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The Wrong Choice: Firms balk, considering Linux too 'bleeding edge'

Two large companies consider Linux for important enterprise applications but, in the end, go with other platforms.

Some companies don't want to walk on the bleeding edge of a technology. In these true tales from the Linux trenches, two large companies didn't even want to test the edge to see if it was still sharp.

All of the reports in's "Wrong Choice" series are submitted by IT professionals and verified by our editors. The IT pros share their experiences to help their peers hone their Linux pitches. In some cases, mostly to protect their jobs, the contributors choose to remain anonymous and/or not name their companies.

Consultant Jaime Keener recalled a Linux pitch that was jinxed by an IT director's "fear of the unknown." Keener had recommended Red Hat Linux as the best file server for a large organization. He set up a server running Red Hat and demonstrated its ease of operation, security features and strong file-serving capabilities. The IT director, who had limited knowledge of the Linux operating system, balked.

The IT director uttered the dreaded question: "Wouldn't Windows be a safer choice?" Making a Windows recommendation to his business manager would be less risky and fraught with tension, the IT director said. His business manager would remain blissfully in his comfort zone with Windows.

Keener explained that the Linux would do the job well and cost less. Also, Linux would provide "clearly better security, via Ipchains, .htaccess and explicit directory controls," Keener said.

The IT director hemmed and hawed. This type of security sounded good, he finally said. He feared, however, that there would be confusing power issues and a complexity of integration that would cause connectivity issues.

Keener assured him that his worries were groundless. In his experience, a Red Hat Linux file server had always worked well, and power and connectivity issues had not come up.

The good news is that the IT director didn't go with Windows. The bad news is that he pitched, and the business manager approved, a higher-cost Novell-based file server.

Fear of the unknown also derailed the plans of a major reinsurance company's system administrator. By his choice, in this article, his company -- a major international reinsurance firm -- remains unnamed, and he's referred to as GK.

One year ago, GK, an IT administrator, was charged with consolidating platforms for his company's IBM eServer zSeries mainframe servers.

The company's plan was to consolidate all its mainframe shops, which resided in several countries, and bring all mainframe applications and systems into its headquarters.

At the time in question, the firm used numerous platforms on its IBM servers, including IBM z/OS, IBM zSeries/Virtual Machine, IBM AIX, Sun Solaris, Microsoft Windows NT and Novell NetWare.

GK was sure that consolidating on Linux was the best option for his firm. When he proposed a test to prove his theory, management turned him down cold. They were so leery of using a "new" technology that they didn't even want to test it.

"This was, first of all, a political question," GK said. The company had had some bad experiences running its software on new platforms. So an executive decision had been made not to be an early adopter of new technologies. When GK made his pitch, management determined that "the time was just not right" for Linux.

Unable to test Linux, the firm's IT team chose to consolidate on IBM and Solaris operating systems. "We have lots of client-server applications," GK said. "Most of them run on the Solaris platform, accessing data on the mainframe."

As time passed, it became obvious that they'd made the wrong choice. The IT shop and the firm's management have since determined that "Linux would have been better" in terms of cost, usability and performance, GK said. In particular, Linux would have been easier to install and easier to clone on z/VM systems.

Recently, management gave the IT team the green light to build Linux clones on its mainframes. As a result, "we save lots of time not having to install additional hardware when setting up another server," GK said.

And there's no bleeding involved at all.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: news exclusive: "The Wrong Choice: Company rejects Linux, learns a lesson"

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