Linux in Government: The End Game for Vendor Lock-In

Open-source and standards compliant Linux quickly is becoming the enabler in today's complex IT infrastructures.
Enterprises Require Integrated IT Environments

If you ever have called a company for customer service, had to enter your account number to start the call only to give it to the operator again, you have a sense of a disintegrated business. A disintegrated business has applications and storage in various silos.

In a recent article, Madan Sheina provides a nice description of application silos:

As IT advances at a rapid clip, the original focus has largely been on process automation--i.e. capturing and managing transactions. As the amount of transactional data collected within enterprises continues to rise, the number of places and ways it is stored has also grown proportionately. This has led to a syndrome commonly called "application silos", where the deployment of multiple IT systems--such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), data warehouses, customer portals and content management systems--are giving business users incomplete and inconsistent pictures of corporate information.

For someone obsessed with revenue growth and cost containment, the replication of data in various silos causes unaffordable problems. To provide an example, think about Credit Agricole, a company that manually processed all of its security events and alerts from various firewalls, routers, system scanners, databases, anti-virus software, network logon failures and so on. The enterprise saw approximately 450,000 alerts a day. Consider the amount of staff time and workload required to deal with this many alerts. Using an integration tool, the company centralized all of its various log events into a single reporting environment, and by eliminating duplication, brought its actionable events down to 30 a day.

Consider Credit Agricole's problem as lightweight compared to customer data, inventory analysis or simple record access from user account management. In a survey on Wall Street, analysts discovered that on average 60% of all user accounts were orphaned. That means the employees no longer worked at the company.

Also think about all the directories companies have in application silos, such as human resources, e-mail directories, insurance and retirement accounts, security applications, customer relationship management tools, accounts payable and receivable and so on. Using open source tools on Linux, system administrators can reconcile those records and virtualize them. Data can be verified, duplication eliminated and user privileges assigned through automation.

Linux allows businesses the ability to simplify their infrastructures and their management, provide business continuity and durability of data while managing it through its life cycle. Linux provides high availability and self-healing grid computing and the ability to virtualize silos into a single managed environment. The majority of major solution providers for grids, storage area networks, Web services, federated identity management and the like run on Linux. Of all the major providers, IBM appears to lead the industry with its early recognition of this fact, which the company chairman calls On-Demand Business.

Wake Up Call Being Heard

According to a seminar by IBM called "The Road to Resiliency", Yankee Group and Sunbelt Software surveys indicate that enterprises recognize the value proposition of Linux in increasing revenues and containing costs. The survey results indicate that:

  • 64% of customers plan to move a portion of their OSes to Linux

  • 25% plan to migrate from Windows to Linux

  • 21% plan to add Linux servers

  • 11% plan to replace Windows servers totally.

According to the same sources, enterprises see Linux as having advantages in:

  • Speed of development

  • Flexibility

  • Skills reuse

  • Speed of adjustment to changes

  • Freedom

  • Choice

In the same seminar, the presenters discussed a major customer that switched its primary mission-critical application to Linux from a proprietary system. The company, Cendant Travel Distribution Services, put its Fares application on Red Hat Enterprise Linux and IBM WebSphere using IBM xSeries and IBM BladeCenter servers. The move reduced expenditures by 90% while achieving 99.999% availability and handling 300-400 transactions per second.

During the presentation, IBM shared a quote from Robert Wiseman, CTO of Cendant Travel Distribution Services: "By standardizing the architecture, we have reusable components that allow us to rapidly develop and deploy new services and applications to meet our customer's needs to be competitive in the market place."



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Silos and licenses

Ralph's picture

I enjoyed reading about silos. I have often wondered about call centers that act this way. I never really thought about it being caused by lack of integration among systems. This seems like a problem that open source systems would have a big advantage in solving. Closed systems want to protect their interfaces, but open source systems can't and that is to the user's benefit.
The point I did not see mentioned was how vendors try to lock you in to their solutions with abusive licensing terms. The GPL is really the users best choice when it comes to flexibility of how you use your system. Some developers like BSD better for reasons I understand. They have their own interests to further. The user is the class that benefits from the GPL. And, that is one big reason that I think Linux has succeeded.