Looking back on LinuxWorld

It was a good week for Linux as software vendors, application developers,and leading computer makers filled the San Jose Convention Center to demonstrate their support for open-source computing at the fourth LinuxWorldConference and Expo.

From Adaptec to Zend Technologies, more than 200 exhibitors were on hand todemonstrate that Linux is primed to become a major force in enterprise computing.

And the presence of nearly every major computer maker at the trade show convinced many attendees that Linux's time has come.

"There are a lot of big players here," said Jerry Deruntz, a senior CAD systems engineer at Lattice Semiconductor, in Sunnyvale, California. "That signifies that Linux is moving into the enterprise." Those industry players included IBM, Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard, Compaq Computer and Dell Computer.

Deruntz also pointed to the availability of e-business-related technologies and the potential for ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications on Linux as reasons why Linux could become an enterprise contender. Deruntz said that a number of the vendors his company already works with on platforms other than Linux are now supporting the open-source OS, and that creates potential for his company to move easily to it.

Simon Friedman, a developer at Nolo.com, a Berkeley, California-based publisher of self-help legal books, said that the sheer number of applications that vendors are making available on Linux impressed him.

"Linux is becoming more user friendly and practical," Friedman said. "There are efforts being made to make it accessible to the average user." As a result of the applications and industry support, Lattice's Deruntz said, Linux will make it in the enterprise.

"Two years ago, it was just a hobbyists operating system, but it's not for just hobbyists anymore," Deruntz added.

Larry Walls, CIO of Huntsville Hospital System, in Huntsville, Alabama, said seeing IBM, HP, Compaq, and Sun unite around the GNOME desktop environment, which simplifies the Linux interface and that very likely could integrate Linux with other Unix operating systems, satisfies his desire to see Linux on the PC.

But, he said, more work must be done.

"I would love to go to Linux on the desktop for all my users, but here's the problem: We have a ton of legacy stuff running on mainframes," Walls said. "In our particular case, there is a client that's required and it just got certified for Windows 98 recently, so getting the vendor to certify it for Linux will be tough." According to one analyst, the responsibility of bridging that final distance to proprietary operating environments may rest with the open source community.

Linux users "are going to need some way to do file interoperation between the Linux and Windows-based environments," said Nathan Brookwood, an analyst at Saratoga, Calif.-based Insight 64. "If [Linux] can't be brought in to a Windows network where NT servers are dominant and where Microsoft's Outlook is the dominant e-mail environment, there is no way to get a toehold."

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