The number of firms interested in implementing SAP software on Linux is rising, but enterprises are making small and careful initial investments, according to consultants and experts in the field.
Cash-strapped smaller companies are seeking the cost benefits to open source technologies, said Kennedy Saul, a Marlborough, Mass.-based consultant specializing in enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementations, specifically in the SAP space.
"Most SAP implementations are larger in size, but I'm starting to see an interest in smaller companies adopting Linux for purely cost reasons," Saul said. "Linux has come a long way in the last five years, but SAP shops continue to take a cautious approach to investing in it."
Most enterprises should take a cautious approach to Linux, said Suresh Ketha, CEO of Irving, Texas-based Global Enterprise Management Solutions Inc., a SAP consultancy that markets its services to small and midsized businesses. Many companies still lack the expertise to handle Linux implementations, while Microsoft experts are abundant in the market, Ketha said.
"Small and midsized businesses tend to choose the Microsoft platform at first by default," Ketha said. "Companies want to cut down their costs, but they still want the availability of resources, such as support and experts they can go to if something goes wrong."
Companies are choosing Linux for Web, database and business intelligence servers, but are taking a cautious approach for Linux deployments for application servers, the corporate desktop and packaged applications, according to J. Paul Kirby, a research director at Boston-based AMR Research Inc.
According to several AMR Research surveys of IT decision makers in the United States, Linux adoption is spreading in the data center. AMR Research predicts that 55% of all companies in the United States will have deployed Linux by the end of 2005.
Enterprise software vendors are rushing to figure out how to take advantage of the popularity of Linux. SAP began shipping the company's core R/3 product on Linux in 1999 and has reported a steady increase in installations on Linux worldwide.
"More organizations should start looking at [Linux] as a viable alternative, but it's more of an aspect of your capabilities," said Christopher Carter, a Wisconsin-based SAP consultant. "Companies aren't going to switch just for a cost point unless they can see some other justifications to it."
Many enterprises are leery of Linux until they begin experimenting with it internally and start feeling comfortable with it, Carter said. Linux adoption will spread to more SAP shops once companies can be assured that their products will perform well and are well supported.
"There's a core set of power users in Linux and some that dabble with it and work with it," Carter said. "Once the staff shows it's willing to learn the new platforms and these core power users take the initiative to justify Linux internally, we'll start seeing a higher rate of adoption."