Here are OSDL CEO Stuart Cohen's answers to your questions, many of which were spurred by the recent release of an OSDL co-sponsored Linux TCO study (that anti-open source commentator Rob Enderle has already/inevitably questioned).(1) A Movement with the Students
This may seem like an inane question but why don't I see more of a push to get Linux into the realm of academia?
I know that Ubuntu [ubuntufund.org] has made strides to incorporate themselves into learning environments but where is the effort to alert students (primarily other than computer science majors) to the benefits of Linux?
When I was a freshman at the University of Minnesota, a friend handed me a CD distribution of Debian that would change my life. I knew of the Linux labs in the University but only now did they interest me. I'm now getting my masters at George Mason University and I don't believe there's a single Linux machine on campus. In fact, the whole Computer Science department has only two Sun servers to offer me an account on! Everything else is Microsoft!
Now you may lay claim that every computer science major these days is running Linux anyway. But how about the other areas of study? I used to take music theory and people would rant and rave about their Macs or one of various composing suites in Windows. I tried explaining that Linux has (certainly more affordable) solutions to offer in this department too but no one would even listen to me. It's not like they were mixing platinum selling records, they were just looking for software to write sheet music with.
I think that both Apple and Microsoft realize that the toys people have in college become the toys they demand in real life. So there are all these [apple.com] efforts [e-academy.com] to garner the student's interest hoping that they will use them in their careers.
They make it free (which Linux already is), they make it easy and they make it available.
So how about it? Why isn't the Linux community minting install discs and distributing literature on campuses? Why isn't Linux tailoring cheap solutions to K-12 schools that don't have the money for Windows anyway? Why do we risk letting someone leave academia without ever experiencing the real fruits of it?
If you are doing this (and I just don't know about it), what steps have you taken?
I have found from conversations with CS professors that while Linux is still finding its way into college curricula, it is being used by students on their PCs and in their university labs. It's also being used by college IT staff for the same reasons it is appealing to corporate IT managers - cost of acquisition, lower cost of management and the ability to prolong the lifetime of legacy hardware. And, in Asia and across a range of developing countries, by contrast, Linux is forming the core of much curricula, especially in countries where governments see Linux as a means to local technology development. In many universities that I visit outside the U.S., I meet with the head of open source for the university. This title doesn't exist in U.S., which implies that the academic tie to local economic development and the advancement of information systems is weaker here than abroad.
I agree that what users become comfortable with in college they take with them into their professional careers. We think Linux has a very bright future in education. We launched a program to bring together leading universities around the world to share their experiences and lessons learned to help accelerate that trend. As a small non-profit, OSDL can't by itself take on the global job of delivering Linux to schools and universities, but we can encourage our members to support Linux in education and we can bring together universities to encourage them to embrace more use of Linux. And we do.
Since almost all of these studies are funded or organised by a party which appears to be inherently for or against one of the things being studied, will it be possible to find anyone willing to compare them impartially? After all, how many people would believe an Open Source company to be any less biased than MS when it comes to comparing their products?
Questioning the credibility of ALL analyst studies is important. Let me just elaborate on how this particular study originated. I hope the context will help you weigh the impartiality of the study and judge for yourself. Levanta (co-sponsor of the study and a member of OSDL) was the vendor that initiated this study by Enterprise Management Associates. In their own sales scenarios for their Linux product, they were running into organizations that were saying they were apprehensive about Linux because they had read that it was "tough to manage." Levanta believed from its own experiences that the concern did not meet up with the reality -- so they sponsored EMA to get some real-world feedback from end user Linux customers. They also wanted current information. Most of the analyst research published to date was already old, going back as much as four years or more. Linux itself, and the tools available to help customers manage Linux, have come a long ways since then. When we (OSDL) saw an early draft of the report, we were very interested in co-sponsoring the effort because the report echoed what we have been hearing from our Linux User Advisory Councils on three continents for a number of years. It was current information with interviews conducted in November and December of 2005. The customers interviewed were also using current versions of the kernel and current releases of enterprise distributions. It reflected today's market situation. And it was based on real Linux customer feedback.
(3) Security Question
How can we fix the problem of the way TCO studies handle security? In so many of them every OSS application under the sun gets tallied against Linux systems, regardless of how obscure, or unrequired that application may be. Yet all of the 3rd party things that have holes in them rarely seem to even get looked at when talking about Windows security. Firefox for example seems to get tagged frequently when talking about Linux security in these studies, but Firefox isn't integreated into Linux, and it runs on both platforms. IE on the other hand is integrated into the OS, sure you can not use it, but there is a ton of junk in Windows itself that requires the various bits and pieces of IE to operate correctly. What is it going to take for these studies to finally start comparing apples to apples in regards as to what really is part of the OS and what is required for it to run?
It's difficult to say if this will ever be able to be measured "apples to apples."
Just as with Windows, the Linux platform cannot be judged, security-wise, as a "naked" kernel but rather as an OS with a variety of components. In the case of Linux, the component set is determined by the 200-500 packages offered by typical distributions and variously installed by systems administrators and by end users. However, very much UNLIKE Windows, there are few, if any, applications that pervade typical Linux-based applications stacks and carry with them pervasive security issues the way that IE pervades and exposes most parts of a Windows stack. Indeed, Linux is very modular and compartmentalized, such that even if security/TCO studies illustrate holes and exploits in the Linux stack over time, any given breach will have much less impact and patches to repair exploits are far less likely to perturb the entire stack (especially compared to the havoc wreaked by frequent Windows patches and service packs).
(4) Setting up Linux from Win2K3
Say I wanted to switch from Windows Server 2003 to Linux in a company of about 400 people with the same equipment I already have, generally speaking how long would it take and how much would I need to invest?
Do I need to hire several Linux experts just to get it up and running?
Would you expect this to be relatively easy or would it be very complicated and time consuming?
It's difficult to answer your questions without more information but I can tell you that comparing legacy and migrated systems costs is never an apples-to-apples exercise. Seldom do legacy applications, both COTS and in-house, port on a one-for-one basis and with comparable acquisition and maintenance costs. Certainly starting from the bottom of the stack and moving upwards, it is easy to show improved TCO for comparable "abstract" loads. Linux on Intel, AMD and power hardware will cost less than per-system licensing and the short deployed lifetimes typical of Windows-based stacks. The LAMP stack is demonstrably more stable and more scalable than comparable proprietary Microsoft equivalents - even moving from WAMP variants will yield benefit in terms of reliability. SAMBA, NFS, OpenLDAP and other user-base technologies will scale more cheaply and reliably than Windows-based legacy.
Cost and ease of migration, however, will always vary based on the depth and breadth of specific dependencies within legacy loads and availability of COTS components (or work-alike replacements) on the target Linux system.
(5) If OSDL believes that Linux has a superior TCO ...
... why don't they use it?
Almost every PDF document on the OSDL website has been created on a Windows PC or on a Mac. Even the Desktop Linux Survey Report - http://www.osdl.org/dtl/DTL_Survey_Report_Nov2005.pdf - shows:
$ pdfinfo DTL_Survey_Report_Nov2005.pdf
Title: Microsoft Word DTL_Survey_Report_v4.doc
Producer: Mac OS X 10.4.3 Quartz PDFContext
OSDL runs on Linux. Many of the reports we publish, however, are formatted by outside vendors or members of OSDL. We don't dictate to others what format they send to us.
But fair enough, we could do better.
I must also say that, while the Linux Desktop is getting better and better with laptops integrated with PDAs and cell phones, it still lacks some features that are standard on other platforms. Take for example the "Linux Desktop Survey" you reference. OSDL's principal analyst Dave Rosenberg wrote the study with Open Office on Linux. Because he had to combine his file with an existing PDF (not available with Open Office today), he found it faster and easier to complete this task on the Mac using Acrobat.
(6) Why Should We Care?
It's a Serious Question. Don't TCO costs end up coming down to how much you will pay employees, how many employees you need, and the price of software? Shouldn't any capable manager be able to estimate the costs themselves? After all, I'm certain TCO varies wildly from workplace to workplace, considering what kind of system is already in place, what software is readily available for an OS, and what skills your current employees have.
My question is: is there really a use for these reports other than for 'defense': positive propaganda versus negative propaganda?
As an aside, do these studies take into account the availability and flexibility of currently extant software? Is there even a way to turn that information into TCO?
Despite the "T" in TCO, meaningful studies must limit the parameters under consideration in order to observe scientific principles. In the recent EMA study, the scope was confined to an area that Microsoft traditionally cites as a strength - systems management. Assuming comparable applications loads, the study showed that IT staffs could manage more Linux-based servers than Windows-based systems. Implicit in this metric is that managing the same number of servers would thereby require fewer or less costly IT resources, with immediate impact on TCO.
Any capable manager should in theory be able to perform such a calculation, but organizations often undercount or ignore real costs of maintaining legacy software, actual headcount needs, and deployment of different types of equipment.
(7) Is it about Linux or better operating systems
What I would really like to know is why Linux or Windows? Why hasn't there been a really good study that included BSD, Solaris, OSX, or even licensed variants of Unix? Is it all about Linux or is it about better operating systems?
You're right, it should be about the best operating system for you, for your specific needs. Linux keeps winning in the market because it's stable and secure with the ability to handle mission critical workloads. Because our mission at OSDL is to accelerate the adoption of Linux, that's where we focus our resources.
(8) One of the main problems
In looking at Microsoft's TCO claims in particular, I've been unable to avoid noticing that a lot of the company's material on this subject consists of, to put it simply, straight lies. Aside from anything else, nothing is mentioned by them about their licensing fees. How they can state with a straight face that after their licensing fees, Windows can still be cheaper than Linux is beyond me.
Legitimate performance competition is one thing, but I'm curious to know how the ODSL is able to deal with Microsoft's lack of ethics in this regard? Given Microsoft's marketing power, how are Linux advocates able to communicate to people that many of Microsoft's claims in this area are deceptive?
Your comments are very familiar to me. These are the types of thing we kept hearing from our Linux User Advisory Councils - and why when we saw the EMA study, we decided to co-sponsor it. To more specifically answer your question, though - Linux advocates have a powerful weapon at their disposal: real users' experiences. These experiences are very positive and when shared with others, tell the real story. Again, that is why we chose to support this particular study - it's current, it clearly represents user experiences. It's consistent with fact. The other point that is important to make is that it's also supported by market facts -- and that's the growth rate of Linux adoption. It continues to grow twice as fast as Windows and 5x faster than the server market. That means more customers every day are making a business decision to move more of their work to Linux. If Linux has all these problems, then why do people keep making poor financial decisions in a market filled with choices? This logic is catching up to Microsoft. I think Microsoft is a well managed company and they listen closely to their customers. I expect you'll see them moving away from the comparisons they tried to promote in early 'studies' around TCO or security that had no affect on the growth of Linux.
(9) Are the OSS IP Indemnification offerings worthy?
We recently had an issue in which Microsoft Office included unlicensed IP (according to a court settlement). Microsoft did not require us to patch existing installations, rather simply protecting our use via the settlement, agreeing to require future installations to include the patch. This seems like a case in which indemnifications worked (although they could have offered some compensation for the extra work - it's cheaper than litigation). For background, see http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserversystem/facts /topics/ipi.mspx.
How do the OSS indemnification plans stack up? Have there been any significant cases involving IP indemnification?
In fact, there has been relatively little litigation around Linux and open source software in absolute terms (a handful of cases) and when compared to the thousands of suits filed every year around proprietary software, practically none. While companies like HP, Novell, and several embedded players offer a range of IP indemnification, uptake and actual use of the policies have not been that significant. Also, while customers look closely at IP issues, it has not been key decision criteria for customers of any size or located in any particular country.
(10) What difference can OSDL make?
There's certainly been a good few questions asked already, but the one I'd like to get an answer to is, how do companies see OSDL? Do they believe it's a trustworthy group that knows what they're talking about, or does it look like another one of those 'fad-like' groups that's going to fade away? I don't mean to say OSDL is fading out, I'm curious to know what the real-world perception of it is. I've noticed that while many of my friends use linux and are generally well-versed in what's going on, they're usually totally unaware of the existence of OSDL, or its purpose.
How will this change? How will OSDL become a trusted group for IT managers, especially in a world where most of them have only heard of Microsoft's "Get the facts", or have some shares in MS stocks?
I feel that part of the reason that one of the above posters was asking why isn't linux penetrating the educational market is because the trustees funding the schools have a say in what to use, because they're paying for it, and the trustees will usually have a significant amount of MS stocks.
What's the chance of all of this changing? Or rather, what are the means in place for all that to change?
There are a lot of questions in your question, and I can't speak for how other organizations or companies perceive OSDL since I represent OSDL. But, with more than 70 members, I can tell you that one of OSDL's key attributes is vendor neutrality. OSDL is in a unique position to bring vendors, users and developers together. In doing this, OSDL bridges gaps among companies that alone struggle to move technology forward but when combined can quickly accelerate technologies via common platforms or testing scenarios. As Linux and open source software move into the mainstream of IT environments, the voice of the user, as well as the vendors, will be more and more important. I think the programs we have today and the ones we will announce shortly will help to bridge the gaps with developers, vendors and users. And remember that our mission is advancing the use of Linux and open source software, and not building awareness of OSDL.