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The HeliOS Project is now.....
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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Linux Is In Business and Business Is Good

My most humble apologies for getting this article out so late. It is the promised follow-up to "The State of the Penguin Report. Truth be told, we simply got covered up with work and fell behind in blog entries.

I apologize for the lapse.

While it is not an easy thing to accurately gauge the number of people using or migrating to the Linux Desktop, it is almost impossible to nail down the number of businesses that pin the penguin to the profit margins.

At the same time, this report doesn't pretend to encompass all the factors involved in a business adopting Open Source solutions or not. These are simply the observations of one company who aids individuals and businesses in making the switch. We're sure there are other factors that may come into play.

Not every business makes a high-profile public announcement like Ernie Ball did early in the century. Most businesses don't migrate in one fell swoop...their adaptation of Linux and Open Source is subtle and measured. Often, and as we recommend as professional consultants with HeliOS Solutions; businesses should choose a few non mission-critical machines and get used to the system as well as the concept of an Open Source Community. They can see first-hand the advantages and pitfalls without taking any of the risk.

Most CEO's and CFO's believe, and rightly so in most cases...You Get What You Pay For, or...If It Sounds Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is. Unfortunately, it is difficult to convince someone responsible for an entire business that Linux is the exception to that rule. I note with a bit of humor that Microsoft sales and licensing agents like to quote the first belief system ad nauseum. It was the first thing out of the agent's mouth when a company I worked for was visited by the local Microsoft guy here in Austin. He was there to try to salvage the account. Having been the person who did the migration, I was asked by my CEO to sit in on the "meeting"

It still amazes me the trite and tired lines these guys spill when faced with losing five digit commissions.

I suppose I'd get inventive too if put in the same position.

But the case I was involved in was ideal. The company ran almost exclusively on web-based applications and to be realistic, they could have probably been running Plan 9 as their operating system and still done well with it.

But they were the exception...a few-and-far-between-exception.

Concerning the business and numbers of HeliOS Solutions, we have an almost 75 percent "cha-ching" rate when dealing with home computer users. When it comes to small businesses, that number falls to about 20 percent. Get any larger than 25 computers in the shop and that drops to five percent or less.


Simple. There are several factors that come into play to make that number a bit dismal. To our surprise and possibly yours as well, employee reaction has way more to do with the negative decision than we could have ever imagined. One would think that cross-platform compatibility and security or even TCO would be the number one issue but surprisingly it isn't...not in most cases.

It's the sure-to-come kvetching and griping from the employees that throws the first red flag.

If that isn't the sticking point, then our next obstacle has been the people that administrate the actual systems and servers. From the hundreds of these folks I've talked to, I'm told there is almost no limit to how badly a cube-inhabiting data entry employee can foul up their work computers. Even with user permissions that approach Stalinist control measures, they seem to find a way to screw up their system.

You would think this might be a positive factor in our corner but it isn't.

The techs have years of practice fixing these boo-boos. The last thing they want to do is learn how to fix a whole new selection of problem-sets.

Obviously, there are sysadmins that run Linux behind the scenes and without the management's knowledge. Most sysadmins know that any number of Linux server scenarios can and will reduce their workload immensely...but on the desktop?

They don't what anything to do with it.

But if we are going to honestly evaluate the true obstacles in getting Linux and Open Source into the Enterprise, we have to get past the company techies. That is the toughest thing we face. The people that run and administrate the business are historically technical idio...technically challenged. They pay their tech people to fix their laptops when they screw them up and are looked upon as miracle-workers by those who don't know better. It's no doubt that they go to their techies to ask...

"So how about this Linux thing. Is it do-able for us?"

I think we know the answer and I will offer up to you a supreme - case in point as to the stuff these CEO's are getting told. I'm not saying that this poster does not have some good points, I grudgingly agree with many of them, however; they are not as insurmountable as some want their bosses to believe.

Which brings us to our next substantial stumbling block...The seeming lack of Linux System Administrators.

I cruise the want ads daily to see just how many of us could go to work at an Enterprise-level corporation if we decided we needed to. For every 20 requests for MSCE's or Windows Server Admins, there may be one or two postings for Linux Folks. Now here in Austin, those numbers are a bit higher. Linux seems to be catching on here in business much faster than in most places. Reasons for that are obvious, but in Newark or Fort Lauderdale, it's a whole different story.

Will this change? It is changing now. With the SEC beginning a full-tilt-boogie migration and much of Wall Street seeing the handwriting on the wall, there is no doubt that Linux has a bright future within the Enterprise. There is talk that the Obama Administration has pitched the Sun gods to explain "this Open Source thing". He seems serious about getting government costs under control. Note I said that with a straight face....and only make the point because it came out of a politician's mouth. Let's hope that McNealy has his A-game on when he hits the Oval Office.

Do you realize just how important this is to what we do?

The 5K layoff at Microsoft will look like a paper cut compared to the hemorrhaging that will take place if some of those lucrative government contracts were lost to Linux and Open Source applications. Remember...

For almost every Microsoft and Windows machine that gets axed, there will be an anti virus company somewhere crying a river of tears as well.

Sure there are questions about application cross-compatibility and use, but given the wide-spread use and acceptance of virtual tools and emulation, it's not nearly the problem it used to be. One app alone has breached this divide in almost miraculous ways, and that app is IE4Linux. It has made the difference in more than a few sales on this end alone.

The next front we need to tackle is the almost exclusive use of Windows software in the medical and real estate professions. That task seems almost overwhelming. Yet, the move from system integration to browser integration has already shown that many of these apps can be system agnostic. Still, there are companies and organizations that are hesitant to make that relatively easy as it would be to do so. We talked about it at length here.

So there are some of the obstacles and objections we have run into while "selling" Linux to business. Still, we get two or three calls a month to come and tell people what their options are.

Here's to a constantly-ringing phone in the near future and a huge fall-off of a particular habit in and around many server rooms.

Rebooting at midnight.

All-righty Then...


Anonymous said...


I think you underestimate the problems of MS.

If you look at the Boycott Novell site ( you will find some references to "Microsoft Death watch" and "Wrap-Up of Microsoft’s Demise; Units Shut Down".

Obviously, these do contain a "healthy" amount of wishful thinking etc. However, buried in this site you will find references to the "Comes vs. Microsoft" exhibits. These contain real perls of MS' pain.

It has long been known that companies that sell preinstalled Linux computers get a "visit from MS" followed by "help" in marketting MS products, see, eg:

For another example, MS' EDGI program will reimburse license costs and training to any school administration that threatens to switch to Linux:

Consider how bad the situation must be for a company to be able to only "sell" their product if they fully reimburse the client?

It seems the netbooks are the latest attack on MS' monopoly. See, eg, the Trendtac 700 MIPS netbook for around $130.:

I think MS' monopoly is effectively over. There is indeed going to be a real hemorrhage in the offers.


Anonymous said...

At the place where I was assigned until recently, there were basically two things that prevented me from using Linux on my desktop (apart from local policy, of course): An enterprise-class batch job control system like BMC Control-M, and a general database tool like Embarcadero dbArtisan. It turns out that there are in fact enterprise-class job control systems out there, like that also offers the beancounters paid support. MS SQL server was chosen since it had "better development tools" - I wonder just how far they looked.

There are long lists of replacement desktop programs Out There, but we also need desktop programs like these for business. (oh, and the batch jobs running against the MSSQL databases? Perl scripts running on Linux clusters...)

Unknown said...

If the government switches to FLOSS. We could have OOO or O^3 "Open Oval Office" :)

Anonymous said...

None of this is going to do a damned bit of good until people hear about Linux on TV, Radio and in newsprint. This circular jerkaround between the techsites and blogs does nothing but tell techs what other techs are doing. The community has no one to blame but themselves for not getting the word out. Everyone want someone else to do stuff and nothing gets done. Meanwhile, MS and other software companies remain in the lead because people know about them.

Advertise or remain in obscurity and die

kozmcrae said...


You're right about that circle "thing" but you may want to watch how you use that "community" word, because community means you.

FelixTheCat said...

Helios sent me a voiceover good for Linux radio ads that I've occasionally been working on for the past couple of months. Take a look at but PLEASE realize this is my home server, not a hosted site.

What I hope to do is a set of 15-second and 30-second ads, leaving a few seconds at the end for the local Linux business to add their contact information. This would be open to anyone to use, including the original voiceover with no music, under Creative Commons. The guy that makes the music has also offered a free secondary license for the music selected for the ad.

It'd be great to have some feedback and such on this since so many folks are chomping at the bits to have some Linux advertising.

John Hardin said...

Felix: If you're hosting files on your home system, you may want to use coral-ified links - like:

...especially if the files are large.

Anonymous said...

The anonymous poster who talked about marketing has it right but may have been a bit abrupt in his (?) presentation. Given the circumstances, I understand that it might have been more out of frustration than poor communication skills.

I've been following this guy for three years and I distinctly remember helios trying his damnedest to awaken the community to this need. Didn't he institute or "invent" the buckamonth thing?

I will agree with him on another level and the apathy and response he got from his efforts justify that agreement. A sustained regional radio and print campaign (90 days) would have cost 36.000 dollars. The fact that he could not get the major Linux sites like Slashdot to help him disseminate his idea was the kiss of death for the project.

I applaude you helios for still standing firm and swinging away. I would have given up in disgust long ago.

Manny Guerrero
Brownsville Tx

TripleII said...

Well, for small shops, enticements work. Tell any employee that you will pay them $100 to convert to OpenOffice+FF+Linux desktop but a certain date (easily 1/6 the typical CAL, Office, enterprise AV cost, you know the list) and watch how quickly they stop caring about Windows et all.


TripleII said...

Anaonymous:"None of this is going to do a damned bit of good until people hear about Linux on TV, Radio and in newsprint."

Not so, we just need to go viral. I have a One netbook with Mandriva. I have sold 4 through use to my friends. I have 2 more on order from here.

One for a colleague who wants my Mandriva desktop and one I will install Re-Mix on (a relative newbie, want pure easy). No doubt all of these will spark interest. Most ask if it is OS-X or an Apple book and I respond no, it's Linux.

When Mandriva 4.2 is released, I plan to create an optimize ISO for the machine since I seem to be reselling them a lot.

You can't beat grassroots since we don't have the money MS current does (and is blowing through offering loss leaders everywhere, lol)

Anonymous said...

We're medical clinics and we've been in operation for almost 24 years now. Haven't relied on Microsoft since 1987.

Complete Linux shop since 2000.

You don't have to have Windows in medicine.

Unknown said...

@ Michael

You have my full and undivided attention. You also will have my cell phone number if you email me. helios at fixedbylinux dott kommm

I can do some good things with your counsel.


Anonymous said...

For some good cross-promotion (the GNU/Linux community supporting efforts to save an endangered species), see

Anonymous said...

there is almost no limit to how badly a cube-inhabiting data entry employee can foul up their work computers.

No truer words have been spoken. I work as a system admin for a fairly large company and I stopped being amazed at what people can do to their computers. I've even begun giving "awards" to people who have done an outstanding job of doing this. I give them the "I destroyed my computer" digital award on our monthly newsletter.

It's been effective somewhat in slowing down such destruction.

Anonymous said...

I hate to break your undivided attention, but there's always (depending on your view of Rich Stallman) GNUmed for starters. I'm sure there's more to be had.

Anonymous said...

"The 5K layoff at Microsoft will look like a paper cut compared to the hemorrhaging that will take place if some of those lucrative government contracts were lost to Linux and Open Source applications."

To prevent the hemorrhaging, the big contracts will become progressively less lucrative.

There is hardly anything as important to understand than the EDGI strategy of dumping (mentioned above by another commentator). See Plaintiffs' Exhibit 8562: .

At some point everybody is going to realize that all a big IT operation need do to get Windows and Office dirt cheap is be ready to migrate to Linux and to let MS know it. Easier said than done, but it will get easier to do, little by little. It is clear that MS has already dropped its prices to stave off both piracy and migrations to Linux.

The big contracts will be lost soonest. The home user and small business user will keep paying until the last---until MS realizes they will have to give away Windows and Office licenses to all---and move to a support-based model.