Low-cost Linux a strategic fit in India

Low-cost Linux a strategic fit in India

Linux received a vote of support as a platform for corporate business applications this week as Oracle announced that seven of its new customers in India have chosen to run the company's technology and applications software on the open-source operating system, and that it has emerged as the second most popular operating system among the Oracle developers in the country.

More than 180,000 developers from India are registered on the Oracle Technology Network, the online platform where Oracle developers interact with each other and Oracle experts.

Windows continues to be the most popular operating system platform among Oracle developers in India, according to the company. But the fact that developers and users are embracing Linux is a sign that the operating system is challenging Unix -- a traditional platform for corporate enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications -- and making inroads against Windows.

2004 will be the year of Linux in India, said Shekhar Dasgupta, managing director of Oracle India, adding that the banking, government and education sectors are leading the adoption of Linux to run mission-critical applications.

Among the new Oracle customers are the treasury department of the government of the Indian state of West Bengal, and Bharat Sanchar Nigam, a Delhi-based, government-controlled telecommunications services provider.

Central Bank of India, a government-owned bank in Mumbai, another new customer, expects 20 percent to 30 percent of savings on its total IT investments each year by using Linux , according to a spokesperson for the bank.

"We were looking for a platform capable of handling our complex and varied business needs," said Amitabh Pandey, group general manager for IT services at Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation, a public sector company in Delhi owned by India's ministry of railways. "It also had to be cost effective. Oracle E-Business Suite and Red Hat Linux was a perfect fit. We evaluated Linux as an enterprise-wide platform and were very satisfied with the performance."

India emerged as a battlefield in Microsoft Corp.'s worldwide effort to stem the rising use of Linux when Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates visited the country in November 2002, and announced that his company planned to invest US$400 million in India over the next three years in a number of areas, including computer literacy and localization of its software products. Gates' announcement was seen by analysts as an effort to preempt attempts by the Indian government from making a formal decision to adopt open source software.

Since then, Indian government has not made a formal announcement to adopt Linux, but Microsoft has come under increasing pressure from Linux and open source proponents in India and around the world. In Asia, the governments of Japan, China and South Korea last year reached an agreement on the formation of an open-source software project that could include applications, embedded programs, middleware and operating systems. In Europe earlier this week, the German Federal Finance Office announced it has implemented one of the largest Linux-based mainframe deployments in Europe.

Oracle has been pushing Linux very strongly in the Indian market, which explains the growing popularity of the operating system among Oracle users in the country, according to analysts. "We have started actively recommending Linux to our customers, and we provide first level support on the Linux operating system," said a company spokeswoman. "That is something that we do not do for any other operating system." Oracle's customers who have support agreements with the company get Linux operating system support bundled free.

Having a software development center in India has helped Oracle push Linux in India, as the sales and marketing groups at Oracle India work with the Oracle India Development Center (IDC) to decide on the right configuration and solution for the customer's requirements, said Lakshminarasimhan Gopalakrishnan, director of the platform technologies group at the IDC in Bangalore. The IDC also works with Linux developers in India, he said.

Oracle's IDC works with some key Linux distributors worldwide to strengthen the Linux kernel and make it enterprise ready. The IDC has also worked on a number of Oracle's projects in the Linux area, including the development of Oracle Database 10g.

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