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Editor's Note: Another Myth Will Bite the Dust

Mar 31, 2006, 23:30 (9 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)

By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

There has been a little bit of a Catch-22 obstacle standing between deployment levels of Linux as they are now and what they could be. And that obstacle, whether anyone likes it or not, is the perceived level of support for Linux and other free and open source software packages.

Currently, there is an ongoing perception out in the IT community that there is a lack of strong support for Linux, especially at the local consultant level.

Apparently, the whole notion of 24/7 support from Red Hat, Novell, IBM, Mandriva, and so on isn't quite getting through to the masses. And when it is, I have learned, there is still some resistance to support coming from one of these vendors (and others like them). Despite the Internet, despite cheap voice communication, there is a real value placed on getting support from either an in-house employee or a contractor that has local ties.

It comes down to something that all IT systems have dealt with--accountability. Customers want it, and for whatever reason, some of them don't think they are going to get Linux accountability from Big Blue-sized companies.

On the opposite extreme, many customers don't trust the collaborative-support model espoused by the open source community, either.

There is a real perception of a lack of local, small- to mid-sized consultants for Linux and open source, which is where a great many potential customers have their comfort zones.

Companies who would most use consultants are not deploying Linux, relying instead on the herds of MCSEs wandering around. Consultants, or proto-consultants, aren't inclined to pick up Linux certification and experience because they see their target customer base eschewing Linux. Catch 22.

Red Hat, Novell, CompTIA, and the Linux Professional Institute have all tried to push past this sticking point, delivering various levels of training and certification to all who are interested. Slowly, the numbers of certified Linux engineers is increasing. At the same time, there are a lot of companies who are so sick of Redmond, they are shifting to Linux anyway and thus are building their own support experience levels from scratch. And, too, as Unix systems gradually fade away, a lot of Unix gurus are shifting their talents to Linux support, either at the employee or the consultant level.

So, little by little, the perceived hole between the two extremes of open source support: community-based to major-vendor provided, is being filled up. I do not know how long this perception will persist, because we all know memes take a long time to ditch. Linspire still gets crap for running regular users as root, even though they changed that approach very early on. Sometimes it's hard to shake a misperception.

What will it take to convince companies that there are indeed local Linux consultants out there? More networking and communication, of course, that's a given. But some big announcements that would put the idea of available Linux consultants into the public mindset wouldn't hurt either.

I am very excited that some organizations are making strides towards changing this perception. Private and public institutions are seeing the writing on the wall and are offering (or about to offer) solid Linux training and education to students, employees, and existing consultants. It's not a question of if, my friends, it's a question of when.

Imagine how the FUD machine will break down when, on the issue of support, all possible options of customer support--big, medium, and small--are accurately perceived as readily available.

That day is coming. And the business of Linux will be that much stronger because of it.


Program Note: LinuxWorld Boston is happening next week, and long-time readers of LT know that it's time I leave the friendly confines of the Hoosier state and travel forth to seek out new life and new civilizations, yada yada. And, while I boldly go, LT's clockwork-like schedule will be a bit more... chaotic. Especially this time around, as my trusty contibuting editor Rob Reilly will be attending the show as well.

So bear with us as Linux Today heads for Beantown next week, and thanks as always to the millions of readers who visit this site.