Large companies have already accepted the why of Linux, it is up to the IT industry to paint the picture of how, where and when.
Recent straw polls of corporate IT users have uncovered an interesting fact: they already "get" Linux. Users are seeing a clearer picture of their future IT environment where complexity is reduced, costs are lower and reliability and security are increased. And this picture includes a significant investment in desktop Linux as well as the server side. So the selling has already been done but for one objection: how can users get from where they are today to this new picture?
The majority of large firms have made diverse investments into IT for the past 30 years and now use a wide variety of platforms. Businesses typically run every flavour of Windows and Unix, multiple versions of Netware, IBM mainframes and hundreds of applications. The biggest value that could be provided to these businesses is a cohesive, pragmatic migration strategy, so that the benefits of Linux can be realised without causing damage to the quality and quantity of the daily workload.
A migration strategy consists of a number of steps, the first of which is to identify the status quo. Businesses need to know which applications and services are running on which platforms. From this, they can identify the people and applications suitable for a pilot phase and discover difficult issues upfront.
For example, some applications may not be available on Linux. Analysis needs to be performed to see if the functionality these applications provide can be made available in an alternative way. Such methods include emulation packages such as Wine and Crossover Office, or thin-client technologies such as Citrix. The aim is to simplify the infrastructure.
One way such simplification can be achieved, over and above the general use of Linux and the reduction in the number of deployed operating systems, is the use of a services-oriented architecture for repurposing existing applications. Applications built to this architecture consist of a set of loosely coupled services that might be deployed in a variety of ways, of which the most compelling is through a browser.
Such thin-client applications dramatically simplify the desktop to the point where it need only consist of a browser, collaboration and Office components. This has a direct bottom-line return through reduced management and training time and potentially reduced hardware costs by being able to "sweat" the hardware assets.
Larger companies have already accepted the why of Linux, it is up to the IT industry to paint the picture of how, where and when. It is only through a combination of technology, expertise and experience, coupled with a supplier with a proven track record in diverse IT environments, that the true benefits of Linux and its related technologies can be realised.
What is required is a holistic strategic approach which combines desktop and server components - something that is often overlooked in the race to deploy Linux.
Steve Gaines is UK technical director at Novell
This article is part of Computer Weekly's Special Report on Linux produced in association with Novell