Technical support for Linux is not an issue, say IBM and Linux systems integrators.
That message came through loud and clear after several of New Zealand’s largest systems integrators expressed concerns that open source software lacked support structures (Linux just a blip: integrators). Gen-i, Axon, Eagle Technology, Unisys and EDS reported negligible Linux business though gen-i, Axon and Eagle did see potential in open source systems.
However, IBM Global Services business development executive Gary Elmes says the issue of support around Linux is a non-issue.
IBM Global Services has been offering enterprise-level Linux support since last year, he says, and several New Zealand organisations are considering Linux on high-end platforms such as the IBM mainframe s390.
“In essence we have exactly the same support offering for Linux as we do for our AIX, OS/400 or mainframe operating systems. We support Turbo, SuSE, Caldera and Red Hat. The great little secret around Linux support is that it covers everything that comes on the distribution CD from each vendors so it’s not just operating system – it’s compilers, Apache web servers, Sendmail, Squid, Samba and desktop applications.”
An IBM Linux customer logging a support call would be answered by Big Blue’s Australian call centre, which is available 24 hours a day.
“If you have a top service level agreement you might have a response within one hour. Within Australasia we have four people specifically trained up to support Linux calls.”
If the problem can’t be resolved, the Australian centre will go to IBM’s dedicated Linux centre in the US. Sitting behind that are the original distributors -- Red Hat, Caldera, Suse and Turbo Linux.
Elmes says that Linux consulting, design and implementation constitutes “a significant” part of IBM Global Services business in New Zealand but wouldn’t be more specific.
“People have been talking about Linux for 18 to 24 months but now we seem to have broken through an emotional or psychological barrier. There are a lot of ways in which the Linux proposition becomes compelling. It is effective in replacing some Microsoft technologies and obviously licensing issues have crystallised some thinking there. Also people see similar organisations are using it and that it’s working for them.
He says IBM is also seeing considerable interest in putting Linux on mainframes, a development which is "exciting" because of the ability to divide mainframes into logical partitions.
HP and SolNet say they also provide Linux support. Below them are a range of smaller Linux integrators such as Asterisk, Red Spider, Zombie, Yellow Tuna and Egressive.
Asterisk chief Chris Hegan says he believes the support structure for any operating system is the organisation that provided it and behind that is the open source community.
“Take Samba, for example. Support for Samba is unlikely to be an issue as it’s very mature software. However, there are millions of implementations worldwide and it’s very transparent. Linus Torvalds himself said ‘All bugs are shallow if sufficient eyeballs look at the code’. When you have thousands of people around the world able to read the source code, you’re not going to get stuck. There are many responsive user groups, even the local NZLUG (New Zealand Linux User Group) is incredibly helpful.”
Asterisk, which has 11 staff, is working at absolute capacity, says Hegan.
Asterisk customers typically buy a server fully installed and configured with a support contract that allows Asterisk to remotely log on and tweak it when it needs alteration.