Linuxworld: The open source operating system is becoming more widespread within the enterprise for use on servers. But even its advocates believe desktop Linux is some way off
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Open source advocates at the Linuxworld show in London this week will hail the steady advance of Linux in the datacentre, but claims that the product is ready for mainstream desktop deployment will meet with scepticism.
Ovum analyst Gary Barnett has seen an increase in the number of businesses rationalising their IT around a Linux platform. Thanks to the increasing deployment of virtualisation software such as VMWare, end-users can now run multiple operating systems easily on a single hardware platform, allowing server consolidation and providing a straightforward way to run Linux applications.
Linux is not only being deployed to run PC servers, said Barnett. "Linux appears to be doing well everywhere, and is available on the IBM z/9, which makes it attractive to business." End-users with spare capacity on their z/9 can run Linux on a virtual mainframe partition, he said.
Alan Cox of Red Hat and a major contributor to the Linux kernel, will speak at the show on the deployment of Linux desktop environments, but Barnett said the drive for Linux as a Microsoft desktop alternative "has stalled".
One SuSE Linux user that has stuck with a Microsoft desktop is ITV. The television company, which has been running Linux for five years, has just completed a 10-month 6,000-desktop upgrade
Where to deploy desktop Linux
In a recent paper from Forrester Research, analyst Richard Fichera said Linux was suitable for desktop users requiring access to a small number of basic applications.
"Linux works well in call centre, point of sale (POS), trader workstation and thin client environments," said Fichera. He added that desktop Linux has been attractive in these application areas due to the low cost of deployment and the fact that end-users run a limited desktop configuration.
Forrester also suggested that IT departments consider deploying Linux for end-users requiring very limited PC access.
"You can convert some general purpose end-user populations to Linux today. Good candidates include: infrequent PC users, shared PCs, and custom-built application environments, plus lightweight end-users running older versions of Windows who do not warrant new investments in Windows and Office licences," the company said.
ITV builds on Linux success
ITV has been running its scheduling, tape library, programme commissioning and technical service desk applications with SuSE Linux in a Hewlett-Packard Tru64 Unix environment for two years.
The Linux IT system comprises an Oracle 9i database server running on HP EMT 64 hybrid 32-bit/64-bit PC servers. Nick Leake, ITV's director of operations and infrastructure, said, "We have seen a high level of availability and very little maintenance."
As a result, the company is now outsourcing maintenance of its back-office systems. ITV plans to consolidate and move the remainder of its 55 servers onto SuSE within the next 12 months.