The State of Linux: Substantial Growth in New Zealand
by Mark Rais, senior editor reallylinux.com
After five years of participating in the OpenSource community here in New Zealand, it is
not surprising that OpenSource solutions have grown substantially. When I first started working in an OSS centric company in Wellington, NZ,
there were still very few government departments, and fewer organizations that chose to move away from proprietary solutions.
Instead, many focused their efforts on attempting to scale shrink wrapped solutions that would eventually fail to sustain both the growth and the performance requirements.
Then they began to integrate (notice I did not say replace) OSS with their existing infrastructure and the results were overt.
Today, half a decade later, New Zealand is among one of the world leading countries in Open Source use.
Therefore it is not at all surprising that the next Australasian
Open Source Developers Conference
will be held in Auckland, New Zealand this October. Given the significant number of Open Source awards and the scope of the projects in 2012, it becomes overt how rapidly OSS is spreading.
As I noted years ago, many of the leading I.T.
organizations in both Australia and New Zealand are not only utilizing
Linux for key infrastructure, they are expanding overall OSS use. What I did not realize at the time, but now understand far
better, is that this growth is more often unspoken and driven one
organization at a time, one installation at a time.
I decided to begin my investigations
regarding The State of Linux in Asia-Pacific, here in New Zealand. This article is the first in a series.
After spending some time in each of the major cities speaking with
I.T. leaders and users alike, I find that New Zealand may epitomize
successful Linux adoption in this region.
Although this numerically
small nation has substantially employed Microsoft products and
remains a strong test bed for Microsoft's new initiatives, it is
also highly innovative and resourceful. Moreover, nearly
60% of this nation's companies are small or start-up businesses.
An ideal place for substantial Open Source adoption.
My inquiries began several years ago with experts such as Peter Harrison,
head of The New Zealand Open Source Society, a nonprofit organization
to protect, advocate, and advance OSS. Peter Harrison had some very
substantive insights. For one thing, Peter states:
"In actual fact, most companies who use Linux are not promoting their products as related to Linux. Yellow Tuna, for example, is a very successful New Zealand company selling firewalls and related services on top of a Linux system. Many companies will be using their product without any real decision to use Linux as such."
Dave Lane, Director of Egressive, an
Open Source business solutions company in Christchurch, New Zealand,
"Linux use is often quiet. There are probably hundreds of schools in South Island already using Linux."
This is also validated by the band of
certified Linux engineers, including Jethro Carr, Wellington New
Zealand LUG web-master, who points out:
"The best way to deal with the conversion is to treat it just like an upgrade. It's not that big
a deal. People are less scared by it. Don't say new system, say improved system. New is scary. But improved -- improved is good. People think of better features, easier to use, less crashes, etc."
As a result, there is far less emphasis
on WHAT is being installed and more on HOW well it will work to
address the current needs of the user. While few people are parading Linux and Open Source around, there is plenty of use and adoption.
But this often occurs with little fan fare. Which makes good sense since most people are simply interested in the benefits of software. How something will help their organization. What the software is, who brands it, how it is marketed is of little concern. And what this means to Linux implementation is very important to understand.
The result is obvious. Although Linux
deployments are occurring en-mass, they are often not at all emphasized. This makes gaging the true breadth of Linux growth in the region nearly impossible. But it is indeed widespread and widely used.
The story is much the same in Australia (I include details in my next article on Australia). James Niland, our senior moderator, shares:
"MS is very good at influencing the middle management who decide on what gets used.
I'm under the impression though, that the techies have found ways around this. Let the boss run his
windows computer but he logs into his domain on a SAMBA server and his emails gets checked by CLAMAV etc.
It seems to be the major rule, if you implement with Linux you don't talk much about it.
Hence I think that there are more Linux machines out there than many people realize."
Therefore, what is happening beneath
the surface regarding adoption and use is probably equally as large
as what we hear about daily. For every organization or government
division that openly declares its Open Source initiatives, there is
probably another one that has deployed OSS quietly and subtly.
Andrew Hill, director of the I.T.
Solutions company Treshna Enterprises, in Christchurch, New Zealand, mentions:
"Businesses use it but often don't know they are. They may know they have a Debian or a Red Hat
server, but they won't know too much about the open source movement, the ideals of the freedom granted by the GPL or the make up of software on GNU/Linux."
The reason that Linux use, especially
in infrastructure projects, is toned down and subtle has not only to
do with Microsoft's marketing but more importantly with keeping the
customers happy -- avoiding heaping spoonfuls of technical jargon and
A powerful technique, one that has been
employed across many organizations in Asia-Pacific region is to
upgrade older proprietary software in business to new Open
Source options. This not only happens in the server rooms, but also
in the office. And it reduces anxiety among business clients regarding new or
seemingly experimental things, and shrinks the barrier to entry for rock-solid Linux implementations.
Jethro Carr shares insights on how this
"I have heard of many places slowly converting people from proprietary solutions to OSS, by replacing programs one-at-a-time. One day IE is replace with Firefox. Then MS Office is replaced with Open Office, etc. Eventually, replacing the OS is just the next step. Nothing scary."
Dave Lane from Egressive
Ltd. and his business development leader, Rob Fraser, both note:
People have the idea that their organization is a Microsoft shop. But then -- they find out that many of their servers are running Linux.
Indeed, many I.T. Leaders are
still unaware that key infrastructure components have been humming
along without issue on systems that cost significantly less and
perform well. Often, the very reason implementation of such
servers occurs, has to do with the procurement process and the need
to get capital budget approval.
Linux offers a very effective way around this. Instead, many administrators and
technologists, told to solve their organization's needs promptly,
forego the entire money process and install Linux on older servers that may
have been sitting idle in the backrooms. They revive and reuse
hardware without procurement headaches, while solving business
infrastucture needs. All this using Linux, which tends to also
afford them greater flexibility and options for future uses.
And what a dramatic time to begin such
initiatives. As we approach the dawn of Microsoft Vista and its
required upgrades, this option to implement Linux on older hardware
becomes far more appetizing even for non-OSS connoisseurs.
This also helps to explain why Linux
adoption is growing across sectors. Linux is a best-of-breed
offering and alternative that neither governments nor businesses
continue to ignore, at least in Australia and New Zealand. The
innovative and creative spirit lives on quite thoroughly down in this
side of the world.
Mark Rais serves as senior editor for
reallylinux.com, contributes his tech skills to assist NZ organizations, and written several books on Linux and UNIX, and promotes the use of Open Source software world-wide.
Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds. IBM, PC-DOS, and OS/2 are the registered trademarks or trademarks of International Business Machines. Microsoft, Microsoft Vista, Microsoft Windows are all trademarks or registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation both in the United States and Internationally. All other trademarks or registered trademarks in this opinion piece belong to their respective owners.