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Linux can be good for your business

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DQW Bureau
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It is virtually impossible to read an industry magazine,

visit a website or go to a conference these days without hearing about Linux.

There are a lot of success stories on the stock market and news of companies

porting applications to Linux, but it's only half the story. One thing often

missing in these messages are the reasons why Linux is becoming so prevalent.

There are three key benefits that Linux and open source

software bring to the marketplace--flexibility, reliability and affordability.

Linux's flexibility makes it a great choice for a customer that wants to deploy

operating systems at both the high-end and the low end. What this means is that

Linux can be used as a single-purpose server on lower-end hardware and as a

multiple application server with multiple processors at the high end.

Also, because the operating system source code is open

and available, there is an opportunity for firms to customize features and

programs for their customers. They are able to gain a better understanding of

the code, and build better applications. Custom application development provides

a significant opportunity for channel partners to take advantage of the freedom

only open source solutions provide.

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If there is one issue common between all computer users

and administrators, it's the need for reliability. To put it in plain terms,

businesses don't want their computers to crash. On the desktop, crashes are an

irritation and reduce productivity, but they don't bring business to a halt.

When a server crashes, the whole business stops most of the time. Employees

can't access files or e-mail, or even worse, customers can't access the

corporate website.

What Linux means to the VAR market?

Reports of system crashes on Linux-based operating

systems are few and far between. In fact, Linux uptime is reported in months and

years in many cases, as opposed to days and weeks. What does this mean for the

value added reseller? To put it simply, happy customers. Customers who don't

have to worry about system crashes are certainly going to be happy with a

reseller solution, which will likely lead to repeat business.

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As for affordability, the software itself doesn't have

any licensing fees; however, tech support can be purchased at reasonable prices.

For the OEM or system builder, this translates directly into higher margins on

their current systems, or the ability to market lower cost solutions to their

customers. This is primarily the reason why biggies like Compaq, IBM or HP are

pushing in Linux as a pre-loaded OS in some of their systems now.

Said Manish Mehrotra, MD of Allahabad-based Tritech

Enterprises, "Almost all the big system vendors are zeroing in on Linux

now. They have realized that it is going to save them a lot of money and

eventually the customer is having a system at a price which is around Rs 5,000

to Rs 6,000 lower than a MS loaded system. So this is encouraging for the

customers as well as vendors."

Because of Linux's low cost, a reseller can include more

service, support and training in a standard deal. Resellers make higher margins

on service, whether they are delivering it themselves or partnering with the

vendor. Linux vendors typically offer packages to resellers that allow them to

deliver frontline support to customers, while helping with higher-level support

issues. "We are quite happy with Linux response. Though there is not much

enthusiasm among the SOHO segment, but corporates are looking at it quite

positively," added Mehrotra.

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As the computer industry starts to look toward

value-added services, particularly through ASP and outsourcing models, customers

will be less inclined to pay high licensing fees for software. Open source

software is already in line with these new models, with low fees for the

software and services becoming the bulk of the sale. The ability to bring

low-cost, reliable solutions to the marketplace is the true advantage of Linux.

Understanding these advantages puts a reseller in the driver's seat to take part

in this exploding trend.

"If you're a VAR and you're at least open to

considering the idea, one reason to go for Linux is that even though the profit

margins aren't that big, not paying a licensing fee is an issue," quipped

RK Tiwary of Lucknow-based Computer Shack. "The other thing is, it's good

for a lot of boxes that sit in corners (servers)."

According to Ashok Kaul, GM, Aci, Linux is the best

option available to them not only because of its cost factor but also because of

the open source architecture. "We are providing a pre-loaded Linux

operating system with our notebooks and this is one of the factors because of

which we are able to price our notebooks for the student community at around Rs

35,000."

Linux is a real market force, battering both NT and

traditional Unix. If big-name vendors keep their commitments of major financial

and product support, the movement will only become stronger. And the channel

community would be well-advised to start focussing on the same.

Zia Askari

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