. It's really foolish to do anything else in any but the most unusual circumstances and of course the big benefit is platform independence: you get free from the tyranny of Microsoft but also don't have to force customers off it.

I think this is the area Linux should push hard. Any SMB application provider who switches to Linux is going to gain tremendous cost advantages over their Microsoft competition, but many of them are going to need help seeing that reality. They are also going to insist that even if true, their customers run Microsoft servers, so they can't offer Linux.

But they can. Virtualization lets them offer their application in Linux. Not only that, but it provides the ability to tune the OS and the app to each others needs, eliminates almost all installation support calls, and makes ongoing support far easier because of the controlled virtual environment. Those are tremendous advantages. Over time, the customers themselves will realize how silly it is to run the Microsoft OS that only exists to virtualize the real work done by better operating systems.

Some smart companies are already doing this. Kerio offers their mailserver in VMware Virtual Appliance, and many more are available at VMware's Virtual Appliance Marketplace. This is the way to bring Linux into Microsoft-only companies..


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