LinuxWorld 2008 – nobody cares

There are certain phrases that we tend to hear a lot from vendors — ‘enterprise-class, best of breed, customer choice,’ etc. However, I was repeatedly hearing somewhat surprising phrases as I made the rounds at LinuxWorld this year: ‘We don’t care, customers don’t care, no one cares …”

Don’t get me wrong. Linux and open source have not reached the point where the software is so good, vendors and customers don’t have to care about it. The point seems to be this: there is less concern or ‘care’ about whether the operating system is Linux, Windows, Solaris or other; fewer customers care whether the software in use is open source or not; and there seems to be a general recognition that the fact a product or vendor is open source does not matter as much.

Sure, open source is still a significant differentiator. It allows vendors to get software and products into customer hands more quickly and broadly. It typically provides significant cost savings to customers. However, it is far less exotic and foreign in the enterprise, both for vendors and customers, who seem to be viewing open source not as religion, philosophy or idealism, but as just another option.

Vendors supporting various operating systems indicated there is less care about the underlying OS. Part of this can be attributed to virtualization, which allows servers and VMs running different operating systems to be managed in a unified manner. Still, even the difference between virtual and physical servers seems to be of less care to vendors, which are now moving to support and include both in their products and plans. Other vendors discussed how the use of virtual appliances and cloud computing were minimizing how much care centers on the OS, since it is becoming less visible to partners and users.

As for those users and customers, who are playing an increasingly significant role in Linux and open source, there also appears to be less care about whether software is open source. Instead, customers have come to expect comparable or superior features and functionality at less cost. Open source is often the way vendors and their products get there, but customers don’t really care.

So does all this lack of care mean that open source is in danger of losing its edge? I don’t think so. Rather, it is further testament to the continued enterprise maturation and acceptance of Linux and other open source software.

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#1 Mike on 08.06.08 at 10:50 am

You must be a Windows User and not someone who works or uses UNIX / Linux. You have no idea how useful Linux / UNIX is used in the corporate network. UNIX / Linux is the most secure OS available, it doesn’t matter if it’s free or not. Linux is because of the GNU/GPL license, yet UNIX still costs money. The average customer doesn’t care about Linux or UNIX because it does nothing for them. Most Windows users would say they can do the same thing using a GUI instead of typing in commands at a prompt. In IT UNIX / Linux is are greatest resource. If you take a look at a good UNIX server you’ll find that most have only been shutdown to do a major release candidate update (RC). I know IT System Admins (UNIX) that have not rebooted their UNIX server in almost 15 years. Why? Because there is no need to. Unlike Windows that breaks. Even most web servers now a days use Linux Distributions not because it’s free but it’s more reliable, and has better security. Something that OpenSource has that Microsoft will probably never have.

UNIX and Linux are made for people who know what they are doing. Programmers, and IT System Admins are probably the highest amount of people out there that use UNIX or Linux enviroment.

#2 Jay Lyman on 08.06.08 at 10:54 am

You’re right. I am a Windows user. However, I am primarily a Linux user, and find my Windows computers getting less and less use every day. I agree on the usefulness of Linux and the stability issues with Windows. As to your contention I have no idea how useful Linux/Unix is in the corporate network, I don’t care.


#3 apetrelli on 08.06.08 at 11:24 am

You certainly didn’t come across as primarily a Linux user, unless you mean some off the shelf distribution targeting consumers.

Your original posting missed all the key drivers in the enterprise sector, and your contention that such customer’s “don’t care” produced quite a chuckle among my colleagues and I, as we sit in a lounge at SFO.

#4 Jay Lyman on 08.06.08 at 12:00 pm

Sorry I didn’t express myself the way you think a Linux user should (not). I use Ubuntu, Debian and Xandros. Glad you got a chuckle, that was kind of the point.


#5 Dominic on 08.07.08 at 4:39 pm

Mike’s comment almost proves Jay’s point. IT admins like Linux because it’s cheaper and more secure, not just because it happens to be open source. Being open source probably helped make it a more secure and cost-effective OS, but open source is a means to an end, not an end itself.

I agree with Jay – Customers value functionality and how well business needs are addressed, not whether it’s open source. The sooner the commercial open source industry starts marketing open source as a means to superior ends, instead of an end unto itself, the better off it will be.

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