Linux Consultants Survey

Linux Journal is preparing an article about Linux Consultancy and requests people to participate to a survey. Although I can’t consider myself a Linux Consultant, I do am an IT Consultant and think one should not narrow its activities as in Linux versus non-Linux. As some questions made me sum up what I think of Open Source systems in general and Linux based systems in more specific, and what one can do with it in my business (Small Business Network Consultancy), I’m posting what I’ve written up.

1. How long, in years, have you worked with Linux?

– 4

2. What other OSs do you work with?

Windows 2000 and later

3. What is your opinion of Linux as a Server OS? (Use as many lines as you need)

As a server, Linux is of course very capable. I find it generally to be more stable, altough stability is more a question of making a good setup and performing good maintenance than OS inherent things. But Linux stays definitly more stable there where certain Windows stuff are to much a secret. Think e.g. Exchange Store versus Imap Maildir backend. However for a lot of Small Business uses, it lacks some features Windows made very usual, suck as a well integrated ACL support. Just as with Desktop applications it lacks Vendor support. It helps where Linux opens things up and lets you customize a lot of stuff. On the other hand it sometimes lacks certain features to easily and quickly setting up services. IT also is about automation, not reinventing all configuration by hand.

4. What is your opinion of Linux as a Desktop OS?

Not good enough for Corporate use. I see 2 big reasons. (1.) No integration: the foremost problems is in my opinion, the lack of a consequent file system: every Desktop Environment has its own virtualisation (GFS, KIO Slaes, ..) and software has to be written explicitly to work with them, which means you are struck with different DE backends, if they are supported. As an example, I find it unacceptable that a popular software package such as cannot work with any network filesystem backend. I fail to understand why Virtual Filesystem backends just don’t plug in to the Unix filesystem so every software can transparently use them, which would be the Unix modularity as it should be. (2.) Not enough software. And I’m not talking about the 16k+ packages available in the debian repository. I’m taling about the fact that there just is not enough business software available. Vendors just do not support Linux. This is of course a Chicken and Egg problem.

5. What is your opinion of Linux as a Data Center OS?

I have no experience with Big Datacenters; I expect Linux to be very customizable and hence ideal for this kind of use.

6. What, in your opinion, are the major strengths of Linux?

A lot of customisability.

7. What, in your opinion, are the weaknesses of Linux?

Too much customisability.

8. Of all other OSs with which you work, or have experience, how does Linux really compare?

A product with its own strengths and weaknesses. Just as any product. It really also depends also on choosing which Linux product, vendor, distribution…. Philosophically speaken, Open products are better and a must for a sane future of Information Technology. It’s what it takes to accomplish Star Trek magic: Open Standards are what it takes to reroute energy from an Alien Ship to the Engine Room or reconfigure Energy Coils and adapt special Capacitors. OK, I’m no Trekkie, but you get the point. You’ll need Open Standards (and adherence to them) to make things “Just Work(tm).”

9. Would you on behalf of your clients, or your clients themselves, use Linux again for new services and/or infrastructure?

– Yes

10. Have you or your clients had instances where Linux was not a good fit?

– Yes

11. Which OS did you recommend in its place and why?

Microsoft Windows. Because of ISV support. Because a lot of clients need to perform certain things themselves, and really need a GUI. (Heck, most of IT consultants need GUI’s.) Because Windows servers work better with Windows Desktops, and we are stuck with Windows Desktops for the moment (see question 4.)

12. What types of applications do you use Linux for in your work?

Internet and intranet web and application servers (mostly LAMP platforms), firewalls, security gateways, content filtering, file and backup servers, …

So, what do you think of Linux in Small Business environments?