As use of Linux and other open-source software spreads, the largest buyers of computing gear are demanding a new level of service, support and functions from the software. Many customers jumped on Linux for easy cost savings, since it doesn’t come with the steep annual licensing fees that commercial software usually does. But to make a bigger bet by moving to Linux for such core corporate functions as central databases and transaction-processing systems, these users are demanding many features found on commercial software, including a large variety of add-on application programs and management tools that are easy to use.
“In a way, Linux is now perhaps turning the corner,” says Eric Singleton, chief information officer at retailer Tommy Hilfiger Corp. His company had been running its Web shopping site, Tommy.com, on Linux — but recently switched it to Microsoft software. He calls Linux “a great product,” but adds, “it’s got to get the final tier of reliability and predictability that I’m going to bet a multibillion-dollar corporation’s future on.”