Most of us would like to win the lottery. Money is no longer an issue and suddenly our quality of life goes through the roof. But winning the lottery is often not all it’s cracked up to be. One of the commonly reported problems, particularly for working class winners, is an identity crisis. Where do they now sit in society? They have access to a life of high culture but relate more readily to popular culture. Linux faces some very similar challenges. It’s low cost of acquisition can be like a cash injection into the IT department, but where does Linux sit; with the aristocratic UNIX team or the proletariat Windows guys?

Linux requires an approach specific to itself – it doesn’t fit in either the UNIX or Windows areas but integrates well into both and can form the bridge between the two.

If you wish to leverage the benefits of Linux and Open Source (innovations and agility) within a corporate environment and not put your infrastructure at risk then you need to understand both the benefits and the risks – your framework for Linux use must encompass elements from both types of approach and deliver the combined benefits of each.

Where does Linux fit with your IT department structure

Linux and UNIX

Linux is a UNIX like operating system. Because of this history and the heritage of the two products, Linux and UNIX have a common foundation. Many of the tools, utilities, and free software products that are standard under Linux were originally developed as free alternatives to the versions available on UNIX. That makes the software skills very similar.

Linux and Microsoft

On the other hand, Linux, like Microsoft products, was originally developed for and predominantly sits on x86 hardware. It does not demand the big ticket hardware that UNIX is exclusively designed for and therefore Linux engineers are not likely to be skilled with UNIX hardware architectures. Add to this the inevitable skills and certification snobbery, and the barricades start to rise. As the famous computer scientist, Dennis Ritchie, is quoted as saying: “UNIX is simple. It just takes a genius to understand its simplicity.” Those geniuses may frown on those with ‘only’ Linux skills but they have much more in common than with the MCSEs down the hall.

Apart from Windows being a far less demanding environment to learn, some argue that the Microsoft certification program was compromised and certificates may as well be put in Christmas crackers. On the other hand, with the mission critical applications typically left to UNIX, Linux has historically been used to provide infrastructure services which position them closer to the Microsoft team again. However, that is changing fast as increasingly tier 1 application vendors, e.g. SAP, certify Linux on x86 as their preferred operating environment. In fact, according to Gartner, by 2017, 65% of applications running on proprietary versions of UNIX in 2012 will have been migrated to x86 (primarily on Linux).

Defining your Linux strategy

Understanding these differences is important but they are not to blame for the challenges in integrating a Linux competency. It all comes down to strategy and due to the nuances of Open Source software that strategy is often at best unclear and emergent. Linux typically got into the organisation a decade ago via the back door and has proliferated organically. It is vital that an organisation first understands and articulates the Linux strategy – why have they chosen to implement Linux and what advantages does it deliver over UNIX and Microsoft? If they intend to build the competencies required to design, deploy and manage Linux in-house rather than outsource to a specialist, then where is it going to sit?

Is it a part of the infrastructure team, the mission critical apps team or a team traversing both? “Establishing this can be a straightforward process but is all too often missed” says Simon Mitchell, Executive Director at LinuxIT.

Our experience

LinuxIT’s ‘H to V’ model is designed to help CIOs and IT Directors to understand how to formulate and implement a successful Linux strategy that drives operational efficiencies at the infrastructure level, improves productivity at the application layer and ultimately delivers competitive advantage for the firm and greater value to the customer and shareholder. “The approach is not new”, says Mitchell. “It relies on the fundamental understanding that effective business information management is dependent on effective management of not just information and technology resources, but also people”.

What LinuxIT is able to do after 13 years of Linux specialisation in the enterprise, is align the IT strategy with the business strategy through a deep understanding of the idiosyncrasies of Linux, both technology and people.

Just for fun, why not download our eGuide ‘Ridiculous IT Requests – The Early Years’ now!