Skip to main content
Lose the Beard – Buy the Operating System

Linux again. And once more it’s time has come.

For me, Linux has always had a certain “Life of Brian” type of appeal and sitting around the dinner table with Sun Microsystems the other evening, I wondered how much longer it will take before we stop talking about ‘Distributions’, ours or theirs or Red Hat’s or IBM’s and start talking about solutions, allowing the subject of the Operating System to fade into a state of transparency.

For Sun, Linux is small and fast and ideal “for the edge of the Enterprise”, whatever that means to you. Asked whether Linux could ever evolve to a point to compete with Solaris, Sun’s Mike Avis thinks not and imagines a cosy type of co-existence into the foreseeable future.

Now in many ways, this makes sense. Big boxes and equally big Enterprise applications require a pumped-up version of Unix and Sun have this already in the shape of Solaris, so why expand Linux any further? Do a deal with Red Hat, which they have done with Sun’s own Linux 5.0 (AKA Red Hat 7.0) and you have a solution that runs neatly across a range of different processors, including those from Intel.

But there’s a nagging concern I have which won’t go away. You see IBM believes, with equal fervour that Linux can be big, very big and scalable indeed and so you have two of the largest players who appear unable to agree on what Linux will look like two or three years from now.

For many people and particularly those who vaguely resemble ZZ-Top fans, this isn’t a problem as Linux will continue to grow and evolve with Zen-like indifference to the forces around it. However, if you happen to be a government, like Germany or indeed China and you would like a compelling and cheaper alternative to someone else’s Operating System, then a rough consensus over Linux future is an attractive feature and mitigates any potential risks involved in migrating from Windows.

In my mind, Linux needs to become almost invisible. When you buy a PC or a Macintosh, do you really worry too much over the Operating System or is it the features or the solutions that really count in the end? Sun and IBM and all the other Linux evangelists need to sit down and ask themselves how they would sell Linux, not to a man with a leather jacket, a pony-tail and a beard but to an attractive twenty-something woman with a Renault Clio. This is of course an exaggerated analogy but I firmly believe that for Linux to succeed, something radical needs to be done with both the message and the marketing.

Linux needs to be something more than a “Not Microsoft” vote for the IT Director and it needs to be able to attract the small businessman too, who will always be vaguely distrustful of anything that has an ‘X’ in it.

For Linux to progress as a really viable Windows rival, it needs rather more than financial muscle and IBM and Sun declaring that it tastes like chocolate and cures cancer. Instead Linux needs some kind of re-invention, as the processor equivalent of Viagra perhaps but certainly more imagination than the dull Calvinism that surrounds it today.

So once again Sun and IBM, Linux has great promise but in needs imagination and a place in the popular consciousness as much as it needs market share and investment. Shooting anyone seen with a beard and a pony-tail might be a good first step.

If it worked for Lenin it might for Linux too!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Mainframe to Mobile

Not one of us has a clue what the world will look like in five years’ time, yet we are all preparing for that future – As  computing power has become embedded in everything from our cars and our telephones to our financial markets, technological complexity has eclipsed our ability to comprehend it’s bigger picture impact on the shape of tomorrow.

Our intuition has been formed by a set of experiences and ideas about how things worked during a time when changes were incremental and somewhat predictable. In March 1953. there were only 53 kilobytes of high-speed RAM on the entire planet.

Today, more than 80 per cent of the value of FTSE 500* firms is ‘now dark matter’: the intangible secret recipe of success; the physical stuff companies own and their wages bill accounts for less than 20 per cent: a reversal of the pattern that once prevailed in the 1970s. Very soon, Everything at scale in this world will be managed by algorithms and data and there’s a need for effective platforms for ma…

The Big Steal

I’m not here to predict the future;” quipped the novelist, Ray Bradbury. “I’m here to prevent it.” And the future looks much like one where giant corporations who hold the most data, the fastest servers, and the greatest processing power will drive all economic growth into the second half of the century.

We live in an unprecedented time. This in the sense that nobody knows what the world will look like in twenty years; one where making confident forecasts in the face of new technologies becomes a real challenge. Before this decade is over, business leaders will face regular and complex decisions about protecting their critical information and systems as more of the existing solutions they have relied upon are exposed as inadequate.

The few real certainties we have available surround the uninterrupted march of Moore’s Law - the notion that the number of transistors in the top-of-the-line processors doubles approximately every two years - and the unpredictability of human nature. Exper…

An Ockham of Gatwick

The 13th century theologian and philosopher, William of Ockham, who once lived in his small Surrey village, not so very far from what is today, the wide concrete expanse of Gatwick airport is a frequently referenced source of intellectual reason. His contribution to modern culture was Ockham’s Razor, which cautions us when problem solving, that “The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct;” sound advice which constantly proves to be true.

A week further-on since Britain’s second busiest airport was bought to a complete standstill by two or perhaps two hundred different drone sightings, it is perhaps time to revisit William of Ockham’s maxim, rather than be led astray by an increasingly bizarre narrative, one which has led Surrey police up several blind alleys with little or nothing in the way of measurable results.

 Exploring the possibilities with a little help in reasoning from our medieval friar, we appear to have a choice of two different account…