Visiting Linux guru Mary Ann Fisher believes adoption of the operating system has gone well beyond the experimentation stage and has been truly accepted by the market.
US-based Fisher is programme director of Linux for IBM’s worldwide public sector business area, responsible for the company’s open source strategies and implementation for government and a number of other industries.
In her opinion open standards are key to the success of open source.
“Without standards open source can be as difficult as anything else. IBM wants to be the best provider of an infrastructure that supports open standards because that is where the innovation really comes in,” she says.
Fisher says Linux uptake is growing at around 50% a year with significant adoption in the financial and government sectors.
“The most competitive markets have been the first to embrace Linux and it’s easy to see why. Savings made on infrastructure and maintenance can be spent elsewhere in the company. These days the CIOs’ decisions can be a real market driver.”
Savings in particular appeal to governments, she says, who are under pressure to provide more for citizens but within a restricted budget.
Equally, with an ageing workforce Fisher believes Linux is a cost-effective way for governments to modernise systems and optimise infrastructure performance.
Rather than selling the benefits of Linux with evangelical zeal, Fisher believes open source used in combination with proprietary solutions is the best mix.
“You get the savings on infrastructure by using Linux, which frees money up to pay for other applications. Open source alone isn’t the right answer for everything.”
Although Fisher primarily works at enterprise level she says it’s pretty much the same story for the small to medium-enterprise sector.
“It allows a small business to spend $6,000 on startup infrastructure rather than $36,000. Once people understand what Linux can offer in terms of cost reduction they get it.”
But she admits part of the challenge is educating end-users as well as translating interest into sales and services.