Linux: Windows Beware

If anyone in the IT field deserves to say he has “been there, done that” it is Kirk Rheinlander.

You would be hard pressed to find an area of IT, or of the country, he hasn’t worked in. He received his B.S. in Industrial Science from the University of Southern Maine on the North Atlantic coast. Later he did MBA work at Pepperdine University which overlooks the beach in Malibu, Calif.

On top of that, he has IBM AIX certification in system administration, Novell CNE (Certified Network Engineer), IBM management and marketing training as well as certificates in many other platforms and applications.

His professional career includes being senior engineering manager for Storage Technology Corp. and enterprise architect for Cardinal Health, a $50 billion pharmaceutical distribution firm.

But his major work for the past decade has been consulting for large corporations and government agencies.

Among other tasks, he participated in developing Amoco’s I/T architecture and then established and managed the IT infrastructure to support Amoco’s merger with BP, one of the world’s largest corporate mergers.

As you could imagine, Rheinlander has also worked with many platforms. He was part of the team at IBM which developed the world’s first PC, but he also founded the world’s oldest Mac Users Group in Conejo Valley, California.

A few years ago, he was making the pages or Wired and Linux Today for setting up a Linux network at the charter school his children attended in Ft. Collins, Colo. He can’t tell us how that is working out, however, because he (and his kids) are now in Dublin, Ohio, where he is principal of the small consulting firm, KPJ Squared.

CIO Update caught with Rheinlander there to see what he has been up to and where, in his view, IT, and particularly Linux, is heading these days.

CIO Update: What are you up to these days?

Rheinlander: Mostly strategic IT and business consulting, building out the long term IT infrastructure. It is the same type of work I did before, but I’m spending more time doing it from a business strategy perspective rather than a pure technology basis.

Have you seen a shift from an IT-centric to a business-centric viewpoint in your customers?

We’ve been preaching that for many years, but I don’t know that there is a shift going on. Some companies are and some aren’t, but I’m being more selective about what I do now.

I am trying to stick more to companies that will do it. Designing an IT architecture is good, but if the company never ties it to their business strategy, they never follow through with implementing it.

For me personally there has been a philosophical change. I will only deal with companies that going to tie IT in with their business strategy so that IT is enabling the business effectively.

What operating systems have you worked with in the past?

I don’t know if I can name one I haven’t worked with. Oh, wait, I haven’t worked with Pick.

What has been your experience with Linux?

I have used it extensively in server projects and some desktop projects. The Linux terminal server project is phenomenal; one of the slickest things going.

How does Linux compare with other OSs?

It is very stable, but the human interface experience is fragmented. That causes a significant problem in getting Linux desktop adoption. The difference in system management between Red Hat and SuSE and other Linuxes out there is phenomenal in how you deal with stuff. It is frustrating.

For example, SuperDrive support is available with some versions, but it is not readily available with Red Hat. You have to go through a lot of kludge to do it and as a result you can’t mount DOS based file systems easily. There are a thousand examples like that.

What about Linux on servers?

They are rock solid. When you measure mean time between reboots in months instead of hours, that is a significant advantage. When you look at the marketing hype about Windows servers they say that Windows is more stable. That may be a true statement if you don’t ever install anything outside of Windows.

But, as soon as you install something else, because of the fundamental nature of how windows works and the way it is architected, it has a tendency to grow unstable with more and more applications. Linux does not have that problem.