Many TechRepublic members participate in the great OS debate in our forums and discussion groups, arguing over which OS is better, Linux or Microsoft. Based on the responses, the battle will go on until Microsoft is no longer a tech giant and Linux gains more mainstream attention, and who knows if either of those scenarios will ever happen.

While it’s easy to debate the big-picture, philosophical issues of this topic, the more valuable debate centers on what each OS brings to your organization. TechRepublic members are split on the benefits of Linux. This article focuses on what members said about Linux in a heated discussion following a recent TechRepublic article about the OS. The article, “Consider these cost issues before choosing Linux,” stated that Linux, the “free” OS, has its unique cost issues.

However, many members did not feel that the costs associated with Linux are enough to make them ditch the alternative OS. Read on to find out what these IT professionals said about the widely discussed article and what other hidden costs they’ve encountered with Linux.

Other cost issues
The article argued that hiring a Linux expert and buying support for Linux are “hidden” costs that many organizations may overlook.

Some members said the article was incorrect, from their perspectives, and that a competent IT staff does not need an expert to implement Linux. Other members said that using a consultant for “a onetime Linux training” session or hiring a full-time expert are price issues to consider.

The original article mentioned three areas that can add to or reduce the cost of a Linux install:

  • Hiring a Linux specialist: You will want to add Linux experience to your staff before a Linux install.
  • Support and maintenance issues: If you use a free version of Linux, you might need support from third-party organizations.
  • Equipment savings: Linux can run on older machines, saving money on new equipment.

TechRepublic member jstanton named two other Linux cost benefits and said the article left out the most important cost element.

“Your Linux investment is a onetime cost. You buy a distribution, pay a consultant to get it configured to suit your needs [and this has a cost], but then you deploy your solution and your replication cost is minimal. No more distributions to buy, no royalties, etc. The larger scale your operation, the more you save,” jstanton wrote.

“I also did not see [in the article] an estimate of the savings you get when your server doesn’t crash regularly. A system that runs for months unattended [like Linux] generates ongoing savings,” jstanton added.

Adding a Linux guru to your staff
The article mentioned that hiring someone with Linux experience is one cost issue that some managers fail to consider when implementing Linux. Members differed on this point.

Harry Bosch felt that the article’s comment about finding Linux experience was misleading and disagreed with the premise that a Linux expert was needed. “I just read this as [to mean] your staff is incompetent.”

Bosch felt that an educated staff would understand the concepts and mechanisms that make any OS work without formal training or before the OS is in place. “If you have a real staff, you send them to a course or two to get them up to speed and they will handle it,” he said.

Some members disagreed with Bosch. They felt that adding Linux experience to an IT staff is important and a cost that organizations easily overlook.

Member Bryan Guffey said that some organizations, especially smaller ones, do not have the time or resources to learn a new OS from scratch. These smaller firms, he explained, may also not take a risk on Linux due to its lack of industry standards and acceptance.

“Small firms ‘feel’ comfortable that they can bank on an MCSE having at least a modicum of knowledge about something. And until the Linux community lightens up on their refusal to embrace a similar set of paper standards for professionals, I don’t think that small firms will fork out enough to motivate a young crop of techs to learn the OS in their free time,” said Guffey.

TechRepublic member ninewands also disagreed with Bosch. “Linux is a variant of UNIX. The concepts, tools, and operating principles of [UNIX] and any flavor of Windows are radically different, and I defy a ‘Real Administrator’ who has only worked in a Microsoft shop to set up a network of Linux/UNIX boxes to present a single system image similar to Windows…,” ninewands wrote.

Manipulating the kernel
Members disagreed with another statement in the article that said organizations without Linux expertise cannot easily manipulate the Linux kernel, the heart of the Linux OS.

The original article stated that, “to fully unleash Linux’s potential, you’ll need someone in-house with the expertise to manipulate the Linux kernel code.”

Bosch vehemently responded. “To use Linux you need to manipulate the kernel code? No way. You can do all the standard nifty things like running the Apache Web server, setting up a free Windows file server with SAMBA without even looking at the kernel,” he said.

Member ninewands disagreed. “Only a custom kernel will allow a Linux machine to reach its full potential, but at least we aren’t stuck with a one-size-fits-all solution,” ninewands said.

Furthermore, ninewands explained, using an installed kernel module root kit might make it difficult for your staff to detect if a Linux box has been compromised or the Linux code altered. “Because of this, the use of a modular kernel makes intrusion recovery more difficult. Modularization of the kernel was done to make a one-size-fits-all solution possible for the commercial distributors…,” said ninewands.

Sticking up for the underdog
Despite the dissension over some of the article’s statements, most respondents to the article’s discussion felt that Linux, while difficult to learn, is a stable and powerful OS.

TechRepublic member Anthropic Al wrote, “However much Linux costs, however difficult it is to learn, we need it.”

“Granted, it is more complicated and less familiar than Windows-based OSs, but I trust it far more than any other OS out there,” added member Brian@sunergize.

Looking for the straight answer on Linux?

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