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GCN : June 2014
I RECENTLY DECIDED to switch from Windows XP to Linux for two reasons. First, after trying to revive an old laptop for simple Web brows- ing, Windows XP required massive updates, which in turn caused my Wi-Fi connec- tion to stop working. Second, after two hours of troubleshooting Windows XP, I bailed on the e ort and decided to see how easy it would be to blow away XP and replace it with Linux OS, since my only real goal was to have a "single-use" machine for Web browsing or Web searches. I had undertaken the same experiment five years ago with mixed results due to a complex Linux install process that required exact informa- tion on a previous laptop s make, model and hard drive type, which was followed up by a manual partitioning pro- cess and painful install. Five years ago, installing Linux on an old laptop was painful. This time, I installed Fedora on an old Hewlett Packard laptop with no hic- cups, no extra information and no manual partition- ing. Linux, you ve come a long way, baby! After the install, using the operating system has been fast and intuitive with the Gnome Desktop performing just as well as Windows or MacOS. A recent article in Fortune magazine on "The Dawn of the Chrome Age" highlights the success of the Linux-based OS in the low-cost laptop mar- ket. According to the article, "Over the holidays in 2013, two of Google s Chromebook models were the No. 1 and No.3 bestselling laptops on Amazon.com, and they re being adopted in schools and business around the world." "What in the name of Bill Gates is going on? Sure, Google s incredible ascent in mobile devices --- its Android is now the No. 1 operating system globally for tablets and smartphones --- has been well chronicled. But even as that has been happening, the company s Chrome OS has begun chipping away at the big players." Simply put, Chrome OS represents Web apps on top of Linux, and given that the Web has become the leading appli- cation development platform -- this is significant. There are other marquee examples of Linux s ascen- dency that are just as impor- tant. Amazon s Kindle is a set of Java applications on top of Linux. Android is also a Java VM on top of Linux. Finally, Valve is bringing video games, a long-time bastion of the Windows platform, to Linux with SteamOS. But most important, in rela- tion to the future of enterprise computing, Linux platforms dominate for cloud comput- ing and big data applications. Why? For one thing, renting compute servers running Linux is significantly cheaper than the Windows-based alternatives. For example, on Rackspace. com a Windows 2012 Server image with 4GB of RAM and 160GB hard drive is $0.32 an hour, whereas the equivalent Linux platform is $0.24 an hour. According the Amazon Web Services monthly calen- dar, the same m1.medium instance is $0.15 for Windows and $0.09 for Linux (these are the prices after Amazon an- nounced its 42nd price cut). Given that the cloud is all about scalability and that run- ning hundreds or thousands of nodes is not uncommon, those pennies add up fast! So, just as the Web has won the platform war for applications, Linux will win for operating systems. For ap- plications, you cannot beat the zero-install and zero-upgrade advantages of the Web. And for operating systems, you cannot beat Linux for high reliability at a low cost. As pundits have long predicted, given a good Web browser, it does not matter what desktop operating sys- tem you run beneath it. Now, we see the corollary to that position: Given a modern Web architecture on the server side, it does not matter what operating system you run to host it. And it just so happens that Linux can reliably and cheaply handle both jobs! In the cloud, that translates to significant cost savings. • --- Michael C. Daconta is vice president of advanced tech- nology at InCadence Strategic Solutions and the former metadata program manager for the Homeland Security Department. In the cloud, Linux will win the OS war REALITY CHECK BY MICHAEL DACONTA Just as the Web has won the platform war for applications, Linux will win for operating systems. For applications, you cannot beat the zero-install and zero-upgrade advantages of the Web. And for operating systems, you cannot beat Linux for high reliability at a low cost. GCN JUNE 2014 • GCN.COM 13