The Net Net: Will Linux Impact Network Management?

Before I answer that question let’s look at what makes the other operating systems, HP-UX, Solaris and Microsoft NT, successful as a platform for network management:

Market Acceptance and Market Share

HP-UX, Solaris and NT have a significant operating system market share. These three operating systems comprise almost 90 percent of the market. These numbers explain why HP OpenView Network Node manager is only available on these platforms.

Reliable Hardware with Bundled Operating Systems

From the humble beginnings of commercial UNIX systems in the mid ’80s to NT of the ’90s, HP-UX, Solaris and NT have been bundled with some of the most reliable computer hardware available.

Flexible Development Environments

What can I say more than C, C++ and Visual Basic?

Excellent Support

All three of the operating systems have excellent support systems available. From commercial help desk support contracts to technical mailing lists and Web sites.

Low Cost Compared to the Competition

When network management started on HP-UX and SunOS in the early ’80s UNIX software and workstations where far cheaper than the mini and mainframe computers of the day. When Microsoft NT came along it was far cheaper than the UNIX machines of the day. Most of that disparity has leveled off today.

So what can we say about Linux? How does it compare?

Market Acceptance and Market Share

Linux has an increasing market share that is going to make it a player in the future.

Reliable Hardware with Bundled Operating Systems

Linux can run on any Intel or Sun platform. Linux is also available on some highly sophisticated dedicated high availability, multiprocessor, enterprise server class machines. These are the same class machines available to all the other operating systems.

Flexible Development Environments

What can I say about C, C++ and a variety of free tools? Unfortunately, the most sophisticated development tools are going to cost for Linux just like the other platforms.

Excellent Support

As with the other operating systems commercial help desk support contracts are available from a variety of companies. Besides commercial support, a huge amount of free support is available on the Internet.

Low Cost Compared to the Competition

The competition for Linux is HP-UX, Solaris and NT. Linux is free. That makes it a lower cost solution compared to the others. Does that make the hardware and support any less expensive? Not at all.

Where does that leave us? Linux has some advantages over NT in functionality and maybe reliability. It has some cost advantages over the HP-UX and Solaris, but is it enough to declare it a winner? I don’t think so on the merits of the operating system alone, but what if the Linux "open source" movement produces an "open source" network management toolset?

According to an informed source, HP was planning to release a Linux version of OpenView Network Node Manager by the beginning of this year. That date has slipped to about June 2000. So, is an "open source" version of Network Node Manager in the works?

IMHO, not likely.