Saturday, August 05, 2006

Linux and Cosa Nostra

Does "the mob" run Linux? Well, they certainly don't on the desktop, at least not yet. Today we are investigating why this is the case, and whether this is a good for "Cosa Nostra" - literally, "Our Thing", which is of course green computing.

Let's start off with a survey from Desktop Linux that queried 3300 users about putting Linux on the desktop. The purpose of the survey was to determine the drivers and barriers to getting Linux installed. The results were interesting; the most important reasons were that employees were asking for it and competitors had already did it. TCO was third, then licensing costs, then security. Unfortunately, the survey did not probe the deeper motivations as to why users and companies want to switch, which doesn't give us a lot of clues in terms of a sustainable computing model.

However, I think we can infer a few results. First, the fact that TCO and licensing costs were on the survey at all suggest that these are reasons to switch, and in fact these two did well in the rankings. So it's cheaper; that definitely means more sustainable since the environmental costs of the "virtual thing" Linux is nil. Secondly, the survey is designed to compare one operating system to another, not one computing architecture to another. I think we can assume that the respondents are keeping everything else the same - same network, same desktop computing environment, same file servers, etc - and then replacing Windows with Linux. So, is this configuration 'more sustainable'?

My answer would be no. Definitely no, because nothing else changes. The energy use is the same; so is the recycling fees, the three or four year obsolescence cycle, the personnel needed to support the desktops, and the needs for all the other network infrastructure that you currently have. You save on licensing fees going forward but your existing license fees are sunk costs. So, short term, it's a complete bust. You're not in the family yet.

Long term, you can be if you are willing to stay with the program. Switching to Linux can be part of the program because it extends the life of your desktops. Long term, you stop paying license fees. Long term, you can use a Terminal Server to centrally manage your desktops applications, which will also all be free. Long term, you can reduce your IT staff to manage this. Long term, there's promise if you are willing to make many changes. But just switching to Linux on your desktops will not make you a Made Man.

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