Linux Makes It Way Onto Servers

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White-box server builders say more small-business customers are buying servers that incorporate Linux, although sales of servers that run the operating system aren't increasing as quickly as some observers expected.

About 30 percent of the servers built by PC Support are shipping with Red Hat Linux installed, said Scott Erickson, managing partner at the San Jose, Calif.-based solution provider.

Erickson had expected 50 percent of servers to be outfitted with Linux by now, but small businesses are still somewhat resistant to products that don't carry the Microsoft name, he said.

White-box solution providers say Linux servers are gaining momentum but not at the pace expected.

"Microsoft owns the market, and everyone is scared of them," Erickson said.

While Linux and many Linux-based applications are available free of charge, there's still money to be made offering Linux service and support, he said, adding that four of PC Support's nine employees have Linux experience.

PC Support doesn't offer Linux for desktop PCs because of the lack of a suitable Linux substitute for Microsoft Office.

At Dreamachine, 35 percent of white-box servers are shipped for use with Linux, said Jason Windsor, co-owner of the Everett, Wash.-based systems builder.

Linux is a double-edged sword, Windsor said. Many Linux applications are free, but skilled Linux administrators are more expensive to hire than Microsoft administrators.

Windsor expects Linux to gain market share as integration and administration become less of an issue, but meanwhile, Dreamachine will continue to run on Windows 2000 in-house, he said.

"I run [Windows 2000 here because it has all the services integrated," Windsor said. "I need it to work right now. But I prefer Linux. Believe me, if I had 24 hours a day and could spend it learning something, I would spend it on Linux."

Not all white-box builders, however, are seeing interest in Linux for servers.

Stephen Monteros, general manager of GST/Micro City, a solution provider in Cerritos, Calif., said he expects sales of Linux on white-box servers to grow, but for now customer needs are driven by application availability.

One example of a solution for which GST/Micro City suggests customers choose Linux is a firewall, especially the StoneGate application from StoneSoft, which Monteros said competes with Check Point Software Technologies.

"Our customers don't ask for [StoneGate per se," said Monteros. "But when they ask for firewalls, we suggest StoneSoft. We don't normally care what operating system an application runs on, but in this case, it just happens to run on the Linux kernel."

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