Microsoft seems prepared to accept that the open-source movement is not going to go away, especially now Linux is adopting an air of respectability, says Simon Moores.
It was the first day of The Great Linux Debate and my fifth year chairing the event at Linux Expo.
How times have changed. Linux has become more respectable and the beards are no longer as visible as they once were on the show floor.
If last year’s theme was loosely based on the Addams Family Reunion, then this year the show was suffering from an identity crisis, somewhere between suits and sandals. It reflected the gap between an emerging big business interest in Linux computing and the code warriors who make up the heart of the open-source movement.
The show floor was far smaller than in previous years. If you removed Sun Microsystems, IBM and Hewlett-Packard - each there, I suspect, because the other one was - then there would have been little left to see.
This worries me a little, if only because after five years it is still not as large as the Java Show once was.
The debate, however, appeared to empty the show floor, with more than 250 people crammed into the auditorium and others were squeezed into the aisles outside. For the first time, Microsoft had decided to put in an appearance, to fight its corner against HP, IBM, Sun and SuSE, and everyone wanted a ringside seat.
This year, the total cost of ownership argument was in full swing. Several members of the audience stood up and explained that using Linux had saved them zillions and, that as the server never had to be taken down, they had forgotten how to reboot it.
Microsoft’s Bradley Tipp avoided having to apologise for inflicting Windows NT on the human race, but pointed out that Microsoft products were pretty good and offered customers choice and a single point of accountability. Microsoft might never learn to love Linux, but Tipp could certainly see a future of coexistence in increasingly heterogonous computing environment.
“Competition," he declared, “is good for Microsoft, it makes us do better and Microsoft is behind the development of open standards.”
He pointed to the relationship between IBM and Microsoft, which prompted a cynical comment from SuSE’s Malcolm Yates on the danger of the two giants locking everyone else out of such "open" standards in the future.
In many respects, the debate had changed little from the previous year. Sun still believes that only Solaris is good enough for "heavy-lift" applications and that Linux belongs at the "edge" of the enterprise.
IBM believes that Linux scales and scales from mobile phones up to mainframes, and HP’s Mike Balma claims that Linux can’t quite scale all the way yet but will do next year with a little help from Intel.
Will Penguins ever learn to fly? I asked. Has Linux achieved critical mass yet? IBM’s Adam Jollans sees the momentum increasing year on year and, for the first time, the audience at Linux Expo reflected signs of serious enterprise adoption of open-source solutions, reinforcing the view that choosing Linux is no longer simply a protest vote against Microsoft, but a politico-economic statement which rejects the inevitability of a single standard of computing.
When the panel was asked if Linux represented a victory of ideology over technology, the best response came from Microsoft. “Linux represents an ideology in combination with technology," was the answer, a contradiction Microsoft still struggles with.
What do you think?
Will Linux keep up its momentum in the enterprise? Tell us in an e-mail >> ComputerWeekly.com reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the website. Please state if your answer is not for publication.
Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of leading industry analyst Dr Simon Moores of Zentelligence.
Acting globally, Zentelligence (Research) advises governments, suppliers, business and the media on the evolution, application and delivery of leading-edge technologies and specialises in the areas of eGovernment and information security.
For further information on Zentelligence and its research, presentation and analyst services visit www.zentelligence.com