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Should I learn Linux?

Should I learn Linux?

Lotus jumped on the Linux bandwagon on Dec. 14 with the release of Domino R5 for Linux. The company declines to quantify sales, but it reports 65,000 downloads of the beta version between August and December. Will mastering Linux be a vital career move?

Domino professionals, so far, appear largely unmoved by the operating system:

"Linux has not come into the picture here," says Mark D. Rowell, a Principal CLP in R/5 application development and senior Domino developer at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, Houston. Windows NT is the dominant server environment at the hospital, which plans to migrate to the IBM S/390 in March.

"None of my clients are even mentioning it," says Pat Cote, an independent Notes developer and Principal CLP in R/4 and Professional CLP in R/5 application development based in Dallas. Cote specializes in NT server and AS/400 environments, and she says she won't put Linux on her training agenda until her clients express an interest.

Although Linux captured 25 percent of the server market last year, according to research firm International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass. (see Report: Linux captured 25% of server OS market in '99), a search of several IT job sites in February turned up relatively few positions requiring both Linux and Domino skills.

  • JustNotesJobs.com, DominoCafe.com and LotusNotesProfessional.com had no Linux-related jobs.
  • ComputerJobs.com yielded five listings requesting both Linux and Domino skills, mostly for developers, but Domino project experience would be relevant to about a quarter of 349 total Linux jobs at the site.
  • Dice.com had 19 development and administration jobs for which Domino and Linux expertise were required or preferred.

Nonetheless, Domino professionals should expect demand for Linux expertise to increase, especially within cost-conscious IT shops. For example, Atria Communities, Inc., an assisted-living community developer based in Louisville, Ky., and operating in 27 states, plans to install Domino R5 for Linux on five servers this year, says Duane Fitzpatrick, application development manager and a Primary CLP in R4 administration and development. Atria uses Domino as its main development platform and for e-mail.

"I don't want to pay $1,000 for the NT licenses, so I'll just put (Red Hat) Linux on them for about $70," Fitzpatrick says. "We can't use Linux on all of our servers because it doesn't support file sizes over 2 Gbytes." But, he doesn't plan to hire additional Linux talent until next year. Instead, he'll train himself by installing Domino R5 for Linux at home and using the book Red Hat 6.1 Unleashed. Later, he'll cross-train his two-person team.

"I think working with Linux is a good career move," Fitzpatrick says. "It will be a powerful platform, and you need to keep your options open. It's very unusual anymore to find a homogenous programming environment."

Leslie Goff is a contributing editor based in New York.

This was first published in March 2000

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