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The Wisdom of the Sands



“As for the future, your task is not to forsee but to enable it” - Saint-Exupéry – The Wisdom of the Sands

On the last occasion that I dared question Oracle CEO and chief clairvoyant, Larry Ellison’s predictive talent, I received a call from the company’s headquarters in California to set the record straight. Ellison is rather more flamboyant character than Gates or McNeally and when he tells us that a technology, such as the NC, is about to take over the world or indeed, collapse under its own weight of code. As for me, I’m inclined to try and separate the potential from the wishful thinking.

On this occasion, Ellison, is predicting that Linux will very soon wipe Microsoft out of the data centre and I simply can't see Microsoft surrendering without a huge struggle over the future of Enterprise computing. Preferring not to exchange predictions with Ellison, Stuart Okin, Microsoft's Chief Security Officer argues, "This fight to maintain the datacentre will ultimately benefit customers in the sense of increased security, reliability and service".

Ellison’s argument is predicated on the damage that has been inflicted on Microsoft from the Open Source Apache Web server, which has displaced Microsoft’s own Internet Information Server (IIS), which Netcraft claims, runs a poor second to Apache for reasons that I suspect are mostly linked to worries over security, rather than concerns over productivity or return-on-investment. In defense of the IIS track record, Okin adds "you can run a highly secure and highly reliable IIS solution today if you surround it with the correct people, processes and technology"



This time Ellison is, I believe at least half right with his predictions and I can’t argue with his opinion that Microsoft will very soon face a challenge to its office suite monopoly as Sun Microsystems’ OpenOffice.org suite, which he describes as “almost usable", becomes more pervasive. Leading independently minded and Penguin-friendly companies such as Sony, start to explore a future, no longer dominated by Microsoft productivity applications and particularly in the developing world.

Microsoft is, of course, very conscious of the creeping threat to its Enterprise business from a growing and rather different kind of ‘coalition', Hewlett Packard, IBM, Oracle and Sun Microsystems, two of which are close Microsoft allies and are now busily promoting Linux and increasingly, the new ‘one-size-fits-most’ utility computing model to their Enterprise customers.

So will Larry’s vision of the future prevail and will Linux ultimately boot Microsoft out of the datacentre? Ellison does not appear to expect an overnight victory and neither do I. I believe that there will be stiff resistance from Microsoft's large Enterprise customers who might not be so happy with the idea of platform change without highly visible benefits. After all, replacing a Server might take days but releasing Microsoft’s grip on the datacentre could take much longer.

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