It’s not an animal on the Chinese calendar, but in many ways 2002 was the year of the penguin, according to Evan Leibovitch.
Few are as qualified to judge the progression of Linux in Canada. He is a king penguin of sorts with three Linux organizations. He is the president and chairman of
the Linux Professional Institute (LPI), partner with Linux integrator Starnix and director of the Canadian Linux Users’ Exchange. In recognition of his efforts Leibovitch has been named one of CDN’s top 10 newsmakers for 2002.
Leibovitch says LPI took up most of his time this year. LPI develops and administers standardized tests to certify the talent of Linux professionals. In three years, he says, it has managed to come out of nowhere to become recognized as a global brand. About 1,700 system and network administrators took the exam in October. About 20,000 people have taken the exam in about three years.
“It’s become, I believe, quite the success story in combining the Linux community together with the professional world, which is something I’m particularly proud of,” Leibovitch says.
His interest in Linux grew out of the ashes of the failed promise of Unix. Leibovitch says he remembers exactly where and when he converted: the Unix World Show in New York in 1995 and Novell just announced it was getting out of the Unix business. He became disillusioned with the Unix movement and convinced it had reached its peak and would never be a competitive alternative to Microsoft.
As luck would have it, there were two tiny booths at the show from companies few had heard of: Red Hat and Caldera. Leibovitch had heard of Linux, but didn’t know much about it so he ventured by.
“Commercial Linux was absolutely in its infancy at that point, and so these companies had all sorts of enthusiasm, they had all sorts of ideas where this stuff could go,” Leibovitch recalls. “Did Caldera and Red Hat and I in 1995 believe that Linux would achieve the success it has now? Well, I guess we’d hoped for it, but you couldn’t anticipate in 1995 that companies like IBM would come in as strongly and unequivocally as they have.”
Public endorsement from companies like IBM, Oracle, Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems has also been a highlight for Leibovitch. While such backing isn’t the be-all and end-all, he says it helped open doors. Fear of the unknown, he says, is the biggest hurdle to widespread adoption.
While many companies are taking a wait-and-see approach, Leibovitch says Linux made tremendous inroads with the Canadian government in 2002. He says public sector IT departments are traditionally reluctant to change, but budget constraints have made it almost impossible not to look at open source software as part of any solution.
As far as the next wave, Leibovitch says resellers are going to have to adjust their thinking to catch it. He expects the services area to be the sweet spot in the short term.
“You can’t make money selling the software itself. The revenue to be made from Linux is all in the periphery: it’s in the training, it’s in the integration, it’s in the consulting, it’s in the infrastructure design,” he says.
“Companies are going to find themselves making good money off Linux without actually making money off the software itself. It requires a bit of a change of thinking from some traditional resellers, but the opportunities are still there and the money is certainly still there.”
Leibovitch says resellers should get in touch with one of the three Linux vendors with offices in Canada (Red Hat, SCO and Mandrake), but adds SCO and Mandrake are extremely eager to build channels.
As for Leibovitch he says there is plenty left to do. He hopes to add new certification in security and advanced administration and hold an alumni reunion for LPI certificate owners.
There is no doubt to the continued growth and acceptance of Linux.
IDC expects Linux to continue to make its presence felt in the industry. By 2006, new worldwide Linux licence shipments will be worth close to US$300 million, up 28 per cent.
“I’m enjoying what I’m doing tremendously. I’m getting to see Linux make its way into the mainstream. I get to feel like I’m at least a tiny part of what’s making that happen.”