March 21, 2005

Welcoming EDS to the world of Linux

Author: Robin 'Roblimo' Miller

Commentary:EDS, the giant
computer services company, apparently doesn't like Linux much right now.
EDS vice president of Global Alliances Robb Rasmussen recently told
ZDNet Australia
, "From a corporate perspective, we are not confident
where Linux is right now today. A large enterprise needs to be sure
because it relates to securifying [sic] the environment. We see some of
the same things occurring that did to Unix -- it could splinter into
many different types of languages. We are quite cautious about Linux and
its deployment." Uh huh. But companies that issue anti-Linux statements
like this often end up embracing Linux before long. That's why I want to
extend a welcoming hand to EDS instead of getting upset over that
egregious statement.The context here is EDS's new Agility
Alliance
, which includes some notably anti-Linux companies along
with several that are major Linux users and boosters.

A former EDS employee we know says the motivation for not only the
Agility Alliance but also the corporate hostility toward Linux is that
"a punch at Linux is a punch at IBM, which has eaten their services lunch."

EDS's bread and butter is huge enterprise and government computing
contracts, the same kind prized by IBM's service division, so our ex-EDS
source may be correct. He also says that EDS is "a big iron shop. They
know mainframes. PCs have never been their strong point," and points out
that it's good short-term business politics for EDS to cozy up to Microsoft.

Linux is taking over Big Iron computing

Whether EDS (or anyone else) likes it or not, Linux is taking over the
top end of the high-performance computing pyramid. A recent Forbes
article headlined Linux
Rules Supercomputers
notes that Linux now powers around 300 of the
world's top 500 supercomputers, including number-one-ranked Blue Gene/L, an
IBM-built machine housed at the Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory
.

Still, we have an EDS vice president saying, "We are concerned about
security on an open standard environment like that. We are also
concerned about some of the scalability issues that we are seeing on our
clients on a global basis."

Unisys people used to say things like this. In fact, they tried to talk
down Unix for big-iron computing and boosted Windows as a
replacement. For several years Unisys and its then-partner Microsoft ran
a Web site called wehavethewayout.com that was
supposed to show you the "way out" of the corner you painted yourself
into by using those pesky *nix operating systems. Amusingly, when the
site debuted it ran on OpenBSD and Apache. That generated a spate of
articles like this
one
that made fun not only of the original hypocrisy but of the
botched attempt to move wehavethewayout.com to a Windows server running IIS.

Last year Unisys started cozying
up to Linux
. In fact, not long after that article appeared, they
joined OSDL, which is certainly a "put
your money where your mouth is" move when it comes to supporting Linux.
The company is exhibiting
at Linux trade shows
and now, instead of wehavethewayout.com in
partnership with Microsoft, has a pro-Linux (and anti-Unix) site called
riscfree.com that it runs in
partnership with Intel.

Computer Associates (CA) is another
big-time IT company that has gone from hating open source to at least a
limited, tentative embrace. And these are far from the only examples of
companies that have decided they must at least accept, if not love,
Linux and open source. The number of corporate converts is easily in the
hundreds of thousands range when you count all the local shops and
consultants out there that are starting to learn about and use Linux.

Get the welcome mat ready for EDS

It's always hard to embrace something new. Sometimes it takes a tantrum
and some growling before you throw off your old, tired paradigms and
(gulp) admit that just maybe you were wrong, that Linux is indeed
suitable for many high-performance computing applications, and that even
the U.S. National Security Agency -- without question the
ultimate poster child for computer security -- uses Linux here and there.

Come to think of it, EDS already uses at least some Linux itself, at least if this
case study
about its internal Jabber messaging server is telling the
truth.

In contrast to EDS vice president Robb Rasmussen's public Linux
disavowal, EDS's Jabber case study says, "The new Linux environment
provides a level of security and stability unavailable elsewhere.
Because it is open-source software, it also offers significant cost
savings on licensing and allows EDS to provide faster, more responsive
support because programming problems can be diagnosed and repaired more
quickly."

The day will come -- perhaps this year, perhaps next year -- when EDS
executives will publicly embrace Linux. They will do it not out of
love, but because IBM, HP, and other major companies whose service
divisions happily use open source software will beat them on bid after
bid, to the point where pats on the head from Microsoft and Sun don't
make up for the lost business.

So I would like to be the first to welcome EDS as at least a
provisional member of the GNU/Linux and Free/Open Source Community, to
use its full and formal name. I'm sure EDS will have lots of valuable
code and insight to contribute.

And if I'm wrong about all this, no big deal. Linux-skilled EDS
employees will find jobs with HP, IBM, CA, and other shops that
recognize the value of open source, while anti-Linux EDS employees can
always go to work for Microsoft, which will surely hire them as a reward
for their valiant -- if futile -- efforts to stop the inevitable spread
of open source and free software.

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