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ISV's-eye view, part 1: 2005 a big year for new kinds of enterprise Linux apps

The U.S. may not be turning away from the two-party system, but the enterprise application world is. The third-party candidate, Linux, is winning in many precincts, including states, counties, cities and businesses. As a result, more -- in fact, most -- independent software vendors (ISVs) are putting Linux on their development tickets, according to Niel Powers, who has been developing enterprise software for 20 years.

Powers discusses the shift toward Linux application development in part one of this two-part interview. In part two, he delivers an in-depth account of big changes happening in the tools of the development trade, integrated development environments (IDEs) and service-oriented architectures (SOAs) -- and offers tips for using both. Powers is vice president of products for the Progress Company, a business unit of Progress Software Corp., Bedford, Mass.

Are you seeing a big movement among ISVs toward developing more enterprise applications for Linux?
Yes. For an ISV, independence is always a good thing. Linux represents independence and allows [ISVs] to make market decisions quicker as markets evolve. The business community has become much more accepting of Linux solutions (more on the server than the desktop) as more of the major vendors have come on board. Particularly in the mid-market, businesses want computers to be appliances; they just run and they require very little administration and few upgrades. Linux wasn't there a few years ago, but it is getting much closer now.
...we are seeing significant adoption of Linux, and some of it is certainly at the expense of Windows.
Niel Powers
Vice president of productsProgress Software Corp.
Are you seeing many ISVs porting Unix and Windows applications to Linux?
Some of both. On the server side, it is usually very easy to port a Unix application to Linux. Not only is the technology similar, but the approach to development and deployment is similar for both. With Windows, the job tends to be a little tougher. Many Windows applications are built in technologies that don't easily transfer, and the methodologies used in many Windows applications are not very server-friendly when ported to Linux. Nonetheless, we are seeing significant adoption of Linux, and some of it is certainly at the expense of Windows. That's on the server. What about the desktop?
On the desktop, the movement seems much slower. Microsoft still dominates the desktop and can enhance or change it at will. Business application users (daily power users) never really warmed up to HTML-style interfaces -- they are too slow and clunky -- and porting a rich Windows user interface to Linux is not an easy task. But it will be fun to watch what happens going forward. Linux on the desktop is gaining favor in some parts of the world. Are you seeing less development of applications for Unix?
Some. But really, we're just seeing less development exclusively for Unix. Most new development is being designed to be as portable as possible, particularly between Unix and Linux.
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What will be the big developments in enterprise software for the Linux platform in 2005?
Predictions always make me nervous in that you never know in what direction this industry will turn. But, I'd say that this will be a defining year for moving Linux beyond its application and Web server strengths. Most major databases are now available on Linux, and Linux systems now have all the capabilities to serve as major database servers -- at least up through mid-market requirements and probably beyond. At the other end of the stack, Linux on the desktop could develop as a challenger for enterprise applications. We haven't seen it yet, and we all know that enterprise applications don't spring up overnight, but the potential is there.

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