Open Source

When Linux is a bad choice for your clients

Although Linux has a much-hyped reputation as a cheap and reliable software alternative, it might not be the best choice for some of your clients. Find out when to say "yes" to Linux and when to say "no."

While Linux has made inroads into the enterprise and has won over some with its low initial cost, how can you tell if it’s not the right solution for your clients?

In this article, we’ll take a quick look at when analysts and even Linux advocates suggest that the operating system might not be the best choice.

Second of two parts
This is the second of a two-part series that discusses Linux as an option for clients. The first article, “Can low-cost, reliable Linux give you a competitive edge?” discussed Linux's pricing and reliability with IT analysts.

Great here…
According to Gartner, the major markets for Linux currently are:
  • Web servers
  • Network edge-based appliances
  • Intranets/extranets
  • E-mail
  • File/print servers
  • Application servers
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Linux is great in certain situations, but like any solution, it is not an IT panacea, cautioned John Gowin, an IT consultant who writes for and Element K Journals. Gowin is also the vice president and partner of Third Level Strategies, a Kentucky-based consultancy.

Even Red Hat, the leading Linux vendor, doesn’t try to pretend Linux is for everyone.

Arun Kumar, practice director of Open Source Consulting and Enterprise System Managements at Red Hat, pointed out that companies using off-the-shelf applications might discover their product isn’t available for Linux. Though there are efforts to expand the application offerings for this OS, it still lags behind Microsoft and more established systems.

…but needs work here
Here are the issues these experts say they watch for when advising clients to use Linux:
  • 24/7 connectivity
    Gowin advised recommending Linux only when the client will have a constant Internet connection, which enables you or a vendor to administer the Linux system remotely. He is reluctant to suggest a Linux solution if the company uses a dial-up connection.
  • Available support
    Red Hat and a few other Linux vendors now offer end-to-end customer support. But if your client isn’t using an out-of-the box solution, PricewaterhouseCoopers consultant Neal Irwin said he would be hesitant to recommend Linux to clients if he didn’t have a good relationship with several Linux engineers who can provide sound installation and service. It’s also important, he added, to provide clients with several alternative support vendors in case they are not satisfied with a particular engineer’s service.
  • No desktops
    The desktop remains Linux’s Holy Grail. When it comes to widespread desktop use, most agreed that the average end user isn’t ready for Linux, particularly if the end users need a wide range of applications. Gowin said the software has come a long way in the past two years, but he hesitates to say it is as consumer-friendly as other solutions, although he does use Linux as a desktop solution in his business.
    An exception to this, according to Kumar, would be if the company locks down its PCs and uses only one or two non-Windows applications or an Internet browser.
  • Significant scalability needs
    According to Giga Information Group analyst Stacey Quandt, Linux still isn’t as scalable as some high-end solutions, such as UNIX. Therefore, if scalability is a major condition for a client, investigate carefully before recommending Linux.

Ultimately, adding Linux to the list of tools you can offer clients may make you more competitive, but as a consultant, you still should consider what’s best for the client before recommending a solution.

“It’s just an operating system, not a religion,” Gowin said.

Is Linux ready for the desktop?
Do you think Linux is ready for the desktop? Under what conditions have you or would you recommend a client use Linux as a desktop solution? Join our discussion by posting below.


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