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Underestimating the Mission Critical Role of Linux by Mark Rais -       Underestimating the Mission Critical Role of Linux
By Mark Rais, senior editor for

To what extent is Linux serving in mission critical environments? This question keeps getting raised and is likely to be linked more with ignorance than any realistic assessment.

Despite a steady stream of research verifying the use of Linux in the enterprise, there are some lingering doubts as to the prevalence of Linux in mission critical environments.

Some industry experts continue to believe that Linux remains an “edge of the enterprise” solution. These IT leaders see Linux relegated to the function of print and web serving, but not used extensively for core applications roles like email, data management, etc.

A segment of IT leaders still hold the view that Linux is neither prolific in their data centers nor does it run mission critical applications.

This perspective seems at odds with reality, considering that as far back as 2004 research firms were reporting the role of Linux in mission critical application environments. Forrester research then showed that “fifty-three percent of the 140 corporate executives surveyed run mission-critical applications on Linux, and 52% choose Linux for new apps.”, from their Linux Crosses Into Mission-Critical Apps.

Not suprisingly, the many recent publications indicate that the role for Linux in mission critical deployments is continually growing. The recent IDC whitepaper found that:

"IDC has seen a movement to increasingly favor the use of Linux as a platform to support more mission-critical workloads on all architectures where Linux is used"
More details are available in the IDC WHITE PAPER: The Opportunity for Linux in a New Economy, by Al Gillen, sponsored by Linux Foundation. While such studies are prevalent, a portion of corporate IT leaders still do not understand the significance and capacity of Linux for mission critical roles.

Many executives I have spoken with over the past few months simply have no idea that Linux is there in the first place.

IT engineers often implement enterprise Linux deployments without explicitly communicating the platform to their leadership. As a result, few decision makers are actually aware that Linux currently addresses their business need and requirements.

Explaining or defending the underlying platform, when it will clearly meet key requirements, becomes irrelevant.

In some cases, engineers wish to avoid expending time clarifying this to edge of technology leader (CFO, CTO, CEO, SVP of Technologies) the details that could see the project hung or rejected.

In many cases, Linux use occurs across the enterprise without any recognition or emphasis. This subtle deployment of Linux servers impacts the overall acknowledgment of its use in mission critical functions of the business.

However, Linux deployments for mission critical functions are steadily increasing. I've reiterated this in several earlier articles including: Linux in Enterprise Is Already Prime Time.

The healthcare industry serves as a reasonable example, where the mainframe market growth has been significant over the past few years. Much of this growth is led by major corporations like IBM -- with the underlying OS being Linux.

Linux is used extensively in Hospitals, Data centers, Call centers, and a growing number of email and business systems contexts.

What some leaders do not understand is that with today’s emphasis on virtualization and multiplatform support, Linux is just another integral part of most mission critical environments.

Moreover, Linux also remains the fastest growing OS for High Performance Computing (HPC), which frequently ties directly to business mission critical applications.

Finally, as the impact of monetary liquidity hits on bottom line corporate spending, Linux use has expanded aggressively to counter the rising costs associated with capital expenditures.

This was also stated in the recent IDC whitepaper, which indicated that Linux is:
"well-positioned to ride existing and new market trends."
Functionality and costs factor strongly in current mission critical deployments and Linux is an overt fit.

Leading mission critical solutions companies like IBM, Unisys, and Fujitsu continue to increasingly deploy their Linux based systems, ensuring long term growth.

Hopefully this article serves to remind IT leaders that Linux and mission critical business roles remain quite congenial even in today's economic shifts.

Mark Rais is a Linux technologist and writer who previously served as a senior manager for Netscape and AOL.

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