May 17, 2013

Reality Check: 5 Linux Features You Want in Your Company

Editor's Note: This is the first article in a new series by SUSE community marketing manager Brian Proffitt for Linux.com called "Reality Check" that will take a look at Linux in the real world.

One of my favorite things to do when I am teaching is explaining the whole Linux thing to my undergrad students. It takes a while to understand that no, their instructor isn't crazy (about this), there really is a free operating system out there that's pretty much running the Internet, supercomputers, and the DVR back in their dorm room.

Brian ProffittSo what is it about Linux that's made this operating so popular for everyone from individual users to enterprises to governments? Is it the cute penguin? Linus Torvalds' charming personality?

Here are five attributes of Linux that I have listed over the semesters that epitomize Linux as a successful operating system.

Open

Much has been written about the free and open source licenses that exist in the Linux ecosystem that make the code for the software accessible to all.

The gimme example goes like this: you have a problem. You can see the code. You fix the code. Boom! Problem solved.

Being open is more than just being able to make changes, though; it's also about getting the changes that other people make. That's a benefit we don't talk about very much, but it's there. Source code doesn't just have community around it, it is the community in many ways, the thing that changes and grows as time goes on.

Adaptable

Adaptability is often tied to being open. But while it's true that Linux is more easily adaptable to different platforms because it is open, it is also true that if Linux weren't built the way it was, adaptability would be moot.

You can have the most open code in the world (and yes, we pretty much do), but if it weren't designed in the right way, it would be impossible to re-configure into different workload situations.

The modularity of Linux is one of its greatest strengths - being open just lets you get under the hood more easily.

Scalable

Since Linux is essentially free to use for all and runs on commodity hardware, it is very scaleable. Which means that besides being adaptable for different platforms, it can be installed on hundreds of platforms with minimal overhead… all you need is the hardware.

Enterprise distributions have their costs, naturally, but when you need world-class support in the server room, data center, or cloud, then getting that support without the incumbent licensing fees is a pretty good deal.

And when it comes to cloud computing, even those costs can be minimized. Linux can be configured as the perfect guest on many hypervisor platforms, which makes it ideal for use in private, hybrid, or public clouds.

Universal

Linux, like Elvis, is everywhere. And it's very ubiquity has become a selling point these days.

If you build an application that runs on Linux, you can be assured that with just a little elbow grease from your developers, that app can be coded to run on any other Linux machine.

Now that ARM vendors are working to build a set of standards for application development on ARM devices, that ubiquity will be even more prevalent, as app portability becomes even easier.

Stable

This may be my favorite aspect of Linux… that it just works. This is a solid piece of software engineering, by anyone's standards, and this, more than any other reason, is why Linux is so popular.

Stability in Linux is two-fold: it is from within, and therefore much more difficult to crash - especially for apps that are mission-critical and must be highly available. And it is from without, using permissions and architecture that makes it far harder to compromise.

These are five of the big reasons why Linux is successful in the enterprise. Can it be successful for you? If it already has (or hasn’t), join us at the new SUSE Conversations, a new forum for sharing ideas, strategies and challenges for all things Linux.