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11/26/2004
12:52 PM
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Where To Place Your OS Bets

Most solutions providers are still on the Windows bandwagon, but more are also weighing open-source alternatives.

The quest for an alternative to the Windows platform has driven many to experiment with the various operating systems out there. Several types exist, from Unix to FreeBSD to Linux—which itself comes in so many flavors that it can complicate selecting which way to go.

When making such a selection, solution providers first must determine whether their customers' desire to use an alternative OS falls under the "anything but Microsoft" realm, or whether there is a legitimate need to select something other than Windows.

FRANK J. OHLHORST
Can be reached via e-mail at fohlhors@cmp.com.
So what are legitimate needs? Most alternative-OS pushers tout cost as a primary factor, but according to various research firms, that argument could go either way, and the water gets even murkier when intangibles such as training, support and documentation are factored in.

 
>>  Solution providers need to understand what OS alternatives mean to their markets.

 
In some cases, a proper cost analysis can prove to be as expensive as the proposed savings.

The real reason for going with an alternative OS should be driven by the solution provider, who has the expertise to leverage what an OS has to offer. Vertical-market applications or specialized needs are the primary factors in selecting alternatives, but they mean nothing unless someone is advocating alternatives.

It's no secret that the majority of solution providers are on the Windows bandwagon, but as new technologies emerge, that very well might change.

That said, any solution provider worth his or her salt needs to understand what alternatives mean to their markets, either to sell and support those OSes or to combat them. While that may seem like a daunting task, solution providers can turn to both the commercial and open-source community to ease the process.

Important tools such as virtual server technology can reduce hardware costs for experimentation, while open-source OSes prove to keep software costs down. Solution providers can log on to KNOPPIX (www.knoppix.org) for a free, bootable CD image of a Debian Linux distribution and assorted open-source applications.

Regardless of the platform a solution provider decides to support, now is the time to be aware of the plethora of choices flooding the market or risk being left behind.

Have you experimented with OS alternatives? Let me know via e-mail at fohlhorst@cmp.com.

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