Open (Source) market Featured

5:30am EDT January 2, 2002
Linux started out as a software operating system for hackers and other techies. But when Microsoft became embroiled in a legal battle with the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Linux's commercial distributors like Red Hat Inc. and Corel turned up the marketing pitch and started landing big contracts with organizations such as Google, Toyota and Sony.

Many smaller companies followed suit, primarily because Linux-based systems were much less expensive and easier to use. The popularity of Linux-based operating system for file servers is particularly strong, outpacing installations of Microsoft's Windows NT file server product in 1999 and 2000. Last year looks to be no exception.

But what about its popularity Cleveland and Northeast Ohio and its future?

"Cleveland is a (Microsoft) NT town," says Jim Fisher, president of Web developer IdeaStar Inc. in Garfield Heights. "One big trend we're expecting is the growth of Linux in the market (in 2002.)"

Finnish IT student, Linus Torvalds, created Linux in 1991 basically as a clone of the Unix operating system for his home PC so he could communicate with his university's computer. He put the system on the Internet and drew widespread interest from developers around the world. Due to the open code, the system had been modified a countless number of times. The only intellectually property Torvalds owns is the trademark name Linux.

Your office might already have a Linux-based system running its file server, or even as the operating system on your desktop PCs. Here's why the system is so popular and starting to ruffle Microsoft's feathers.

Linux is free, open source software. Users can change the system for their needs, but they have to share their changes with the rest of computing world, unlike Microsoft. Distributors like Red Hat, the market leader, and Corel design pre-configured Linux systems complete with applications and sell them. Even then, the user can tweak the system for his or her needs. Fisher says more companies are finding the switch is worth the trouble.

"With NT, whenever you want to update it, you plug it in hope and pray that the stuff still runs," Fisher says. "With Linux you don't run into those problems. It's a much more powerful and secure development platform."

Linux-based systems, including e-mail, are safer from viruses than Microsoft applications because there are only a handful of them out there and they are easier root out due to the open source nature of the systems.

It takes 10 servers equipped with Windows NT to run what one server equipped with a Linux-based system could handle.

"The capacity for handling volumes of traffic is much greater than an NT user," Fisher says. "Companies are starting to discover that just because it's free doesn't mean it's bad."

The lack of licensing fees means companies can save 95 percent on installation of a server operating system if it's Linux-based system, according to German commercial distributor SuSe Linux AG. That means 20 workstations plus a file server would cost about $7,000 for Windows-based system and $60 for Linux-based.

How to reach: IdeaStar, (216) 587-9300 or