CA World Panel: Linux Gaining Corporate Respect

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More enterprises are expecting solution providers to be able to discuss a Linux alternative to their technology needs, according to a roundtable discussion Tuesday of Linux advocates and vendors.

Michael Evans, vice president of channel sales and development at Red Hat, Raleigh, N.C., said during a CA World panel in Las Vegas that customer awareness of the technology has ballooned in even just the past six months. He pointed to changes that his company has seen in the competitive behavior on Microsoft with respect to the Linux vendor community.

"It's really difficult for one entity to stop or slow it down," Evans said, referring to the growing rivalry.

Juergen Geck, CTO of Nuremberg, Germany-based SuSE Linux, which recently won a 14,000-Linux-desktop deal over Microsoft for the city of Munich, cited a recent event at which Microsoft representatives, asked about the Munich deal, felt compelled to defend their software's value proposition in a public forum.

"Just to sit there and be on a level with those people was a victory in itself," Geck said.

Another panelist, Jon "Maddog" Hall, president and executive director of Linux International, Amherst, N.H., said that considering how hard it is to get ISVs to commit to supporting new operating-system platforms, Linux has come amazingly far since 1991, recently outpacing other niche platforms such as Apple Computer's Macintosh.

"I think this is remarkable progress," he said.

Now, the panel members said, Linux has the potential to find a place in corporate accounts in applications previously unimagined by its creator, Linus Torvalds, who says his original motivation was simply to create a better desktop work environment.

At the beginning, Torvalds said he believed corporate acceptance would be confined to rogue development projects and certain servers that needed high reliability.

"We passed that point long ago," he said.

Jay Peretz, vice president of partner technical services at Oracle, offered a cautious view, saying his company's investment in Linux applications will be gated by its ability to offer appropriate support and management capabilities.

But Larry Augustin, chairman of VA Software, a Linux distribution company, said Linux has the potential to find a home on anything from cell phones to supercomputers. "If there are limits, we aren't seeing them yet," he said.

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