Wednesday, June 13, 2007

End Users and Linux: What Works, What Doesn't?

Moderator: Tim Golden, Bank of America

  • Jeremy Allison, Google
  • Chris M
  • Randy Terbush, CTO of Infrastructure Architecture and Strategy at ADP
What factors led your company to adopt open source?

Randy: Started pressing at ADP about 4 years ago, wanting to provide a common abstraction above all hardware interfaces, driving towards a more utility computing model.

Jeremy: Google gets complete control of their environment. Jeremy likened it to Dr. Who's Tardis - weirder on the inside than the outside.

Chris: Has consulted for around 30 open source companies. Most started with the fundamental belief that open source was the better methodology in a philosophical sense.

Tim: Initially, for BofA - it was about the Money. In the core infrastructure space money was the initial issue although after a bit that changed to a more functional set of concerns. One key is a faster way to bring products to market.

Question: What does Linux have to do to win against other platforms when your company considers new deployments?

Randy: Constantly competing with knowledge and awareness around Solaris, and ensuring that Linux accellerates rapidly enough to compare well against Solaris.

Chris: Linux helps ensure that there is no single vendor lock in in the core portion of the stack for a number of European companies that Chris consults for.

Jeremy: Google is obviously highly Linux, but engineers can choose Linux, Windows, or a Mac box. Google uses Linux "when it makes sense" - it isn't a religious decision.

Tim: Maintaining a strong Linux presence on site is an ongoing challenge. There are constant competitive pressures to consider alternatives and repetitive TCO analyses are common.

Chris: Linux often enters "like a water leak from below" and rises until it gets some visibility - and that visibility is often initially negative from senior folks who are not familiar with Linux. Chris also pointed out the dynamics of departments who have a human desire to grow (or at least remain stable) and Linux plays against that desire by reducing costs - and reducing costs (being successful) implies that you can operate with less budget in most IT shops. This is not exclusive to Linux but a standard trend in deployment of platforms that increase or improve efficiency.

Jeremy: provided an anecdote of selling servers with Samba as a way to combat that thinking - $600 per server (for open source Samba!) helped make people think they were getting monetary value from their cost reductions (using open source).

Question: Why do you like open source?

Jeremy: "Control of our Destiny"

Randy: It's about standardization. They aren't really seeing cost benefit, but the real value is in standardization across the board. Sun is basically giving away Solaris as well, so on a price comparison Linux has no strong lead. Commonality of OS is a real key.

Tim: Went after cost savings, with a full, multi-year TCO assessment to show that value. There is probably a stack of benefits in moving to Linux. Enabling Linux helped bring in a bunch of other open source projects since it paved the way in terms of risk and license assessment, general comfort with open source, etc.

Question: What are the biggest challenges in deploying Linux within your organization?

Tim: This community has been a challenge. Is it a "big C" or "little c" community? Differences of opinion often lead to isoluation of communities and seperation or ostracizing a member of that Community. [The debate between whether various people are part of "the community" has come up a couple of times during the day --gerrit].

Jeremy: in talking with Andrew Morton about this question, the answer seemed to be "The engineers keep fiddling with it!" This winds up being a pain point because things are constantly changing, and not always for a good reason.

Question: If you were Linux God for a day what would you do?

Tim: Make a full ecosystem around SystemTap

jeremy: Make all distros release the same Linux kernel and glibc across the board.

Chris: Make the power management stuff work better. Greg KH: "It works for us." If it doesn't work for you, let us know, send us your laptop and we'll fix it for you. There are two ACPI implementations - one for Linux, one for Windows. ACPI is not power management and not suspend/resume.

Randy: Would like to see a single, unified, certified Linux distribution. Clarified: Ideally, a single source from which Red Hat and SUSE would pull from, where the single source was was the certification point for applications.

Greg KH: One Linux Distro, the Uber Distro: There some very large

Jeremy argues that the LSB is the real answer to that. [I don't believe that - LSB is such a teensy portion of a full distribution that it isn't practical to make an LSB large enough to cover the real issues, although LSB is a good step in the right direction.]

Question: As an end user, are you part of the Linux community?

Randy: I think we are - in part because we support the community with dollars.

Chris: Most companies employ individual contributors today - there are very few programmers living in their parents basement. As such, most companies are in some sense part of the community.

Jeremy: Yes, there are some

James Bottomley: The Linux Foundation now has a mechanism for accepting dollars to help direct those funds towards programs, coding, projects, etc. Projects can be proposed to the Linux Foundation as well for development and focus.

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