How hot is Linux, the open source operating system? No one really knows -- even Bob Young, the CEO of software distributor Red Hat Inc. Last year, Young estimated the Linux installed base to be at "between 4 million and 10 million" users. That's about as useful as estimating that Mark McGwire will hit between 10 and 100 home runs next year.
But while no one's really sure how many users there are, one thing is clear: CIOs want someone to call if and when their Linux apps hit turbulence. Indeed, the lack of consistent technical support has historically been one of the biggest obstacles to widespread corporate acceptance of the operating system.
Today CIOs have a place to turn for help with Linux: Linuxcare Inc., a new company that provides Linux technical support for Fortune 2000 companies. Based in San Francisco, Linuxcare is building what it claims to be the largest knowledge base of Linux-related technical information for all hardware platforms; that information is available free of charge on the company's Web site at http://www.linuxcare.com. Service reps are also available to paying customers at a variety of prices and levels of support. Help for one business day, for example, runs $195 per incident; a 25-incident "pack" costs $4,144. Linuxcare was co-founded in August 1998 by Arthur Tyde, who also started the Bay Area Linux Users Group. Sounds like a man on a mission.