In-Depth

Who goes there?

At the British Columbia Genome Sciences Center, the policy is to standardize on one or two versions of Linux to maintain stability. “We run on Red 7.2 for the most part, although we have Red Hat 9 running on Opterons,” said Asim Siddiqui, bio-informatics group leader. “A single version would be ideal, but problems arise because different machines have different requirements.”

Although the Genome Center is a non-profit organization, its use of Linux typifies the corporate mainstream that relies on commercial distributions because it is vendor-supported and inexpensive. The fact that Linux is open source is incidental.

However, before Linux was accepted by the IBMs and Oracles of the world, most Linux installations tended to follow the open-source, do-it-yourself model. There, distributions were downloaded, tweaked and then shared with the rest of the open-source community in compliance with the General Public License (GPL) model that regulated its use.

A great example is the office of the Rhode Island Secretary of State, which follows the open-source model to the hilt. As a government agency, the organization tends to write its own software because there are few packages available commercially.

Additionally, as an arm of the government, there is little budget for buying software.

“The last thing we need is to be jumping through hoops for Red Hat; we don’t need that level of support,” said Jim Willis, director of e-government and IT, whose organization epitomizes the development teams that helped to grow Linux in the first place. “Our main development tool is still EMACS,” he said, noting that, “we’re all pretty much old Unix hackers, so we can compile kernels in our sleep.”

Please see the following related story: “IT slow to embrace enterprise Linux” by Tony Baer

“The paradox of open source” by Tony Baer

About the Author

Tony Baer is principal with onStrategies, a New York-based consulting firm, and editor of Computer Finance, a monthly journal on IT economics. He can be reached via e-mail at tbaer@tbaer.com.

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