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'Enemies of Linux' try to undermine OS

Senior OSDL executive tells vnunet.com of systematic campaign of
disinformation

Written by Robert Jaques

vnunet.com, 08 Mar 2005

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So-called "enemies of Linux" are conducting a systematic campaign of
disinformation which aims to undermine the enterprise credibility of the
open source operating system, a senior executive from the Open Source
Development Labs has told vnunet.com.

Nelson Pratt, marketing director of the pro-Linux organisation, which
boasts Linus Torvalds among its top brass, said that unnamed vendors are
trying to scare firms with a campaign claiming that Linux is inadequately
supported for enterprise use.

However, Pratt argues that these charges simply do not hold up. "There are
enemies of Linux that will introduce questions about the stability and
ability of some companies to offer service and support, but there is the
same quality of service and support available for Linux as there is for
any big enterprise version of Unix," he said.

Linux is expected to become a $36bn business by 2008 and well over a
quarter of all servers shipping are running the open source OS, according
to Pratt.

"It's not surprising that the revenue is so great. More and more
commercial organisations choose to buy Linux rather than download and
deploy it independently," he said.

"They are increasingly treating the operating system as an enterprise
product and engaging commercial firms of the calibre of Computer
Associates, HP, IBM and Dell to support deployment."

Pratt also insists that the security of Linux is perfectly adequate for
enterprise use. "Linux is absolutely a secure operating system to the
extent that it does not suffer any more or less than any other mature
enterprise operating system. The 2.6 kernel is a key step forward in terms
of boosting security and reliability," he said.

Specifically, Pratt disputed recent US research suggesting that measuring
the time between security patches shows that Linux is less secure than
Windows.

"Not every patch going into an operating system is in response to a
security breach. Some enemies of Linux would say that the issue of patches
shows how secure an OS is. I'm not calling out one vendor here, but it
depends which side of their mouth they are talking out of," he said.

"They say that too many patches and we are not secure, or not enough
patches and we are not addressing security well enough, but the arguments
begin to sound specious."

Another allegation disputed by Pratt is that the distributed development
processes of Linux make it impossible for any one firm to effectively take
responsibility for the platform.

"It is nonsense to say that nobody owns Linux and nobody is responsible
for it. Linux has a development process that is very similar to any
enterprise operating system. It is not like we are talking tens of
thousands of developers responsible for the kernel and subsystems," he
said.

"Full time kernel core operating system developers number in the hundreds.
There are very well defined professional processes in place for the
development of the kernel and subsystems.

"Is there a kernel development community to fix problems fast and
professionally? Yes, absolutely. There are requests for changes that come
from mature enterprise users and these requests are taken very seriously,
even if the enemies of Linux say differently."

Current market share figures detailing operating systems on shipped
servers are potentially misleading, Pratt claimed. "It is not what has
shipped. You need to look at redeployments when firms have taken a server
and installed Linux onto it after purchase," he explained.

"The true installed base of Linux is being undercounted if all we do is
look at the server shipments alone. We need to look at what companies
actually do with the servers after they have purchased them."

To support these assertions, Pratt cited a recent poll of OSDL members
which asked how many had purchased servers with an OS pre-loaded and then
removed and replaced it with Linux. Virtually all of them claimed to have
taken this action.

"However, going the other way was totally different. We asked how many had
swapped out Linux and installed Windows and nobody had," said Pratt.

Linux is moving beyond its traditional role as just a web server platform,
according to Pratt. "Look at Oracle and IBM. Oracle is using Linux as the
OS for its grid. This shows that there is a solution stack on top of Linux
that is not just Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP/Perl, but a mixture of open
source and proprietary software. ISVs such as Oracle, CA, SAP and IBM are
fleshing out the Linux stack," he explained.

"As the big sophisticated software vendors start putting more and more
deployments onto Linux, all the questions about Linux only being suitable
as a web server go away."

Pratt was careful to emphasis that Linux is not a panacea and should only
be deployed where it is appropriate.

"At OSDL we are trying not to be religious about Linux. We do not want to
be evangelists about Linux where it is not practical to put Linux. For
example, enterprise resource planning and data warehousing are on the
horizon but there are not robust solutions yet," he said.

"We are not saying that all applications need to be Linux when the
operating system is not ready for it. If there is a failure this could
taint the feeling for Linux in general, so we say that the OS should only
be used where it is appropriate."

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