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With Linux, level heads prevail

Linux users take an honest look at some recent and controversial reports that show the operating system in a negative light.

The controversy surrounding three recent reports that show Linux in a negative light continued this week as Linux supporters responded in force on message boards and forums across the Net.

[The Microsoft-funded study] just goes to show how you can cook scenarios to show what you want.
Russell Pavlicek
senior Linux architectCassatt Corp.

The reports, including one from embattled Yankee Group senior analyst Laura DiDio, one from London, Ontario-based Info-Tech Research Group and a Microsoft-funded study, all found that Linux performed poorly compared to the Microsoft's Windows operating system.

The Yankee Group report found that Linux and Windows were "neck and neck" in terms of total cost of ownership (TCO), but also found that Linux outclassed Windows on security.

The Info-Tech survey of 1,422 midsized firms that found only 27% were using Linux and that very few have plans to evaluate the operating system in the near future.

The Microsoft-funded study, conducted by VeriTest, found that a Red Hat Linux system suffered 15% more downtime than a Windows system over a 26-hour test period.

Russell Pavlicek, a senior Linux architect with San Jose, Calif.-based Cassatt Corp., sought to cast doubt on the Microsoft-funded study.

"[This] just goes to show how you can cook scenarios to show what you want," he said. "Windows looks worse over longer uptime periods, in my experience, so it's not surprising they focused on contrived failures in a short period of time. That way, they show what they wanted to show and skirt the real issues."

Pavlicek said viruses were a huge sinkhole in time and money for Windows shops, but were not featured in their data.

"You can bet real money that unleashing a new, potent virus wasn't part of the testing scenario," he said.

Pavlicek, who also serves as a panelist on the weekly Linux Show webcast, said open source is truly forcing proprietary vendors to stay alert because it's readily available, affordable and increasingly seen as a good choice for those building a business infrastructure.

"[Open source] moves the line where closed source software begins to make business sense," he said. "No one flushes their toilets with Perrier; it doesn't make business sense. Likewise, expensive closed source applications will make less and less sense as part of the basic infrastructure components."

Going forward, the Linux architect believes that closed source offerings will make more sense in niche markets with very specific performance requirements. He cited Oracle as an example, saying it will survive nicely for a while based on its scaling and performance characteristics.

"The challenge is that open source continues to raise the bar for value, so Microsoft and others need to focus on producing value that is more than what can be found in open source at any given time," Pavlicek said.


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David C. Niemi, a independent consultant in Reston, Va., who has been using Linux since the early 1990s, spoke of a realistic approach to Linux growth in the industry that was in line with the Info-Tech survey results.

"[Linux] has wide usage in technical- and network-related enterprises and virtually nil in your average small and medium-sized non-technical businesses in the U.S.," Niemi said. "Linux is being used in some critical areas already and I expect this to increase, but this is not so much in the midsized space."

As for Linux taking over Microsoft, Niemi remained levelheaded and hopeful that while Linux could never kill Microsoft off, it could restore a level of competition to the market that has not existed for years.

"My hope and belief is for Linux and other open source software projects to restore competition in the marketplace, not to eliminate Microsoft," Niemi said. "This would force Microsoft to offer better value to its customers and to improve its products, rather than continually raising prices and continually worsening its licensing terms."

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