Why Linux Is Conquering the World

Monday, September 08 2003 @ 12:16 AM EDT

Contributed by: PJ

As you may recall, HP (as Compaq) and China's Red Flag Linux have been working together on Linux, including getting it to scale to 64-bit, for several years. Now they have jointly announced that they plan on expanding Red Flag Linux beyond China, to Korea and Japan, and then, they say, they would like to expand to the whole world. Considering that Japan just said it plans on working closely with Korea and China to get away from Microsoft dependency, this story seems to dovetail nicely and to answer the question as to whether they meant to grow their own OS from scratch or use Linux. As usual, Linux wins.

They will focus on enterprise use, with HP supporting Red Flag server Series 4 on its Integrity and Proliant servers, according to the announcement. And Oracle and Intel and BEA Systems are in the deal too. Here's what LinuxWorld says:

"Basically the stage is now set for a massive collaboration between HP, Red Flag, Oracle, Intel, and BEA Systems to provide a common platform for China's three vastest sectors: government, telecommunications, and commerce.

"'This strategic alliance with HP will drive the adoption of enterprise Linux in China,' said Liu Bo, Red Flag Software's President and CEO, in a statement he made this week announcing the HP-Red Flag agreement. If this works, he added, the alliance will move on first to the Asia-Pacific market overall. And then to the whole world."

Here's why Linux always wins. Tinyminds.org did an interview with maddog, also on Slashdot, which is important to say, because Tinyminds' server got slashdotted right away, and one thing he says in the interview brought everything clearly into focus for me as to why nothing SCO does can succeed against Linux:

"I believe (and have stated since 1998) that the 'year' of the Linux desktop will be 2003/2004 and 2005. I think that right now there are good enough products to be used in a large corporation or university as either a thin client or a 'thicker' client (one with browser, Open Office, some specialized applications), and perhaps a 3rd or 4th generation language application based on a database, to allow a savy systems designer for a company to put together a 'turnkey' system to replace thousands of desks on the enterprise desktop. This would free hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not millions of dollars) in software license payments which could go to tailoring and supporting Free and Open Source solutions for that enterprise."

Put that together with this 3-page article from Infoworld, which did a comparison look at TCO vs. ROI for Linux, UNIX and Windows, and includes these snips:

"It is an easy calculation. 'Moving Unix workloads to Linux is a no-brainer because of the Intel economics,' says Ted Schadler, principal analyst at Forrester Research. 'If you look at the all-in cost of deploying Unix on RISC versus that same workload on an HP or Dell box, it's between a 5K and 25K price improvement.' . .

"On both the hardware and software side, an often overlooked cost advantage of Linux is the flexibility it provides in terms of future migration and upgrade paths. 'With Linux, you control your own upgrade cycle,' Robinson says. . . .

" 'You can correlate systems knowledge with age,' explains Avery Lyford, CEO of Linuxcare, which develops management software for Linux environments. 'It's a gross generalization, but if you talk to someone in their 20s, they know Linux; in their 30s, they know Microsoft; in their 40s, Unix; in their 50s, big systems like VMS [Virtual Memory System].' So in theory, Lyford says, you could gauge your Linux migration costs by figuring out the average age of your system administrators.

"One management cost area where Linux seems to consistently trump Windows is the cost of managing security. A big driver for Cedars-Sinai's switch to Linux was 'the tremendous amount of churn we have on our NT servers,' due to hot fixes, service packs,  and so on, Duncan says. 'We did an analysis of the amount of time we were spending tweaking NT servers, and it really was kind of terrifying. We should be able to set up a server and just leave it alone -- we really got into Linux from that point of view.'

"Linux is 'virtually virus-free,' Burlington Coat Factory's Prince agrees, 'and it's pretty difficult for people to screw up their systems.'"

The article also says enterprises are getting over their initial distrust of "Google support", and that knowing you have free support available that way is turning into "a strong point".

Then contrast Microsoft's newest offering, its Windows Rights Management Services for Windows Server 2003, which it has, unbelievably enough, named RMS. Here is the overview. This is the method of controlling what people can do with documents, whether they can open them, share, read, change, copy, print, or keep them forever. Yes, it will erase email and documents. No doubt that idea was born from the antitrust trial.

Microsoft Office 2003 Standard Edition users can only view RMS-protected documents and emails. The Professional version users can both create and access RMS-protected docs. But they have to pay. First, you have to buy Microsoft's product line, end to end, and then you have to get your seat licenses, and if you want to talk to anyone outside your organization, well, that costs extra, lots extra:

"To deploy RMS, organizations are required to have a Windows Server 2003 Server and Client Access Licenses as well as Windows Rights Management Services Client Access Licenses. The RMS server component is available as a free download via Server 2003's Windows Update functionality or Microsoft's Download Center.

"RMS client access licenses (CAL) will cost organizations $37 for each user or $185 for an RMS CAL five-pack.

"An optional RMS External Connector License, which covers an unlimited number of outside users, costs $18,066."

How is that going to compete with GNU/Linux? Red Flag Linux alone could probably mow them down, singlehandedly. Here is their pricing page. And here's the RMS Pricing and Licensing FAQ, where you learn that, of course, having a Windows 2003 license or a Windows Server 2003 Client Access License is by no means sufficient to use RMS:

"Q. If I want to send a rights-protected document to someone outside of my organization, what are the licensing requirements?

"A. To enable rights-protected viewing outside your organization, you can acquire a Windows Server 2003 External Connector License and an RMS External Connector License for each RMS server that your external users will access. This fulfills the RMS licensing requirements, so you do not have to purchase individual Windows CALs and RMS CALs for each external user.

"An external user means any person (not an organization) who is not any of the following:
"your full-time, part-time, or temporary employee; agency temporary personnel or independent contractor on assignment at your worksite; or your customer to whom you provide hosted services with the server software."

If you don't have Windows 2003 Server?:

"Q. Are there any exceptions to the RMS licensing requirements?

"A. Yes. For Microsoft Office 2003 users, there is a free trial Information Rights Management (IRM) service available for customers who do not have Windows Server 2003. This service enables users to share documents and messages with restricted permission by using Microsoft .NET Passport as the authentication mechanism, as opposed to Active Directory® directory service. If information is rights-protected using the Microsoft .NET Passport service, CALs are not required."

I read this and I hear: Microsoft would like to lock me up in its prison, with no visitation rights, and throw away the key. Hang it all, I think I'll use Linux instead.

The culture clash is so great, all you'd have to do is stand up in any LUG meeting anywhere in the world and read this stuff aloud, and the audience would be on the floor, helpless with laughter. And as maddog and Infoworld point out, people in their 20s are Linux users. They are the future, and not only in the US.

I read the other day an article about Bill Gates' house. He built his house with some of the same features as his new software. It too is designed to keep icky outsiders out. And if visitors are let in, they wear electronic pins, so the house's computer systems know who and where they are at all times. Who wants to live like that? Who even thinks of it? Gates is aptly named to match his mentality. Linux, on the other hand, lets anybody use it, any way they want. Even SCO. It's just a totally different culture.

One thing businesses do need to be able to do is communicate with others. It's built into any business model. If lawyers, for example, could find reliable digital rights management software that actually worked, they'd probably be interested, if it was easier to use than encryption, but not if they have to throw out all their operating systems and use MS-only products to get it. The majority of lawyers, in my experience, use WordPerfect anyway. The thing MS doesn't get is, we don't trust them with our privacy. That's the fly in their ointment.

Lawyers, no matter how much they want and need privacy, and they do need it, have to be able to digitally communicate with clients who don't always use what they use, and it's important to be able to reach them, send them documents, and have them correct them and send them back securely. If you have to pay nearly $20,000 for that privilege, on top of your per seat licenses, and the change to all-MS products, how many are going to pony up, especially in this economy? Not even lawyers are as rich as Mr. Gates. Nobody is, and he seems to be out of touch with how the peasants live.

It's a sea change in the way we think about software, and that change, not just TCO or ROI, is why Linux will prevail, no matter what MS or SCO or any other proprietary company, or even David Boies, tries to do to tip it back to UNIX. You can't sue people away from their culture.

And if SCO was counting on government support to crush or curtail Linux, I think today's announcement about Red Flag Linux dashes their hopes. No government in the world can safely ruin Linux, or try to slow its adoption down, now that China is officially adopting it, even if they otherwise might do a favor for a proprietary well-heeled friend or two. All they can do now is keep up with Linux and make sure lots of folks know how to use it, which is why maddog suggests universities teach GNU/Linux. They might as well. The students use it at home anyway.

Boies said he didn't want the playing field to be unfairly tipped. Newsflash: China has tipped it. And that's that.

Now, Bill, about that RMS name. There's something you might like to know. You probably did it to poke Richard Stallman in the eye, as a mean, inside joke, but instead you have reminded me of the other reason I don't trust you: your company is about as nasty as any snake that ever slithered down the highway. Don't bother telling me you didn't realize the initials rms, instantly recognized all over the world, already stand for someone who dedicated his life to making free software available to the world, software that is rapidly making yours irrelevant. And, judging from your latest offering, just in the nick of time.

maddog says we should say thank you. So, thank you, Richard Stallman, the GNU Project, and the Free Software Foundation, for having the vision, for starting it all and refusing to give up or give out, through all the years, despite the taunts and the criticisms and the nastiness. Thanks for emacs and gcc and for coding all the boring things that are needed for a complete operating system. And thank you, Eben Moglen and Dan Ravicher and all the other attorneys and other volunteers fighting to defend and protect the GPL and its purpose. Thank you, Linus Torvalds and all you kernel contributors for all your hard work and for showing what cooperation and the internet can do. Thank you, all you GNU/Linux, open source, and BSD coders out there, and the folks who volunteer to do documentation, and the designers of the fabulous screen savers, and the programmers who gave us so many desktop choices and text editors and games and office alternatives, and for your generosity and creativity. Danke, Klaus Knopper, for Knoppix. I stand in awe. Thank you to IBM and any company that supports GNU/Linux software. I want you to know, I really love your software, and the ethics behind it, and I'm happy to say thank you in front of SCO and in front of the whole world.