Put your bets on Linux in the enterprise, says Caldera's Love
(IDG) -- Ransome Love, Caldera Systems CEO, argues that people should put aside their passions to focus on business realities. Love talked with InfoWorld Executive News Editor Michael Vizard about the need to marry the strength of Linux with the investments already made in existing corporate IT infrastructures.
InfoWorld: What differentiates Caldera?
Love: Caldera Systems is focused on providing Linux for business. One of our key messages to business customers is that we take a little bit of extra time, energy, and effort with the Linux distribution rather than just being a packaged service provider. We create a commercial development environment with all of the Linux packages that we provide so that you have the source and the binaries match on the disk. What that means is that resellers and others who are providing turnkey solutions can optimize, support, and take care of the product.
InfoWorld: Some people in the Linux community would argue that you're poisoning the open-source well.
Love: I think that we see less of that perspective today than we have in the past, simply because every single major commercial provider that's coming into Linux is doing exactly what Caldera has said we should do from the beginning.
There will always be those that say you have to have pure open source. The problem with that is there's billions of dollars invested in existing infrastructures, and if Linux is going to succeed, it needs to be not only open-source, but open-minded.
InfoWorld: With IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and just about everybody else gearing up to distribute Linux, what role will you play because they plan to do similar types of integration with enterprise applications?
Love: I think it's a very nice partnership. Our intent is to provide all of the integration on the lower end of the spectrum that marries Linux with the technologies that somebody like IBM would in fact provide. For example, one key area we're focusing in on [is] manageability, security, and identity. Linux does a lot to enable that because of its roots in Unix and remote management. But there are still many areas to focus on, and we feel integrating directory services into Linux is key.
InfoWorld: Then we should expect to see vertical packages based on Linux, such as electronic commerce?
Love: There will definitely be Internet server packages with e-commerce options. There will also be small business packages.
InfoWorld: One of the criticisms of Linux is that the community generates too many revisions. How will this issue be addressed?
Love: One of the key things that we're promoting as an ideal solution to that is Linux standard base. It's a collaborative effort, creating more standard interfaces and protocols, so that the ISV can port once to Linux and have it run in all of the different flavors. We think that's critical, and it's absolutely necessary for Linux to move forward as we bring more of these major players. The ISVs are demanding it. And major corporations, like IBM and others, are demanding that they only get two releases a year because they cannot handle a release every quarter just so the Linux development community can satisfy itself.
InfoWorld: The Linux community just released Version 2.2. How stable is it, and when will you bring it to market?
Love: It's very stable. One of the key things that we've been somewhat criticized for is that we slowed down the process ourselves because we recognized the commercial need. We only do two releases a year.
The whole point with 2.2 is that we've been watching that kernel from its inception and it has matured much, much faster than its predecessors. So you'll see us release a 2.2 kernel on the first of April. One of the key things about 2.2 is that we need it as the platform for our server products that will come out shortly thereafter.
InfoWorld: Microsoft is starting to suggest that the cost of ownership of Windows NT might be less because the support costs around Linux are higher. Any thoughts on this?
Love: There is absolutely no way. Just the differential between what you pay for the Microsoft licenses up front is significant. And then when you take into account the different support options, Microsoft has the same expensive, or more expensive, support options. So the overall solution alone is cheaper.
Now add in the total cost of ownership of NT, which is the cost of the downtime of having that system crash on you every so often. We have major enterprise customers that are now coming to us and saying, 'We are replacing NT and Windows throughout our organization because we can no longer deal with the cost of downtime caused by having Microsoft products in our institution.' They're fed up and they don't need it.
InfoWorld: What has to happen to make Linux more viable on the desktop?
Love: There's actually some industry shifts that are taking place that are facilitating the use of Linux as a desktop [application]. If you look at the movement toward the browser becoming the independent client for almost every single server platform, the browser becomes an increasingly more important part of how you interact with any set of services.
Consequently, if you have your own proprietary applications they deploy out, why do they need Windows at the desktop? All they need is a manageable small footprint, very reliable, with Internet browser capabilities, and then their custom applications that are deployed there. So why maintain the high cost of maintaining another desktop?
InfoWorld: Where else will we see Linux next?
Love: There's one other aspect, and that is intelligent devices. We've actually downsized Linux to where it can fit on a floppy, with a graphical browser. You'll see some announcements in that vein from us.
InfoWorld: Linux doesn't have a component-based architecture to facilitate that process. What has to happen there?
Love: Those are some of the things that we're trying to do with the whole directory infrastructure. We're building in a Web browser administration component that kind of `front-ends' that process. We're looking to do some real nice things with Java so that you can create a comprehensive SDK [software development kit], if you will, that will allow VARs to easily snap the solutions into that.
Michael Vizard is executive news editor for InfoWorld.
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