When all else is stripped away, a CIO's decision often centers on confidence. And that confidence is derived largely from a feeling that high-quality technical support will be there from top-shelf providers.
For years, many CIOs have held back from embracing Linux because they were concerned about who would provide the necessary support for the software. After all, IBM was the only major hardware vendor enthusiastically embracing Linux with a substantial support mechanism, while most major independent software vendors had moved only haltingly into the Linux camp. And resellers and systems integrators hadn't yet built up a critical mass of support tools and methodologies for business applications.
Today, however, most agree that's changed. All major hardware vendors are offering industrial-strength support for enterprise customers, and an increasing number of leading software publishers have done the same.
Network Appliance's Klimke, although hesitant about Linux's fit for his organization today, believes the support issue is moving in the right direction. "CIOs prefer a standard-supported, engineered commercial product that has a future and will be accountable," he says. "I am comfortable that Linux itself is close to that by virtue of its embrace by major systems vendors."
Corporate customers also point out that value-added resellers and systems integrators have developed real-life success stories in not only implementing, but actually supporting Linux for important business applications. "Since we'd never had Linux inside our organization before, we wanted to be fully sure that our partner [IBM] would be able to provide the hands-on support we'd need," says Meyer of Anaconda Sports. "We wanted to know that they'd actually worked with other companies with environments similar to ours, so that they knew how to support us on an ongoing basis."
Jay Bahel, CIO of Brunswick New Technologies, a division of Lake Forest, Ill.-based Brunswick Corp., a manufacturer of marine navigation systems and engine control systems, stressed the importance of knowing the support capabilities of open-source software suppliers. "You absolutely must make sure you're not getting something from hackers in China, but from guys with a real P&L model and the financial resources to support you," he says. "We use it to run mission-critical applications, and we would not do it unless we could get high-quality support. You must be able to bet the bank on the support."
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