Defection: Microsoft Proponent Moves To Linux
'Suppose I upgrade to Windows 2003 and Windows XP. What would I be able to do then that I can't do with my current boxes? Nothing. I don't need all of the collaborative features,' Hentzen says.
Since its inception more than a decade ago, Linux has held a special appeal for small businesses because of its low startup cost, kernel stability, and communal approach to problem solving. It was so attractive that Whil Hentzen, an eight-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Programmer Award, has for the past two years been converting most of his company's Windows systems to open source.
As president of Hentzenwerke Corp., a small publisher specializing in custom software-development and technical books, Hentzen also received Microsoft's 2001 Lifetime Achievement Award for his programming work with Microsoft's FoxPro developer tools. But by the end of this month, Hentzen plans to migrate one of his company's Dell PowerEdge file servers from Windows NT 4.0 to Red Hat 9. If this goes well, in September, he plans to replace his proprietary Gordano Messaging Server from Gordano Ltd. with open-source E-mail software, a move he expects will save his company $1,000 in annual support costs.
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Why the switch? "A confluence of things made me look at what else is out there," Hentzen says. The most compelling reason came from Microsoft, which has pushed its FoxPro development tools aside in favor of .Net, Hentzen says. That's fine for larger companies, but not for small ones, he adds.
"Microsoft wanted [FoxPro programmers] to spend thousands of dollars and time to learn .Net," he says. "I thought there would be more opportunities in open source." Add to this the trouble Hentzen was having with crashes and blue screens on the Windows NT 4.0 servers running his publishing business, and a change clearly was needed.
In InformationWeek Research's recent survey of 420 business-technology professionals, those from companies with annual revenue of less than $100 million cite cost as the top reason to adopt Linux as a PC operating system, closely followed by the need for an alternative to Windows.
"I don't have a problem paying for something I find valuable," Hentzen says. "What I want is a choice."
He estimates that in 2002, it would have cost him $10,000 to upgrade his servers and workstations to the latest versions of Windows. "Suppose I upgrade to Windows 2003 and Windows XP. What would I be able to do then that I can't do with my current boxes? Nothing," he says. "I don't need all of the collaboration features available in the latest versions of Windows."
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Illustration by Tom Nick Cocotos