Base selection on business case

The Linux penguin logo is now as recognisable to IT people as the Microsoft logo, proof of how the technology has come of age and is ready for consideration in a business environment. It is a low-cost operating system and considered by many to be more efficient than Windows providing better throughput on the same hardware. There are also plenty of free applications for it, but the decision to deploy Linux shouldn't be a technology one. It should be based on total cost of ownership (TCO) which includes the cost of the hardware, operating system, the compatibility with current applications and the skill set of the I.T. team to support it.

It’s no use having a low-cost Linux tool if your IT team has to spend large amounts of money re-skilling or if a mission-critical application won’t run on it.

Three years ago our IT team was supporting an Oracle database on a proprietary Unix server. The server was several years old and needed upgrading but the cost was prohibitive which also meant we didn’t have a test server running the same O/S.

As the application wasn’t 24x7 we decided we could risk alternatives. Redhat’s 7.E Oracle certified version on Intel delivered approximately five times better performance than the proprietary Unix server. One years maintenance cost of the proprietary server was more than the outright purchase of two Intel servers (live and test) with three years maintenance and we didn’t have a single failure.

Linux is now established as a viable alternative for Web and application servers. It’s used as an O/S in networking gear and there are distributions that run on the desktop that provide all the regular Office functionality, even on a 4 year old PC!

In summary, Linux in its various forms is a viable alternative if you have the environment that it can work in and the skill set to cost effectively support it. But ensure it’s a sound, transparent business decision rather than a technology decision. But it’s certainly nice to have alternatives to consider!

Peter Nimmo

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