The Russian government’s move to create a state-sponsored, Linux-based operating system is unlikely to spawn copycats among enterprise IT shops, according to industry analysts.
Last week, Russia announced its intention to reduce its dependence on U.S. technology and boost IT security by spending US$5 million to build out a Linux-based OS. The exact details of the new OS will be decided next month, as the country’s spokespeople kept tight-lipped about whether it would build the national Linux distro from scratch or use a popular distribution such as Ubuntu.
Darin Stahl, a lead analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group Ltd., said that while building a national Linux distribution would increase security, provide better language support and boost national pride, it is unlikely to reduce the country’s dependency on Western technologies. Not only has the core Linux kernel been created by people all over the world, he said, Russia would likely be stuck using Intel and AMD-based chips for all of their machines.
But while the language, security and national pride issues might be worth the investment for Russia, Stahl said, large enterprises will not be able to make the same business case. He said businesses would more likely turn to existing Linux distribution packages as opposed to building something from scratch.
“If I was Manulife, for instance, why would I create a Manulife Linux?” he said. “If I was trying to create a customizable, tailored experience, I can already get that with (existing Linux) packages available to me.”
He said the in-house IT team in charge of maintaining the hypothetical “ManuLinux,” would have to work around the clock whenever a new piece of hardware or software enters the IT environment.
“Desktops and servers don’t exist in and of (themselves),” he said. “They have to integrate with the rest of the IT infrastructure.”
Stahl added that issues would also arise anytime computer manufacturers, such as Dell, change the drivers or chip brands they put into their machines. This means that every time you bring a different piece of hardware into your environment, “you have to deal with issues on the OS layer,” he said.
Duncan Jones, a U.K.-based principal analyst with Forrester Research Inc., said that because software is a business of scale, a company that buy 100,000 copies of Microsoft Office for $30 million is actually benefiting from billions of dollars of development effort.
“No way could that enterprise develop something similar to Office for $30 million,” he said. “Okay, there is the argument that each company uses only a subset of the functionality of a program like Office, but there’s no way any company knows enough about its employees to be able to define exactly what subset of functionality it would develop.”
While Jones argued that an organization could not develop an OS more cost effectively than buying Windows, he said that because Linux comes from an open source community that provides scale, it could be an option for some IT shops.