Open Source

IT needs to retool tech workers for Linux growth

Is there a shortage of Linux techs out there, now that demand for Linux proficiency is growing? Some IT managers are facing the challenge of finding qualified Linux workers -- that they can afford.

*Update: I was fooled by this popping up "new" in my RSS feeds from last week, and it fell in so well with ongoing recent discussions re: Linux and Windows. It's actually from 2004! As Gilda Radner's character used to say on SNL... never mind!

Are there enough Linux experts to go around? Here's an interesting article in ComputerWorld from this week*: "Linux unchained." Author Mary Pratt investigates the claim that Linux growth is outstripping the supply of actual Linux-proficient techs.

Linux is gaining ground so quickly that some companies are having a hard time finding enough people to handle Linux-related work. And those they do find charge a premium, according to The Yankee Group, a market research firm in Boston. Skilled Linux administrators in major metropolitan markets command 20% to 30% salary premiums over their Unix and Windows counterparts—a fact that could diminish the cost savings that many companies bank on when they switch to Linux.

I guess this is a good news/bad news thing. Of course some IT managers interviewed for the article don't think there is a problem:

While some say the lack of personnel with Linux expertise affects the rate at which companies adopt the open-source system, others say IT departments are finding the skills they need without much extra effort or additional pay.

"If you have someone who has experience with other operating systems, I don't think it's all that difficult switching over to Linux," Ciaraldi says. "Conceptually, the commands are the same, the structure is similar. It's just learning what the exact commands are to accomplishing various tasks."

One key idea expressed is the rareness of having techs whose skills embrace proficiency in both Linux and Windows. Hmmmm. This makes me think that the savviest amongst techies will dump the either/or mindset (not that we've seen those arguments play out here before!) and become ambiOStrous. Yeah, I just made that one up. Or maybe Bi-OS. (Okay, I'll stop now, but feel fee to add your own).

It's a good article with lots of food for thought. I was particularly heartened by this quote: "Another skill in Linux is you have to be willing to ask other people for help." In my much more limited world of just trying to get familiar with the basics of Linux — which I'm very much immersed in this week — it made me feel a little less lame for having to ask so many questions about things (shout-out to Jack!).

Now, having said that and for those of you who are following my Mandriva experiment on VirtualBox, I'm finding that I really like it. I've managed to get myself hung up on some annoying hiccups (not being able to get one app do something I want it to), but overall, everything else just works! No problems surfing, getting sound and video playback on the Web, etc. I was able to use my production tools just as well in Mandriva as in my regular Windows environment.

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Selena has been at TechRepublic since 2002. She is currently a Senior Editor with a background in technical writing, editing, and research. She edits Data Center, Linux and Open Source, Apple in the Enterprise, The Enterprise Cloud, Web Designer, and...

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