The Death of the Linux Debate: A EulogyMar 28th, 2009 | By Mike Dailey | Category: Latest Articles, Linux and Open Source
In a very recent article entitled Think Before You Speak: Migrating the Enterprise to Linux I offered a set of opinions that differed from that of a blogger from the Linux community, who felt that Linux can be justified to IT management as a full replacement for Microsoft Windows. Needless to say the article has received several thousand hits to date and those numbers continue to climb each day (making my decision to not offer any ad space on my blog one that I might regret).
As you can expect, some from the Linux community are upset with my views. Linux and open source can be a battle cry for some and an outright religion for others. Many troubled aspects of our world could take a few pointers from the Linux/open source community, as anyone supporting a worthwhile cause with the fervor that is displayed by the members of these communities is sure to make a difference in our world. Several who commented or emailed me directly about my article are upset with my views, and some even degraded themselves to the point of launching negative personal attacks against me, which, given the fact that they don’t know me demonstrates the type of fervor I mentioned earlier–albeit in a less-than-becoming fashion. There were those, however, that supported my views and thanked me for speaking what many of us in the Linux community view as the ugly truth about our own community.
A few people have challenged me to show proof of my claims that Linux is not superior to Microsoft Windows. Let me note here that at no time did I say Windows was better than Linux; what I have stated and will continue to state is that both operating systems compliment weaknesses in the other, and when peered together in the enterprise provide a very flexible and robust computing environment. My argument then was that the list of proposed “reasons” to provide to executive management for the complete replacement of Windows with Linux were flawed and biased. My point was that the Linux community is perceived as spending more time trying to destroy Microsoft than they do advancing Linux and open source initiatives.
Those who refuse to accept this truth post link after link in comments or on their own blog posts, showing “proof” that Linux is a better OS; a more secure OS; a more stable OS. I too can post links showing that Linux suffers from security issues just as well as Microsoft Windows. I can post links showing Microsoft servers with better uptime than Linux servers. But like the links posted by my critics, it is all meaningless. Either side can dig for dirt, create scenarios putting their claims in a better light, or spin the facts to their favor. This has been the mainstay of the Linux-vs-Windows debate for years, a debate in which both sides are very passionate in their arguments and cause.
But to understand my views and the purpose of my article you must understand the debate, itself. For years the debate between Linux and Microsoft has raged; forums, blogs, and articles published in print have weighed in on the battle between “David and Goliath”, known to us as Linux and Windows. The Linux community is sure of a victory for David, while Microsoft joins in the mocking laughter of Goliath who sees David as more of an annoyance than a threat. We all know how the story ends. This OS holy war continues to rage, however, backed by what can only be seen as fervent religious support on both sides. Microsoft is still playing the role as Goliath, who has now become concerned with the progress Linux–our David–has made in the battle. No longer is Linux a joke to the great Microsoft. Linux is now a true threat, drawing the focus and concern of the giant.
The Linux community believes without question that the battle is theirs. Victory has all but been proclaimed, and to state anything otherwise is seen by some in the community as blasphemy against the religion. It is to these individuals that I direct my voice and say with the all of the strength and conviction I can gather: the debate is over. Linux has not won.
“Blasphemy!” No. “Liar!” No. To see the truth of this you need to look no further than Corporate America, the home turf of Microsoft. This is the battle ground where the final clash between Linux and Windows will be fought. The European Union and China may be supporting moves against Microsoft, but the giant will not be defeated until he is felled in his own kingdom. Here, in Corporate America, Microsoft sits on the throne of enterprise computing. As much as the Linux community may differ with this view, the fact is that Microsoft is firmly positioned to remain on the throne.
Corporate CIOs and IT decision makers have not been given any viable alternatives to justify the removal of Microsoft from the enterprise. This is the entire basis for my original article, and one that the Linux community simply fails to see (or chooses not to see). I have been criticized for not providing any “proof” of my claims, but what better proof can I offer than the unwillingness of Corporate America to adopt Linux and open source as a replacement for Microsoft Windows. Yes, Linux is enjoying a solid deployment rate as a service platform in enterprise deployments; database servers, server virtualization platforms, web servers, etc. It is here that Corporate America has recognized the power and potential of Linux. But in these roles, however, Linux is joining Microsoft Windows in the data center, not replacing it. Yes, Linux is replacing some instances of Windows in the service platform role, but it is not replacing Windows in the enterprise. I state on my own resume that I have replaced many Windows servers with Linux to achieve higher uptime and lower TCO. But again, these were individual service platforms, not entire enterprises.
My argument is, and always has been, that Linux and open source–in its current state–is not ready to replace Microsoft in the enterprise. There are too many third-party enterprise-class applications leveraging Active Directory. There are too many third-party enterprise-class applications designed to operate on or leverage Microsoft Windows services. The term “enterprise-class” is key here; you can not replace Microsoft Exchange with Postfix and claim that you have provided equal services or functionality. You can not replace Active Directory with LDAP and claim that you have provided equal services or functionality.
Do not offer Linux as a replacement for Windows on the desktop when it requires the re-education and re-tooling of the entire enterprise just to adopt it. Offer a version of Linux that leverages the current experience of existing non-technical users; a version of Linux with a similar look and feel to using Windows. Do not offer Postfix as a replacement for Exchange. Offer a fully capable collaboration platform with the same features and functionality as Exchange, Lotus Notes, GroupWise, or any other enterprise-class platform. Do not offer Linux as a replacement for Windows Server when it can not provide the same set of supported applications by commercial vendors. Offer a Linux that has wide-spread third-party vendor support, including enterprise-class applications that are supportable by someone other than a group of part-time volunteer developers that may or may not feel like working on a technical issue when it occurs. These are not my opinions; these are the demands of business.
What the Linux community believes is that the business world should adopt what they have decided to offer as a solution. In reality, software developers must provide what is required by the business. If your product doesn’t offer what is needed it is not adopted. This is the simple truth of supply and demand. This is a business decision, not a technical decision. If Linux and open source are to succeed in the enterprise their respective communities must begin to deliver solutions that leverage the needs of businesses, not what they as developers see fit to deliver.
I am a supporter and user of both Linux and open source software. My web site runs on Linux by choice. I use Suse and Fedora Linux. I use Firefox, Thunderbird, GIMP, and WinSCP to name only a few. I too am passionate about Linux, although admittedly not to the admirable level of many–or the fanatical level of some– in the Linux community. I do not view Linux as the savior of server platforms, brought upon the Earth to triumph over that great kingdom of evil, known to us as Microsoft. The fact that my article has the appearance of support for Microsoft has brought upon me the wrath of some in the Linux community, and as my article continues to make the rounds on the Internet I am sure there will be more flaming arrows, hurled stones, and even the possible raining of fire and brimstone to contend with. The truth is that I am not supporting Microsoft, nor am I supporting Linux. I am supporting both, as I believe that both have their value in the enterprise. Past articles I’ve written will attest to this.
Just because some in the Linux community disagree with my position does not mean that my argument is any less valid or true. The battle continues, and the winner will be judged and declared by the united voice of IT executives and decision makers who, thus far, continue to look in the direction of Microsoft. The undeniable fact remains that Linux and open source solutions are not seeing the rapid adoption or deployment rates that would indicate either is being accepted by the industry as a “better” platform for the enterprise. This is the only “proof” I need to offer. If Linux is truly the best solution for the enterprise, where are the raving reviews and mass migrations?
Any further discussion of which platform is better is meaningless, as “better” will be decided by budgetary dollars and not blog posts. The debate between Linux and Windows is dead. Consider this a eulogy.