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Experts on 2004: SCO sinks; Linux rocks with 2.6, NT and desktop migrations's experts take their turn predicting the future for Linux in the enterprise.

A wave of database-on-Linux rollouts washed over corporate data centers in 2003. In 2004,'s resident experts predict a surge of Microsoft Windows NT-to-Linux migrations, 2.6 upgrades, consumer and enterprise Linux desktop adoptions and other market and technology movements will take Linux out of the niche player role forever.

Our panel of experts includes Anthony Hill, CTO of San Francisco-based Golden Gate University and advisory board member and these Ask the Expert (ATE) advisors: Sam Greenblatt, Computer Associates Linux Technology Group senior vice president/chief architect; OpenOffice consultant and author Solveig Haugland; Unix consultant Kenneth Milberg; Matt O'Keefe, CTO of Sistina Software; and author, Samba Team co-founder and consultant John H. Terpstra.

Here are their predictions:

SCO's legal maneuvers won't slow down Linux in 2004.

Each expert serves this prediction with a twist, but they all agree that SCO's intellectual property claims won't prevent corporations from adopting Linux in 2004.

  • Greenblatt expects to see "more drama and more intrigue as this flap finally moves from the newspapers to the courtrooms."
  • Terpstra predicts that "all the lawyers involved in the case will make so much money that they will buy out all contestants. What will happen next is anybody's guess!"
  • Milberg believes that "SCO will fall flat on its face. Some judge will rule completely against them (even fine them for their troublemaking), and they will have to ultimately go chapter 11 because of this. And it would serve them right. Your legal team shouldn't be in a position of defining your technology company, but with SCO, that's exactly what's happening."
  • Haugland, with tongue in cheek, predicts that "SCO will team up with Michael Moore to write a bestseller, Dude, Where's My Intellectual Property?"

Linux 2.6 will be a rousing success, putting to rest any claims that Linux isn't enterprise-ready.

The new kernel release will erase most of the differences between Linux and the other commercial UNIX operating systems, such as HP-UX, Solaris, and AIX, said O'Keefe. Milberg agrees, opining that Linux 2.6 finally puts to bed arguments that Linux is great as a Web (or e-mail) server but does not scale enough to run corporate mission-critical databases. Says Milberg: "Linux will be ready to compete head-on with Unix!"

Business' adoption of enterprise-ready open source technologies will ramp up quickly in 2004.

"Enterprises are going to become more comfortable adopting open source and having open source being foundational layers in the enterprise architecture," said Hill. " The marketplace has declared that it wants open source. That's going to be a big thing, a huge thing, in 2004."

As a result of this corporate mood swing, vendors and enterprise IT shops will be scrambling to create business models for the delivery and support of enterprise open source software. "In 2004, you'll see vendors trying different ways to wrap the business model around open source while still maintaining their value and financial viability," Hill said.

A substantial number of Window NT 4 shops will migrate to Linux.

In 2003, Linux hurt Unix the most, but this year Microsoft will feel the pain as a good number of its NT shops decide to switch to Linux, according to Terpstra.

Naysayers, take heed! There will be strong growth in the adoption of Linux desktop solutions in 2004.

The Linux desktop will finally earn some respect, our experts say, thanks to improvements in OpenOffice, successful deployments in vertical markets, users' disgust with Microsoft's "lock-in" practices and the backing of major vendors, according to our experts.

"IBM and Novell will show that it's not just Sun and some techies in garages using Linux and," said Haugland.

Government and educational institutions -- both early adopters of Linux-based servers -- around the world will once again be first in line for Linux desktops and first to prove it's a good move, according to Hill and Greenblatt.

"OpenOffice will release enhancements that will provide an even more compelling alternative to Microsoft Office," said Terpstra. "The new features will permit lower cost, high productivity commercial publishing to expand the use of open source technologies. Cost reductions of the order of 60 to 70% will be achieved."

Consumer and corporate desktop users will ask themselves if they trust Microsoft, and the answer will be "No!," said Haugland. They'll realize that Microsoft will continue to "come up with some complicated system where you're locked into paying for Windows and unforeseen upgrades, into having to go through painful upgrades from one version to another."

Novell will give IT shops the tools they need to cut more of their ties to Microsoft.

Novell will provide an alternative to Microsoft in enterprise-level network, desktop management and messaging platforms and services, in Hill's opinion. " Now, for the first time, with Novell's Linux strategy I have the ability to consolidate the entire enterprise onto the Linux platform. "Novell is an incredible networking and desktop management environment, as full-featured an environment as Microsoft's in system management, messaging, file and print services," he said. Although NetWare was fading, the infusion of Linux will give it new life, he said.

Milberg is pinning big hopes on Novell, too. He urges Novell to incorporate the new kernel into its SuSE version as quickly as possible.

LinTel will do well, but the combination of Linux 2.6 and AMD processors will be a prime mover in 2004.

O'Keefe believes that the pairing of 2.6 and AMD will put Linux further ahead of other platforms in price performance.

Linux and on-demand computing will be a winning duo in 2004.

High-performance computing and the release of new applications for Linux will put Linux in the forefront of the on-demand computing movement, said Greenblatt. Linux will have offer the flexibility needed in the "ever-changing paradignm of on demand," Greenblatt said.

Consumers won't know it, but they'll be using "Linux inside."

Creations of embedded-Linux products will continue to grow, "showing up in consumer products such as automobiles and HDTV," said Greenblatt.

A major vendor will buy Red Hat, and the battle against the "Unix-ization" of Linux will begin.

Hill said, and other agree, "that Red Hat won't stand alone by the end of 2004." If and when that happens, "then the biggest challenge would be to prevent the Balkanization of Linux," Hill said. "If that happens the value proposition is over and we're going to repeat the experiences of the 1990s on the Linux platform."

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