Can Linux survive its unreasonable defenders?

We expected letters from Linux devotees responding to John Williams' October tale about his difficulties in installing Linux on his small home network. We were hoping we could start a debate among readers on Linux's place in the IT organization of the new millennium. Many letter writers did present thoughtful arguments for and against the place of Linux in IT. But too many others lashed out with personal attacks against the writer.

Contributing Editor Williams is the manager of the Application Development Technologies unit at Carolina Power & Light. His job is to evaluate new and emerging technologies for CP&L's IT operation. He brought the first Linux machines into the utility. John has been at that job for several years, and he has articulated his challenges in ADT and previously
as editor of Object Magazine/Component Strategies. In other words, this is a guy who knows technology and business.

For those of you who missed it, Williams' column recounted the difficulties he faced in installing and setting up the Linux network and in getting help from his vendor, Red Hat Software. His conclusion: if these problems are fixed -- and there's no reason to think they can't -- Linux has a real opportunity to be a platform for enterprise development.

Apparently, there are Linux devotees out there who are fighting any criticism of the operating system. Many chastised the knowledge and expertise of an experienced IT professional -- experienced in Unix and Linux -- taking on how he undertook what he described as a typical IT skunk works project simply because of the result of that effort. The project was what it was. The results were what they were. Unless Linux backers can accept that work still needs to be done to make the software ready for the enterprise, they are simply hurting their cause. Linux isn't perfect. There are issues that need to be resolved before it can become mainstream. But the problems can't be fixed unless they are acknowledged.

And criticizing, make that condemning, the messenger could lead buyers to dismiss Linux as a technology fad, which would be a mistake. Linux has the chance to deliver on the promises of an "open" Unix. It can be an ideal platform for corporate Web apps. Williams says as much in his column.

Blindness to Linux's limitations could prove fatal to efforts to expand its reach beyond niche status. The former Open Software Foundation (OSF) used to regularly lash out at critics of its Unix standard and its plan to extend its reach. And where is OSF/1 today?

Linux isn't a religion. It's not a philosophy. It's a technology that can help IT folks do their job better. Don't fall into the "us vs. them" trap. John Williams isn't an enemy of Linux. I can't say the same about some of his critics. Let us know what you think.

About the Author

Mike Bucken is former Editor-in-Chief of Application Development Trends magazine.