Linux desktops no ‘silver bullet’: Telstra

It takes "guts and clear thinking" to deploy Linux on the desktop in a bid to reduce operating costs, Telstra's IT delivery solutions architect Fulvio Inserra told delegates at an open source conference in Sydney last week.

“Desktops tend to be an emotive topic and everyone has the ‘silver bullet’ to reduce costs,” Inserra said. “Although cost reduction is the only real driver in considering an alternative it still requires guts and clear thinking.”

Inserra said it is no secret Telstra is looking for an alternative; however, many of the company’s problems won’t go away easily.

“Going from one version of Windows is bad enough, but in order to get from today’s mess to nirvana we must approach this with our eyes wide open,” he said. “In moving to an alternative desktop, questions of performance, forced upgrades, and user adoption all need to be considered.

"These problems do not go away with open source.”

According to Inserra, Telstra is committed to considering both Windows and Linux in both a desktop and thin-client architecture.

“What we are talking about is enterprise-scale, desktop management so we must compare managed Windows with managed Linux,” Inserra said. “Also, we must have a locked-down Linux, as an ‘open’ Linux will have the same issues as Windows.” Inserra cited application support, hardware support, and usability as the biggest issues when considering Linux.

“Telstra has about 2000 applications and even when looking at StarOffice, data compatibility is an issue,” he said.

“There must also be support for Linux from hardware vendors as there are a lot of hardware issues with Linux.”

Overall, Telstra’s studies indicate a desktop TCO of between $2000 and $10,000 per year, Inserra said.

“Above all we need to make sure the transformation is worthwhile and that we don’t end up where we are today,” he said.

“Enterprises need that support layer between the open source community and its users. There is now a real commercial opportunity to migrate from one platform to another and it will only be a matter of time before the desktop becomes a commodity. This is what we want it to be.”

Inserra is adamant that the project has “nothing to do with windows or Linux” and that part of the strategy is around thin-client computing.

“There is an analogy between going from thick to thin clients and going from Windows to Linux,” he said. “Hosting everything on Citrix will help, but will cost a fortune. Also, back-end infrastructure consolidation is a huge part of our cost-cutting model.”

Inserra said there is room for many types of clients at Telstra.

“Telstra has six client types and we need to have an operating environment that can tolerate the device needed to do the job,” he said.

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