PeopleSoft Fuels Linux Fire


Linux got a big jolt when PeopleSoft announced last month at its Leadership Summit in Las Vegas that it will be migrating all 170 of its enterprise applications over to the open-source OS by the fourth quarter. This is a weighty endorsement for an OS that most in corporate IT land would not have dreamed of officially sanctioning as recently as two years ago. The thinking then held that Linux mastermind Linus Torvalds and his ilk were software utopians pushing a collaborative development model that wouldn't fly in the commercial world.

How times have changed. First we had the emergence--albeit financially shaky--of individual Linux OS distribution vendors such as market leader Red Hat, SuSE, BSD and others. Then came the flood of support from J2EE infrastructure giants like IBM, Sun and Oracle, which saw Linux as another vehicle for their Java-based products. IBM, in particular, has championed Linux as a cornerstone of its platform strategy for products ranging from its WebSphere applications server to DB2 to its Intel-based eServer xSeries hardware.

Now the ISVs are stepping forward. PeopleSoft isn't the first applications player of its size to commit to Linux--SAP has ported some of its apps--but it is certainly the largest to date to pledge optimization of its entire portfolio for the OS. To that end, PeopleSoft has struck a deal with IBM, making Big Blue the technology partner fueling its applications port.

With Linux now owning 25 percent of the server OS market, PeopleSoft's move has "smart business" written all over it. New and incremental revenue streams, which Linux represents, are the name of the game for ISVs of all sizes.

PeopleSoft describes its motivation as twofold: First off, Linux has matured to the point of being technologically "ready for prime time." Second, customer demand is very much there.

David Sayed, PeopleSoft's technology product marketing manager, explains it this way: "Linux is moving from an OS that is used for edge applications like directory servers, e-mail and other IT infrastructure stuff to a platform that people use to deploy enterprise applications across their enterprises."

All the more attractive, Sayed says, is that Linux offers "unparalleled" price performance on commodity hardware.

That can't be welcome news to Microsoft, whose executives have been quoted comparing Linux to cancer. That rhetoric has softened of late, but whether Redmond is ever going to commit to a Linux strategy remains in doubt.

Ironically, Microsoft's own move into the business-applications market, with its Microsoft CRM product and Great Plains and Navision acquisitions, may promote Linux adoption elsewhere. For example, with IBM's help, software vendor AccPac ported its applications suite to Linux last summer to give itself another platform-sales opportunity beyond Windows.

It remains to be seen whether many other defectors will follow, but with large and small ISVs taking a hard look at Linux, one has to wonder how long it will be until that 25 percent server OS market-share figure creeps up.

Carolyn A. April (capril@cmp.com) is a senior writer at VARBusiness.