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From counterculture flag to corporate gold star

From counterculture flag to corporate gold star

CIOs love Linux, but what does your Linux-using reputation say about you as an employee? IT execs say it shows a kind of problem-solving skill they're looking for

In 2006, Massachusetts' then CIO, Peter Quinn, described the open source community as the "sandal and ponytail set," and claimed that image and appearance made open source a harder sell for use in his state government. While those are some pretty powerful words, it begs the question: is there such a thing as a "Linux person?"

According to Anil Uberoi, Chief Marketing Officer at Levanta, a Linux data center automation solution provider, the stereotypical Linux mindset can clash with some IT managers. "When Linux was new and immature, the open-source mindset was quite different from that of proprietary operating systems, resulting in cultural clashes," says Uberoi. "As Linux has matured, this has lessened for the most part."

In today's IT environment, new applications and platforms are transitioning to Linux, and there is an underlying concern that this means new people have to go with the platform.

About five years ago, Mindbridge Software, an open source software developer migrated away from Microsoft production server platforms to Linux production server platforms.

"Our experience may be fairly unique with regards to the environments we deal with," says David Christian, CTO of Mindbridge Software. "While we have chosen Linux as our primary server platform, overwhelmingly our clients have chosen Windows as their primary server platform. This has meant that we need to understand a litany of Windows technologies as well as, or better than, our client's."

Windows by day, Linux by night?

According to David Christian, when a client's operating system platform is to change from Windows to Linux, one of the main issues that concern them is whether their staffs have the ability to support Linux. However, surprisingly, he finds that many are already familiar with Linux.

"The interesting thing that I have experienced is that a significant percentage of the technicians are Windows administrators by day and Linux administrators by night, adds Christian. " That is, a significant percentage of their staffs are paid by their firms to administer Windows, but at night, they go home to a network that includes one or more Linux boxes. Often, their immediate supervisors are vaguely aware of this, while the C-levels are completely unaware of the multi-platform expertise that exists within their organizations."

Christian states that he does not really know "Linux people". He says that people, who work well with Linux, excel at breaking problems into their component parts and are not hesitant to seek help from their peers. Such workers are very valuable. It is not just the technical skill that is desirable, but also their approach obstacles and challenges that organization's face.

"Linux thinking isn't uncommon in today's IT organizations, and neither are IT employees who are focused on Linux in their organizations," says Elizabeth Ziph, President and CEO of Ann Arbor, Linux Box Corporation, an open source software development practice and consultancy. "I spoke to one large customer today that is migrating their base from proprietary Unix to Linux and is comfortable that their staff can handle it well. The staff is not 'think Linux' but 'think what's best for the organization' type of people."

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