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SmartAdvice: Build Facts And Allies To Get Head Start On Budgeting

Start now to identify budget strategies and then stick to the party line, The Advisory Council says. Look at your company's long-term commitment to particular software vendors and business strategies when considering open-source software; and think through access to your resources and who's responsible for security before outsourcing.

Question B: What are the fundamental business issues in the adoption of Linux?

Our advice: In all the hype and controversy surrounding Linux (and other open-source software), it's easy to lose sight of a fundamental principle of IT decision-making: Technology decisions should begin with understanding the long-term needs of the business.

The decision to use Linux, proprietary Unix, Microsoft Windows, or some combination is ultimately a decision about long-term corporate commitment to particular software vendors. This has implications for your business and IT organization that are much larger than the technical differences between the software platforms. The two most critical questions are:

  • How much of an issue is vendor lock-in for your business?

  • How deep are your technical staff resources? How deep do you want them to be?

Related Links

Consider Hardware First In Figuring Linux Ownership Costs

Open Source Stress

Vendor Lock-In
We've long believed that midsize and larger businesses, which have the buying power to negotiate prices and license terms, should try to avoid vendor lock-in. You will get a better today deal if IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Novell, and Red Hat know they're competing for your Linux business than you're likely to get from Microsoft for Windows, or from Sun Microsystems for Solaris. Moreover, the long-term benefit from avoiding vendor lock-in is economic--the ability to walk away (or at least threaten to walk away) from a vendor whose pricing or licensing becomes onerous.

Depth Of Technical Resources
Your future is often determined by your past, and this issue is no exception. If your current infrastructure and staff expertise is Microsoft-centric, then the learning curve for Linux and related technologies will be steep.

Most large companies, particularly those that have grown by acquisition, have an assortment of systems, including Linux and proprietary Unix. Such companies usually have far more technical expertise on staff than does the typical Microsoft-only shop, making the integration of tools and applications from a variety of open-source vendors practical. To the extent that self-contained business units within a large company may be Microsoft-centric, the company should expect to have pockets of Windows servers in those business units and plan its IT architecture accordingly.

For small businesses that have limited technical depth and would probably pay full price for Linux support anyway, there are advantages to being a Microsoft shop. Microsoft's systems, servers, and applications are well-integrated and generally consistent from both user and technical-support perspectives. While it's true that Microsoft is usually not a technology leader (in being first to market), small businesses probably shouldn't be early adopters of new technologies anyway, unless they're technology companies.

-- Peter Schay

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