Linux who? Most IT folks don't know it

For all the attention that vendors and the media are showering on Linux, the inexpensive - and often free - version of Unix still is an unknown quantity among mainstream corporate IT managers in the US, a new Computerworld US survey has revealed.

The survey of 154 IT managers in North America found Linux has a long way to go to win them over. Few companies - just 9 per cent - are using Linux, while another 5 per cent are considering its use. But 55 per cent aren't even familiar with Linux.

IT managers often are the last to know when Linux has been installed by rank-and-file engineers at a company, analysts and Linux enthusiasts said, suggesting that actual Linux deployment is larger than the survey indicated. But because the managers make the spending and strategic decisions, they will need to embrace Linux before it can become a standard.

The survey showed that if a company such as IBM or Microsoft were to support Linux, IT managers would be more open to it.

A typical Linux-averse example is Wells Fargo, a commercial bank based in San Francisco. With year 2000 problems to worry about, the bank is clamping down on the use of shareware, said Tim Keefe, a vice president responsible for LANs and desktop systems.

The bank knows how to deal with blue-chip operating systems such as Windows NT and NetWare, he said. But shareware --with little or no support - could pose a risk, he said. The company has sought to root out unauthorised shareware installations, including at least one Linux implementation.

Regardless, major vendors are beginning to line up behind Linux, and the software has achieved widespread adoption outside of corporations, said Dan Kusnetsky, an analyst at IDC.

IDC's research has shown the software to be most popular with small, thrifty Internet service providers; scientists; academic institutions; companies that provide applications over the Internet; and corporate departments that have been told to build Internet applications but haven't been given funding.

Kusnetsky said that because most universities use Linux as a teaching tool, he expects that Linux eventually will become a mainstream operating system as traditional support services start to emerge for it.

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