The State of Linux 2003

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. It was, in short, Linux time.

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. It was, in short, Linux time.

This past year, Linux has shown that it’s got the stuff to make it in the enterprise. But you don’t have to take my word for it: IBM has embraced Linux as their business operating system, and major software vendors like Oracle have taken Linux to heart (or whatever passes for a heart in Ellison’s empire… but I digress). Of course, it was also the year that SCO decided to sue IBM (over Big Blue’s use of SCO’s Unix code in AIX and Linux), to sue Linux users, and to attack the GPL.

Yet despite all of the sound and fury of SCO’s seemingly endless attacks against Linux, most users agree with Linux founder Linus Torvalds that SCO “is smoking crack.” I doubt they’re smoking crack — but they might be hitting their own stash. I think SCO’s leaders have convinced themselves that they’re in the right, and that they should take all legal means necessary to try to make their case.

So, is SCO right? And perhaps more importantly, can SCO convince corporate customers that they’re right?

As for the first question, no, SCO isn’t in the right. I’ve written myself to death on the subject, so to sum up: SCO’s Unix intellectual property (IP) claims are build on sand, not rock. As for their assault on the GPL… Oh, please! What can you say about a company — indeed, a (former) leader of Linux — that attacks the very same license it used for years? Even now, SCO is still leveraging the GPL: they include Samba in their UnixWare operating system line. I’m sorry, SCO, but you can’t throw out your open source cake and eat it, too.

No, you don’t need to worry about the reality of SCO’s claims. The perception, however, is a horse of another color. If enough people believe that simply running Linux will get them into legal hot water, Linux could be stopped.

I don’t believe that’s happening, though. And, Dan Kusnetzky, Grand Guru of all things operating system for IDC, assures me that, while Linux sales growth in the server arena was flat at the turn of the century, Linux’s growth on servers is picking up again. So, it would seem that for all of SCO’s caterwauling, Linux is continuing to grow.

As well it should. Have you compared the TCO or ROI of Linux to Microsoft’s Server 2003 — the only serious, new, Intel-based server operating system left out there? I have, and the clear winner is Linux.


Yeah, Server 2003 is fast. So what? If all you care about is file or web server speed and not cost, Server 2003 is today’s hot-rod server OS. Of course, Microsoft did all their benchmarking before Samba 3 was out and they compared their kernel-based server IIS 6 to Apache and not to kernel-based TUX. What do you think? I think a properly-tuned and built-for-speed Linux can run Server 2003 into the ground.

But, forget about that. Where are Server 2003′s server applications? You know, like, say, oh, Exchange 2000 or 5.5? It turns out you can’t run those and other server applications on Server 2003 (http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,3959,1043359,00.asp). And adding salt to the wound, many of Microsoft’s own applications won’t run on Server 2003 either (see the article at http://www.microsoft-watch.com/article2/0,4248,1041408,00.asp).

Remember when everyone talked about how great Linux was, but pitied the poor penguin because it lacked applications? I hate to break it to the Microsoft offices out there, but Linux now has more server applications, many more, at its administrators’ beck and call, than does Server 2003. Amazing, no?

Besides, it’s very clear that Microsoft is trying to force customers into buying Server 2003 for server OS needs, and simultaneously, are pushing into upgrading your server application suite. The economy is getting better, but how many businesses can afford to upgrade their servers and their server applications at the same time? Answer: none that I know of. You?

Moving towards 2004, I don’t think — I know — that Linux will play an even greater role in your office’s servers than it ever has before. All of SCO’s lawyers, and all of Microsoft’s marketing dollars, can’t stop it.

As 2003 draws to a close, Linux is a sound business decision — stronger than ever, and more sophisticated than ever. And that is that.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is a long-time Unix guru and technology writer. He can be reached at sjvn@vna1.com.

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