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UK Retailer John Lewis Goes Linux on a Mainframe, No Fear in AU, and an Aging MS
Tuesday, April 13 2004 @ 04:42 AM EDT

News from the UK about a major retailer switching to Linux on a mainframe for customer service. And a survey in Australia indicates a low level of fear of SCO. Ms. DiDio is still huffing and puffing, spinning her "independent" survey on TCO, but it's running out of gas. A word on EV1 from a competitor who is picking up a lot of customers. And finally, Microsoft is facing a midlife crisis, according to, if you can believe it, BusinessWeek Online. All in all, a nice start to the day.

First, from the UK, retailer John Lewis has switched its core customer service operations to Linux, on a mainframe:

"John Lewis has become one of the first UK blue-chip organisations to deploy Linux on a strategic business application.

"The retailer used the quiet period over the Easter weekend to install in-house Linux customer service software, based on IBM's Websphere application server on a new eSeries mainframe.

"Originally developed for Windows, the application is being migrated to Linux running on the mainframe because of concerns that Windows could not cope with the growing number of transactions, said John Keeling director of computer services at John Lewis. He described the Linux application as 'strategic'.

"The deployment is part of a wider project to upgrade John Lewis' mainframe to support expansion as the partnership takes on board the 19 Safeway stores it purchased from supermarket chain Morrisons last month."

And then a survey from Australia indicates CIOs there aren't buying SCO's story. Instead of fear, many of them are feeling a great deal of "enmity" towards SCO. Plans to go Linux are going forward:

"SCO'S pursuit of legal claims over code belonging to the Linux operating system has had no effect on plans by Australian chief information officers to deploy the software.

"According to an S2 Intelligence study carried out from August to December, many IT decision-makers felt a great deal of "enmity" towards SCO as a result of its actions. . . .

" Survey participants were unequivocal in saying their main motivation for using open source was economic. Vendor dependence and lock-in were key drivers.

"'Open-source alternatives to Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office are seen as specific mechanisms for reducing dependency,' the report says. 'Even if the actual level of dependency is not reduced, Linux and OpenOffice/StarOffice are widely seen as mechanisms to reduce the negative effects of dependency.'

"Reduced administration was also seen as a by-product of an open-source deployment. This was as a result of the simple licensing requirements compared with proprietary software products and not having to audit software or keep records."

I wonder if Laura DiDio factored in the cost of having to audit software and keep records when figuring the TCO?

Sure she did.

The DiDio survey is still being spun, but some important details are starting to be noticed. In the BusinessWeek article, "Experts disagree on Linux cost benefits", some contrary information actually sees the light of day, if you read with discernment all the way to the end of the article. There, finally they mention Sunbelt being a partner of MS, although in the same sentence as the phrase, "independent survey", so the implications maybe haven't fully sunk in. Still, I find it very significant that they mention it at all, because when the survey was first released, it was spun as the first truly independent study. Now, thanks to some Yahoo warriors, they can't say that any more without at least a footnote or parenthetical notation that Microsoft is in this picture. The Sunbelt-Microsoft connection wasn't dug up by the mainstream media. They don't have the time. But they do at least acknowledge the fact, if not its full implications, once it is handed to them on a platter. That is progress. Really.

Here's the final part of the "heroic" effort to make it seem Linux costs more than Windows:

"'We think people are looking at TCO in a more balanced way now,' says Martin Taylor, general manager of platform strategy at Microsoft and leader of the company's 'Get the Facts' campaign on Unix and Linux. 'For the most part, customers would concede the TCO discussion to Linux.'

"Users and analyst [sic] agree there are merits to the hype.

"A recent independent study by The Yankee Group and Sunbelt Software Inc. (which is a Microsoft partner) shows Linux won't necessarily provide cost savings and indeed could cost more depending on the details of the rollout.

"'When it comes to Linux, you don't get what you don't pay for,' says Laura DiDio of The Yankee Group, author of the forthcoming Web-based survey of 1,000 IT administrators and corporate executives. Among other conclusions the survey reached was that a majority of corporations with 5,000-plus end users say Linux requires from 25 percent to 40 percent more full-time support specialists than Windows or Unix, and that skilled Linux administrators in large urban areas command a 20 percent to 30 percent greater premium than their Windows and Unix counterparts.

"But DiDio says the big issue for businesses revolves around Linux vendors' restricted indemnity clause for products, which protect against damage, outages and legal disputes such as The SCO Group Inc.'s claim against IBM."

As you see, DiDio never runs out of steam, but the parenthetical partner info is like a pimple on the nose of her survey. And as for the indemnification nonsense, I think free is not a viable TCO factor, and yes, you can get indemnification from SCO for free, depending on certain factors. What I suspect happened is, SCO planned this spin from the beginning. First, they'd publicly call on IBM to provide indemnification, which they did, like frogs in a pond. The plan, I believe, was to say Linux costs more than Microsoft/SCO. The problem is, IBM didn't budge; HP offered indemnification for free; others, like OSDL, offered money for legal fees, and so forth. It ruined the plan, but it was all they had. So they went forward with a survey and DiDio reports, as if it were so, that indemnification makes Linux cost more. And it almost worked, if it hadn't been for those pesky Yahoo guys.

There is also an interview with Peter Pathos, President of The Planet, by Netcraft, who comments on the EV1-SCO story:

"Q. EV1Servers, one of your chief competitors in the dedicated server sector, recently signed an intellectual property license with SCO regarding its Linux servers. What is The Planet's position on the merits of SCO's intellectual property license? What kind of feedback are you hearing from customers regarding recent news developments in the SCO matter?

"A. There is obviously a very negative tone surrounding the recent license agreement between SCO and EV1. Robert Marsh and EV1 have been very successful since their inception, and I am certain this was a solid business decision for Robert. Currently, The Planet legal team is reviewing all information regarding the SCO lawsuits and alleged claims of infringement. At this time, The Planet has not entered into an agreement with SCO and does not support the legal stance of SCO. We believe SCO is alienating the open source community along with current and future potential customers."

The article says that in the last two months, more than 37,000 hostnames have moved to The Planet from other hosting companies.

And Microsoft is facing a midlife crisis, according to BusinessWeek Online, and it faces its biggest crisis in its history, thanks in part to Linux:

"Microsoft just isn't the phenom it used to be. After 29 years, the software giant is starting to look like a star athlete who's past his prime. Growth is tepid. Expansion is stymied. Bureaucracy is a concern. And a company that used to be so intimidating it attracted antitrust suits on two continents seems, well, vulnerable.

"The threats it faces are among the most serious in Microsoft's history. For starters, there's Linux, the software dubbed "open source" because the code is shared freely by developers around the world. With grass-roots and government support from Finland to China, Linux has become so popular that it's challenging Microsoft's core business as no rival ever has. . . .

"The question now is whether Microsoft is losing the dynamism it needs to retain that leadership. Is mighty Microsoft becoming IBM in the 1980s -- profitable but lumbering? Big but irrelevant? A giant but toothless? 'They are already less relevant now than they were 10 years ago,' says Michael A. Cusamano, professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management and co-author of Microsoft's Secrets, a book on the company's success. . . .

"Linux poses the biggest threat to Microsoft since the Web burst on the scene in the mid-'90s. The 13-year-old operating system is attractive to tech companies and corporations alike because it gives them a viable alternative to Microsoft's products that they can modify at will. Also, since Linux computers run on the same processors as Windows and the software is available for free, for the first time Microsoft is confronted with competition that is cheaper to buy. Until now, Linux' momentum has come primarily at the expense of the Unix software in server computers.

"But corporations increasingly are adopting Linux as a viable option to Windows. . . . In a recent survey of corporate tech purchasers by Merrill Lynch & Co., 48% said they plan to boost their use of open-source software this year, and 34% of that subgroup are targeting applications that traditionally ran on Windows."

Where I am, I look out my window, I see it's raining. But when I look at my monitor, it looks like the start to a very pleasant new day.

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