Linux community cool on Windows 2000

In the midst of all the hype surrounding the launch of Windows 2000, the Linux community in Singapore is playing it cool.

With its Unix roots and open-source paradigm, Linux has been seen by many as a serious competitor to Windows NT, but Microsoft has raised the operating system bar with the recent launch of Windows 2000, a product which promises better total cost of ownership (TCO), scalability, and stability benefits.

The Linux community in Singapore, however, has remained unfazed and diplomatic in its approach.

"Windows 2000 is a good server with great value, but Linux will give it a run for its money," said Jensen Ek, vice president, Silicon Graphics International (SGI) Asia-Pacific. SGI is a strong supporter of Linux, and is actively involved in contributing source code to enhance the operating system.

According to International Data Corp. (IDC), Linux's worldwide server operating system market share in 1998 grew by 212 percent. However its 17.2 percent share still pales in comparison to Windows NT at 36 percent.

"In Asia-Pacific, Linux's current market share is between 3 and 5 percent," said Avneesh Saxena, manager, systems and servers, IDC Asia-Pacific.

"The real test for Linux will come when IA-64 is ready and all the operating systems move there," said Ek.

Harish Pillay, chief technology officer of local startup Inquisitive Mind, is also unconcerned about the advent of Windows 2000.

"We will still use Linux to run our business and we are very happy with it," he said. "We like Linux because the open-source movement makes it very easy and fast to make the necessary changes to get our system up and running."

The company has recently launched an educational Web portal for use by schools in the region, and uses Linux on all its servers.

Pillay, who is also president of the Linux Users' Group (Singapore), is confident that Linux will soon incorporate any feature it currently lacks.

"Any nifty feature or good idea that Windows 2000 has will eventually show up in Linux because it is end-user driven," he said.

Webworks, a local systems integrator focusing on Linux, is also indifferent to the Windows 2000 launch.

"It is of no consequence," said Hin Chin Qui, founder and business development director, Webworks. "I totally respect Windows 2000, but we will continue doing Linux as there is enough space for everyone. Both operating systems will continue to grow."

"When my customers deploy Linux, they tend to do so in tandem with Windows," he added. "You can't be too religious about operating systems."

According to Saxena, Linux does not compete with NT at the higher end.

"It is currently playing at the lower end, not upscaled to mission critical applications," he said. "It is increasing in its capabilities and is evolving and will be ready in the future. Linux is strong in the Internet space, and Microsoft should watch it closely."

Saxena noted however, that Microsoft has "very strong marketing muscle, so if it really presses on the accelerator, any OS vendor should be scared."

Meanwhile, SGI is readying Linux for the high-end.

It has introduced a suite of Linux-based systems including SGI Internet Server, SGI 1200 2-way Intel-based Linux server, SGI Linux Advanced Cluster Environment, and SGI ProPack 1.2 for Redhat, with large memory support.

"SGI's strategy for Linux goes beyond the box to providing a full suite of applications," said Ek.

"We are very serious about Linux and are convinced we can make a difference in the Linux world," added Ashok Desai, director, enterprise solutions business, Asia-Pacific, SGI Asia-Pacific.

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