Indeed, some organizations have switched to Linux, but a recent report, “Linux on the Desktop: Lessons from mainstream business adoption” from Freeform Dynamics, sponsored by IBM (NYSE:IBM), issued mixed findings: the change was easier than expected, but most deployments rolled out Linux only to a targeted group of users — a group that could be as small as one person. The survey covered 1,275 IT processionals worldwide who responded to a Web-based survey.
“In contrast with certain other vendor-sponsored reports, this report doesn’t say that 100 percent of the world is moving to Linux, rah rah rah,”
Dr. Robert Sutor, vice president of open source and Linux at IBM’s software group told InternetNews.com.
He added that the report achieved its goal, which is to be useful. “If I was considering rolling out Linux within my business, I would look at this report and say I know what needs to be done.”
Of course, IBM has already rolled out Linux. “IBM has over 30,000 people using Linux desktops within IBM,” said Sutor.
The company has also adopted open source as a strategy for its own software. It reported yesterday its partner ecosystem for “IBM and Canonical teaming with Virtual Bridges to provide the company’s Virtual Desktop Infrastructure technology as part of a Microsoft-alternative desktop offering” has added sixteen new partners since the start of the year.
Adoption is growing, but those who reported greatest success planned ahead. They successfully targeted specific user groups and communicated with them well, Dale Vile, research director for Freeform Dynamics and co-author of the report, told InternetNews.com.
The virtualization alternative
IT managers determined in advance what applications were important to users and ensured that they could deliver those apps on Linux. If only one application was a problem, managers could virtualize it using Citrix, suggested Sutor.
Of course, some groups have applications that are famously unavailable on Linux. “The Adobe creative suite including Photoshop is not available on Linux,” said Vile. “Sometimes in-house applications cannot be delivered to a Linux desktop.”
When users are asked to compromise in order to embrace Linux, they resist the transition, and that resistance (plus the political games that ensue) are two of the three top obstacles to Linux adoption (the other being those applications that are not available on Linux).
Vile added that managers that communicated early with Windows power users, those to whom the rest of the employees go to for basic advice on solving Windows issues, rollouts proceeded more smoothly.
Linux went to technical staff first. Only 29 percent of respondents rolled out Linux to non-technical users.
Deployments were small. Forty-four percent went to 10 or fewer users, and only 15 percent went to over 250 users, even though 18 percent of those surveyed worked in organizations with over 5,000 employees.
Respondents indicated that current Linux deployments are likely to grow. Vile explained that some deployments in large organizations are pilot projects, and other deployments occur initially in one department only but can then grow outside it.