BMC exec: More shops 'moving key applications to Linux'

IT shops' interest in enterprise Linux was lukewarm 18 months ago, but now it's hot, according to Lori Allen, BMC Software Inc.'s Linux solutions vice president. In meetings with IT directors around the world, she's seen a rapid increase in the number of IT shops using and/or evaluating Linux. In this interview, she shares the Linux evaluation, deployment and usage issues that have come up in these conversations. She also discusses how Houston-based BMC's products can help IT shops deploy and manage Linux.

Among the businesses you've seen, how would you assess IT shops' Linux-readiness? Those who have various flavors

of Unix are better positioned than those who have, for example, Windows only. If they don't have Unix in house, then they have a bit more work to do. They must assess what skills they have versus what skills are needed. They'll have to determine who is going take ownership of Linux pieces and be responsible for managing them on an ongoing basis. That person can bear the brunt of most of the training and determine how much training others in the shop need. In the past, Linux has lived on the edge of the enterprise. Are businesses serious about bringing Linux into their data centers? We still talk to a fair number of shops that are looking at Linux as a Web- or print-serving platform. More and more, however, businesses [are] looking at moving key applications to Linux. Some are looking at … moving over HR [human resources] and even database applications, for example. While I would still characterize it as in the emerging stage, we are hearing from a good number of customers who are considering moving over these mission-critical applications to Linux. How would you gauge business users' interest in Linux today? It's definitely on the increase. We continually do customer briefings, and we've been querying audiences about whether or not they're running Linux in their shops and if they're running Linux in a production mode. A year and a half ago, not many hands went up, and the percentages of Linux users were small. Now, half the room or more say they are running Linux in some fashion, and many of those people are looking at moving key applications to Linux. How do you compare BMC's Linux infrastructure management, planning, deployment and service management package with enterprise management products from other vendors? Most other products, and there aren't many for Linux, focus on just the pushing or deployment piece of it.

Linuxcare's Levanta [software for consolidating servers with Linux on IBM z/VM] supports only zSeries. Our line supports Intel and zSeries. Levanta doesn't have the knowledge base and content that Deployment Manager for Linux offers. It also lacks Development Manager's ability to do compatibility testing across the board and tools for updating software on a regular basis.

[SCO] Volution has deployment technology that is pushing out the software. Once again, BMC adds to that the ability to do compatibility testing and then update that through the rules database that we provide. The rules database is constantly downloading the software and checking it against the various levels of functionality.


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Some IT pros have told us that Linux isn't easy to deploy in enterprise environments. Have you heard this?
IT shops are concerned about skills. Obviously, some shops could have more expertise in one platform than another. Just recognizing that fact helps them answer the questions: Are we going to run Linux on an Intel platform or on [IBM's] zSeries? Do I have the resources necessary to manage these new Linux instances?

Our Deployment Manager can help by automating planning, deployment, maintenance and upgrade tasks. It can give customers the capability to more easily implement Linux into their environments, even if they have limited in-house expertise with Linux. How do the IT shops you've encountered feel about using open-source software?
They're testing the waters. They're trying to determine where it might make sense -- in terms of function and cost-savings -- to choose open-source software. They have concerns about support for open-source applications.

They also have concerns about compatibility of open-source products with legacy software. Our Deployment Manager for Linux can help out here. It does compatibility testing across the version, enabling IT shops to test open-source programs and use them when they are compatible. BMC also has a certification lab. Do you think businesses planning to deploy Linux need certified Linux professionals in their IT shops?
There certainly will be a need for training. As businesses look at deploying mission-critical applications on the Linux platform and folding the applications and tools now on other platforms into Linux, they'll need to have the expertise to handle critical processes. For instance, they'll need to know how to develop policies for security and backup. In many cases, they'll need to have people trained in Linux to handle that.

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