EDS' change of heart

So, just what does services heavyweight EDS really think of Linux?

EDS' vice-president of Global Alliances, Robb Rasmussen, this week launched an extraordinary attack on the open source software. At an event in Sydney to tout the benefits of the so-called EDS Agility Alliance — a grouping of vendors which have nominated as preferred suppliers of their speciality technologies to the services company — Rasmussen claimed that Linux had issues with security, scalability and a potential to splinter in the same way as Unix did.

It is not often that a company other than Microsoft or the SCO Group sticks its head up over the trenches to slag off Linux and open source. Of course, the primary target of EDS and the Alliance is IBM and its consultancy arm, Global Services, both very strong proponents of Linux. Only last month, Big Blue unveiled a plan to spend $100m (£52m) over the next three years to build support for Linux into desktop applications for its Workplace software.

However, Rasmussen's remarks seem extraordinarily at odds with EDS' own global stance on the open source platform. In a case study — dated 21 September, 2004 — on the services heavyweight's own installation of an enterprise-wide instant messaging solution, EDS says it implemented a Linux server environment "to ensure stability and security while keeping costs low".

It further installed a Linux-based messaging application "that meets EDS' corporate security standards while enabling communication with users of other messaging software". That application had to effectively service an environment of 137,000 employees across 60 countries worldwide.

The laudatory remarks continue: "Nearly a decade after it was first developed, Linux is gaining popularity with corporate IT departments that admire the operating system for its stability and security. Now that commercial developers (like Red Hat, whose Linux version 7.3 now powers EDS' perimeter messaging servers) are able to offer upgrades and support, the system's affordability makes it a natural choice for high-volume transaction processing".

Another case study — dated 4 January this year — quotes the chief information officer of computer reservations company Sabre as lauding the benefits to his organisation of shifting from Unix to Linux. These include no less than a 40 percent improvement on return on investment.

The inconsistencies here are more than a little troubling. EDS would not be the first vendor to re-tailor its message to service a shift in its business model. However, if I was an EDS customer who had been sold Linux as part of a project, I would be on the phone to Rasmussen as quickly as possible. An explanation is certainly warranted.

Iain Ferguson reported from Sydney for ZDNet Australia. For more ZDNet Australia stories, click here.