Indian admins love Linux, stuck on Windows

Indian admins love Linux, stuck on Windows

Summary: Linux and open source ruled the conversation during ZDNet Australia's IT Priorities Roundtable discussion in Mumbai.

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Linux and open source ruled the conversation during ZDNet Australia's IT Priorities Roundtable discussion in Mumbai.

The Indian ICT market was hit pretty hard by the global financial crisis. Although the country's tech economy avoided going into a recession, growth fell from around 30 per cent in 2008 to just five per cent last year. In 2010, a healthy rebound is expected.

India's uneven distribution of wealth, creaking transport and telecommunications infrastructure, combined with a massive army of highly skilled workers, means admins face some very unique challenges.

Microsoft took a bit of a bashing from panellists at the Indian Roundtable, attracting complaints for its complex and inflexible licensing policies.

Yogesh Dhandharia, administrator from manufacturing firm Rashi Peripherals, said his entire organisation was using Microsoft desktops and servers — but only because a planned migration to Linux had failed.

"My CFO told me, 'I want to use Linux, implement it on my system.' We got it implemented on his system and trained with Open Office ... and he was happy, he said it was very good. But when we started [deploying Linux] for new and existing employees, change management was the toughest area.

"People started giving their resignations, saying no, we are not interested in change. Finally, the whole project had to be abolished because we cannot have mass resignations and people getting upset," he said.

Shekhar Ranjankar, IT administrator at Unitop Chemicals, revealed that Linux desktops and servers have formed the base of his company's IT system for many years.

"We are using a customised open-source [desktop] operating system, purely Linux. We are using an in-house developed ERP [enterprise resource planning] application and since it's developed in-house, we know all the ins and outs: that solution is highly cost effective.

"Our entire reporting model is running browser-based, using open source and PHP. As a result, our entire IT cost is very, very low," he said.

Ranjankar explained that his present IT system has evolved over more than a decade and scaled extremely well.

"We have been using these applications for the last 14 years. When we started, my company's turnover was around 5 crore [50 million rupees]. Today, we are close to 100 crore [1 billion rupees] and we are easily able to manage these applications," he added.

One similarity between Indian admins and other Asian countries was the enthusiastic adoption of Google's cloud-based services.

Vijay Prasad

Vijay Prasad
(Credit: Munir Kotadia/ZDNet Australia)

Dhandharia said that his CFO had agreed to deploy Google Apps throughout the organisation.

"With the Gmail server we got the Google Docs free, we got the collaboration free, even chatting and everything in the internal office was free. The Google servers are fantastic," he said.

According to Dhandharia, unlike migrating to a Linux desktop, convincing employees to use Google Docs was easy.

"I gave [one employee] training of five minutes and now she is doing all this stuff without any problems. Google Docs is really working like a charm for us, at zero cost. Because when we took the Google server, Google were offering it free of cost," Dhandharia said.

Vijay Prasad, a director of the Project Management Institute, admitted that even his organisation had shifted to Google Docs. He also agreed that Microsoft needs to work on improving its licensing structure, but warned companies considering a migration to develop a long-term strategy — and manage the project well.

"Even if I see a very nice solution sitting there and attracting me, I really cannot jump on to it right now, I have to wait for three more years. If it is a Linux culture that you want to introduce, then imagine the change management you need to do, imagine the training you need to do.

"There are cost pressures ... If I want to bring in 50 people Linux-trained, management will say, 'wait a minute, you are already on Microsoft. What is the big need to do it right now'," he added.

Topics: IT Priorities, Linux, Microsoft, Open Source, India

Munir Kotadia

About Munir Kotadia

Munir first became involved with online publishing in 1998 when he joined ZDNet UK and later moved into print publishing as Chief Reporter for IT Week, part of ZDNet UK, a weekly trade newspaper targeted at Enterprise IT managers. He later moved back into online publishing as Senior News Reporter for ZDNet UK.

Munir was recognised as Australia's Best Technology Columnist at the 5th Annual Sun Microsystems IT Journalism Awards 2007. In the previous year he was named Best News Journalist at the Consensus IT Writers Awards.

He no longer uses his Commodore 64.

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13 comments
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  • Back in the "DOS" days, as long as a person could type, secretarial training time was 10 minutes after which the average typist would be up to speed with all the other staff.

    If starting from scratch, maybe it took two hours to generate your first letter, but by the end of the week, it was down to a few minutes.

    Then came the mouse and "gooey": It may have seemed great that it only took 45 mins instead of two hours for that first letter, but even a month later, that "few minutes" budget was still unreachable.

    Now that we're stuck with WIMP/GUI, I give customers Linux and OpenOffice--far less problems and far more stable. Linux may now come in dozens of flavors, but at the core it remains far easier to set up and maintain.
    Treknology
  • The reality is that any region that has any history of Microsoft is going to have an impossible time decoupling itself from M$. That's how they want it. But in South Asian regions its far worse - add to this the high levels of software piracy over the years, and there's no competitive cost advantage of open source vs. proprietary. Each is basically FREE in their eyes. So why would they want to lose M$ if they already know it, and its freely pirated?
    vladtheimpaled
  • "People started giving their resignations, saying no, we are not interested in change. Finally, the whole project had to be abolished because we cannot have mass resignations and people getting upset," he said.

    If your employees are allowed to make your IT and Financial decisions for you then you deserve to go bankrupt.
    bjb1959
  • bjb1959,
    Clearly shows that you don't have experience running companies. Employees are the most valuable resources a company can have. Losing valuable employees is like cutting off your own foot. If I had to choose between saving a few $$ and keeping staff happy, i'd chose the latter.

    Isn't that what we preach to Australian companies ? Why should it be different for anyone else.
    Azizi Khan
  • How valuable are employees that would rather resign than upgrade their skills? I agree, you deserve to go bankrupt for letting idiots make IT decisions for your company.
    AssyNipple
  • I seriously cannot understand what they're saying. I can make out a few words here and there, but their accent is so thick and they're talking so fast, that I simply cannot understand what they're trying to say.

    May I suggest that captions be in order here?
    qchan
  • Ouch - keep your racial slur off this site please.
    amckern-b0f83
  • Try running a business and then come back and tell me. Keeping staff happy is very important. (Well to me anyway.) Well of course you can go the "bogan Australia" way and end up in Current Affairs for mistreating staff. That too is a choice. Then again I have pretty intelligent IT staff, not some sooky 'nixers who chuck a tanty everytime they read that (*shock* *horror*) some people may not like their *orgasmic inducing* OS. Go cry me a river cupcake!
    Azizi Khan
  • The problem with your argument is that most of those "idiots" are IT middle-management who haven't a clue in the first place.
    Treknology
  • As for Qchan I can see where you are coming from, one of the speakers I found a little hard to understand had to concentrate harder then normal, but I got the gist of it.

    As for a linux migration that failed, I guess it depends on how much training they were offering to users and that they ensured applications and functionality that users needed for their roles were catered for under their planned linux migration.

    I do find it worrying that the consensus in that organisation was that staff were handing in their resignations. In a normal company you may expect one or two difficult staff to try that but not broadly across the company, that would send warning alarms in my brain at what sort of a culture they have in place that staff are not prepared to learn anything new. Would they refuse to upgrade to windows 7 desktops the same way or is it a brand alignment or a misguided belief that linux is so foreign that it can't be learnt.
    deonast
  • If Steve Jobs and Bill Gates allowed their IT Staff to make major business and operational decisions then Apple and Microsoft would still be Rs 100 crore companies!
    Ashok Singh
  • I see the change management as a priority since that can influence the work culture. I have dealt with a lot of resistance with even new MS Office templates developed to replace manual processes. So there is little difference between resisting a switch to MS Office to switching to a Linux solution. Training will be at the crux, but it is mainly a mindset to overcome.

    As an accountant the "it ain't broken" is wrong. It is broken, but there is a refusal to recognize the break. Just look at the IT cost line of any Microsoft shop to see the trend. If the cost for applications/OS license cost drive the line up then I see the business accumulating expenses they don't need to book. The open source approach looses that component of the IT Expense line. A company will still need to have support. No business can get around that, but the licensing is a material and significant cost that can be avoided; which makes the management and board of directors happy more times than not.
    jwesterham@...
  • It's not clear who the staff who resigned were. Were they end users or IT staff.
    ananthap@...