Thought for the day:Linux experiences a culture clash

Hard-hitting IT columnist Simon Moores gives his personal take on the hot issue of the day.With a strong feeling of déjà vu, I...

Hard-hitting IT columnist Simon Moores gives his personal take on the hot issue of the day.With a strong feeling of déjà vu, I walked into the Linux Expo show at Olympia 2 to chair day one of "The Great Linux Debate" for the fourth year running.

At times the argument was heated, particularly between Debian and SUSE. "What exactly is 'free' software?"

It was also disappointing, in my view, that very little has moved on since last year.

Sun is now playing seriously in the Linux space, but it became very obvious that the larger vendors, IBM, Sun and HP, could not really agree on Linux's strengths. Yes, of course there was clustering and the edge of the enterprise stuff, but IBM and Sun were in opposite camps and Hewlett-Packard sat on the fence and said very little. This encouraged one member of the audience to comment that, "it wasn't Linux that couldn't scale, it was the vendors in trying to support it".

It was the same old story with training. If you want training in Microsoft .net you can find it anywhere. You can almost get an A-level in it. But try and find equivalent standards and recognition around Linux and you're stuffed. How, the audience asked the panel, are you going to solve this problem?

If the row of Linux panellists facing the questioning could have shuffled their feet nervously, they would have done, but they were sitting down and had to concede that it would be at least another two years before we see any big changes outside of vendor support for the platform.

You see, the great thing about Linux is that it's free and open source, but the big disadvantage is that nobody is really in charge and there's no equivalent of Microsoft churning out volumes of Linux courseware for schools and universities.

These guys are here to make money from Linux and subsidising mass education still isn't part of the process. In their mind, selling boxes, after all, is what they really care about, despite whether these units are Itanium or SPARC powered.

On the other hand, people in the audience are committed to open source computing, are hungry for education and information and believe that the principles they do support are in danger of being hijacked by large commercial interests. They have a point.

Linux remains very much a religion, at a time when the large vendors wish to dress it up in a shirt and tie and offer it as a respectable enterprise solution. There's a clash of two cultures here which is going to make progress slow, although I would argue that it can't get much slower.

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Zentelligence Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of the futurist writer, broadcaster and Computer Weekly columnist Simon Moores.

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