The open source community continues to grow in numbers, and many major vendors recognize the movement’s strength. IBM, Sun, and SGI are among the firms supporting Linux side by side with their proprietary solutions. Certainly, Linux offers numerous benefits that merit your consideration as you decide on an OS platform for your development solutions.

Will Linux meet your needs?
You should answer a number of basic questions before deciding on an operating system:

  • Does it support the compiler you’re using?
  • Does it support the necessary developer IDEs, tools, and utilities?
  • Does it integrate easily with production and testing environments?
  • Are developers comfortable with the operating system, and does it facilitate development efforts?
  • Is it compatible with your primary release platform?
  • Is it cost-effective?

Obviously, if your primary release platform is Windows, you’re reading the wrong article. However, if you plan to release on UNIX, Linux is at least worth an evaluation.

Until Linux’s popularity blossomed, language selection had a hand in dictating operating system. If you were writing Java code, it most likely would run on Sun’s Solaris platform to have access to the best tools and to get the best performance. Of course, developer kit ports are available. But when given the choice between using such a utility on the primary platform or one it was migrated to, your best bet is to stick with the native implementation. With major vendors now supporting Linux, reliable tools are increasingly becoming available for the OS.

In addition to proprietary software, the GNU Foundation and other open source advocates have delivered developer solutions that challenge even the best-funded proprietary rivals. In fact, Bugzilla, Concurrent Versioning System (CVS), and a variety of popular IDEs have been created natively for Linux and ported elsewhere, giving the Linux trend momentum from another direction. Some of these solutions have overtaken expensive competitors, leaving little room for doubt when it comes to supporting developer needs.

As for ease of use, Linux was criticized for the longest time because its windowless environment had a high learning curve for converted Windows and Macintosh users. Today, however, several Linux windowing environments will make any developer feel at home.

Finally, Linux was originally created as one developer’s project, in reaction to MINIX, the first open source operating system. Since that time, literally thousands of developers have added their experience to the further evolution of Linux to make it the most actively maintained system in the world. Ultimately, Linux was created by developers, for developers.

Linux vendor support
As Linux grows more popular, vendors have begun to see the value of tapping into an otherwise inaccessible market. These companies have embraced Linux as a way to produce proprietary software geared toward participants of the open source movement.

IBM has made products for and contributed to open source application development on Linux. WebSphere Studio Workbench provides essential IDE and collaboration development utilities. IBM also has tools for Java development on Linux and offers a general-purpose, open source IDE, Eclipse.

Sun Microsystems not only has a suite of tools for Java development on Linux, but it also offers a port of Linux for its hardware, encouraging use of Linux applications on the SPARC processor.

Similarly, SGI maintains an open source project that supports a Linux port for MIPS and has produced several open source Linux tools, including OpenGL Performer 3D rendering toolkit, Open Motif, and dmSDK (Digital Media Software Development Kit) for processing digital media in applications.

Linux resources
Another compelling benefit that comes from developing on Linux is support. Many companies, such as Red Hat, offer support services for Linux, and the community of developers that work on the operating system is extremely active. Dozens, if not hundreds, of resources exist for developers in need, including forums, user groups, Web sites, and tutorials.

Be sure to keep these sites on your radar if you’re considering Linux as your development platform:

Development on Linux
Over the past 10 years, Linux has become a viable and proven choice for a development platform. With enhanced vendor support and numerous resources, Linux could be the low-cost, high-quality solution your developers will appreciate.