Posted by Rob Enderle

I started writing about Linux not because I thought it interesting, fascinating, or even because I liked to code (I don’t).

I started writing about Linux because I was told I couldn’t and the more people told me I couldn’t, and particularly when they said “or else,” the more the Linux dirty laundry became attractive to me. In short, if anyone bothers to look at the sequence of events, they will see that the Linux community pushed me down this path. Granted I didn’t fight much, but I have this thing about cover-ups. I believe they can lead to disasters both within a company and across a nation; here in the U.S. this last point, whether it be Global Warming or Iraq, would seem self evident.

So this time I’d like to talk about the five things you can’t talk about without being attacked by OSS supporters. I’ll take the heat, and as always, I’m not suggesting you stop deployment of Linux, I’m just suggesting you intelligently cover your backside.

One: Is Linux a Myth?

This strikes me as both the most obvious and the least talked about. We talk about Linux like an operating system when we compare it against Windows, we talk about it as a company when we compare it against Microsoft, and when we describe its attributes it almost seems super-human or god like.

Linux isn’t a thing, and it sure isn’t a god. When we compare an operating system to another we should be comparing the specific distribution, which is a thing. When we compare it to Microsoft we need a company to do that; Red Hat, Novell and now Oracle provide us with a framework so that we can intelligently compare one to another and assess the differences.

The reason Linux has been abstracted into a concept is so it doesn’t have to compete on merit. It can be anything, in concept, it needs to be to win a deal. But we live in the real world where there needs to be a real product and a real support structure behind it. If we are actually doing an evaluation we have to evaluate what we are actually going to end up using and it isn’t generic “Linux.”

This isn’t to say Linux can’t or doesn’t win in real comparisons, only that the majority I’ve seen weren’t real comparisons. As a ex-auditor I care less about who wins than I care about the process that determines the winner. I’ve seen too many instances where decisions were made on products, including proprietary products, based on what appears to be graft. One CIO even won a Mercedes Benz for making the “right choice” — we’ll talk about that in a future post.

Presenting the products and companies in abstract was actually rather brilliant, however, I can’t find a Steve Jobs-like person I can congratulated for this excellent work. It just seems to have happened that way naturally, but, if you are going to be successful, your justification needs to be solid and for that you’ll need the specifics.

Linux is a grown up product; it isn’t for everything or everyone though. Do your assessment with a real product against real metrics. SuSe and Red Hat are both capable enough to compete without cheating.