24 January 2003 The Linux revolution in the enterprise is gathering pace. That is the view of PC maker Dell, which yesterday became the latest major company to replace some of its Unix-based servers in favour of servers running on the open source Linux operating system.
Dell CIO Randy Mott, speaking at LinuxWorld 2003 in New York, said that the company had switched 14 of its internal servers from Sun Solaris-based Unix machines to its own servers running an Oracle clustered database Red Hat Linux.
These systems were running Dell’s sales operations databases and sales force compensation databases.
The Austin, Texas-based company’s move comes at a time when a growing number of organisations are going public with their support for Linux, mostly at the expense of Unix operating systems running on proprietary microprocessors from suppliers such as Sun Microsystems.
The savings that can be made by moving to Linux are manifold. First, Linux runs on commodity Intel microprocessors instead of the more expensive, niche processors around which Unix vendors typically design their operating systems, cutting the cost of hardware.
In addition, Linux’s open source development means that there are no licensing charges or other issues commonly associated with licensing that can add to management overheads and costs. Finally, as the industry coalesces around Linux, recruiting adequately qualified staff ought to become easier.
Online broker E*Trade claims it saved $13 million (€12m) in data centre expenses, including maintenance, depreciation and software licensing fees, by replacing two thirds of its Unix servers with 160 Linux-based servers.
“I’m replacing $200,000 Unix machines with $4,000 Intel servers,” E*Trade chief technology officer Joshua Levine told the New York Times.
Analysts at the Meta Group said that Linux now accounts for between 15% and 20% of all new server operating system shipments. But by 2007 Linux running on Intel would account for 45% of new servers.
But ominously, Linux and Unix operating system vendor SCO Group – formed by the acquisition of Santa Cruz Operation (SCO) and Linux software vender Caldera – has revealed that it is conducting an examination of its Unix software patent portfolio in a bid to determine whether any of its patents are being used in Linux.
It has even set up a division to investigate possible patent violations. Chris Sontag, senior vice president of SCO’s operating systems division, admitted that the company was going to be “a little bit more aggressive” to ensure that users and suppliers combine Linux and Unix technology “legitimately”.
Linux is a derivative of the Unix operating system and the two technologies share many similar features.
SCO has hired the services of David Boies, the star prosecuting lawyer in the first Microsoft antitrust trial.