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Companies still require an IT infrastructure to support networks of servers, databases, and applications, and the support that goes with it. “Those costs are real, they don’t go away even though you’re using Linux,” Gillen says. While IDC has not tracked the precise costs of follow-up investments for Linux deployments, Gillen estimates the costs per server run into the thousands of dollars. “They get a free operating system, but they spend several thousand dollars for hardware and software to leverage Linux,” Gillen says. “The costs of implementing Linux are similar to implementing a low-end Unix solution, from an infrastructure standpoint.”
Along with hidden costs, lack of skill sets may also pose a challenge to adoption of Linux for a number of retailers. Sites with Unix administrators and programmers already on board can make a relatively seamless transition to Linux, since the operating system is built on the Unix kernel. “Anybody who has a strong Unix background probably has most of the skills they need already to run Linux,” Gillen says. However, in Windows-only environments, adopting a turnkey Linux installation may be more difficult, particularly since users will be going from a graphical interface to a command-line interface. “Windows administrators may be able to figure it out, but it may be a little more foreign to them,” Gillen says. “That’s going to be an impediment for them to move into Linux.”
If Linux’s popularity continues to grow, however, many e-retailers may find themselves having to learn that foreign language.
Joseph McKendrick is a Doylestown, Pa.-based freelance business and technology writer.