by Abbie Lundberg

Free, But Not Risk-Free

Jul 01, 20053 mins
Project Management Tools

It wasn’t much more than a year ago that CIOs at midsize to large organizations were just sniffing around Linux. Articles about actual deployments typically relied on the same few intrepid sources.

Today that’s beginning to change. Enterprise rollouts of Linux are popping up like prairie dogs after a threat has passed—cautiously but with a certain eagerness nonetheless. As Executive Editor Christopher Koch notes in “Open Source Ascendant” few CIOs have been ready heretofore to risk their most important applications on a technical infrastructure that most of their peers haven’t yet embraced. But the case for Linux is becoming too compelling to ignore. Especially for organizations intent on cutting costs, Linux offers tremendous savings over other platforms. The tricky part for CIOs has been balancing the benefits against the very real risks: a lack of development talent and support, a lack of understanding about just how robust the platform would be, a lack of confidence that SCO wouldn’t prevail in its suits.

As Koch puts it: Linux is free, but not risk-free.

Rolling out a major system on a new technology is always fraught with peril. Two things that often get overlooked are providing enough training in time for its deployment and performing enough tests before trusting a critical business operation to it. Why do organizations still fail to build enough testing and training into their systems’ rollouts? Because it’s expensive.

“When anyone in my position makes a commitment to a new technology, it’s not simply the cost of the project, it’s the cost of everything moving forward,” says CIO Mickey Lutz, the subject of Koch’s profile. “You’re retraining people. And so if you have a $2 million project to implement a Linux system, you’re maybe making a $10 million to $15 million decision, because you’re changing the whole course of IT development—training, support and application development.” As CIO for Global Agency Solutions with Cendant Travel Distribution Services, the parent company of Orbitz and, Lutz stood to save multiple millions—from a projected cost of $100 million over three years with the old platform, down to just $2.5 million on Linux.

Gaining support for $10 million just for training and testing is not easy, even projecting such savings. But as more companies emerge from the conservative posture of the last few years and again start investing in new, less proven technologies, CIOs will have to fight that fight or risk a whole new round of projects gone awry.

Abbie Lundberg, Editor in Chief