Not Having Linux Skills is IT Malpractice
Real World, Reality Distortion Field
Some things seem so obvious I feel silly even saying them. And this is one of them: any IT staffer who only knows one operating system is not worth hiring.
We see the silly Microsoft vs. Linux vs. Apple stories every day, with Ten Reasons Why This One is Better, and 7 Reasons Why That One Sucks, and Five Ways to Make Headlines With Lists. The ones that crack me up are the "10 Scary Hurdles to Migrating to Linux." Ever notice how every single time they mention "You'll need Linux skills!"
Oh dear, no! Linux skills? Well there's a dealbreaker! Because it is completely unreasonable to expect your current batch of delicate Windows admins to have any Linux skills.
InteropCan you think of a single reason for any IT person to not have a real-world skill set? How can any IT staffer make good decisions with limited knowledge? The real world is mainly mixed environments. The real world is nice sane Linux, Unix, and *bsd systems bending over backwards to accommodate interop with the ridiculously obstructive Apple and Microsoft software stacks.
How hard is it to learn Linux system and network administration? A heck of a lot easier than Window system administration, because Linux is wide-open, discoverable, and standards-adherent. Windows cloaks everything in layers of GUI garbage, their own proprietary "improvements", and hides the things you really need to see. Even so, underneath it's all the same hardware and the same networks. When you know Linux or Unix, you know computing. When you know Windows or Apple, you know Windows or Apple. (Though OS X is a big improvement over the Classic Mac OS thanks to its Unix-ish underpinnings.) Anyone who is incapable of downloading and installing a free Linux distribution and learning their way around it should not get paid to run computers.
Reality Distortion FieldThe Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field is famous, but the Microsoft Reality Distortion Field is much, much bigger and more pervasive. How else to explain so much devotion to a malware-ridden, inefficient, overpriced under-performing computing platform? Oh I know, those license fees don't really matter, and Windows 7 is really good and really secure any day now! World wide botnet? Don't be silly, when Linux gets popular it too will be riddled with malware.
Yes, many people really do believe that stuff, even in the face of years of overwhelming data to the contrary.
Should Linux admins also know Apple and Windows? Yes. Because, again, the real world is mixed environments. Running mixed networks, making a good business case for Linux adoption, making a migration plan, and performing migrations requires knowledge. It also makes you appreciate Linux more.
Carla Schroder is the author of the Linux Cookbook and the Linux Networking Cookbook (O'Reilly Media), the upcoming "Book of Audacity" (NoStarch Press), a lifelong book lover, and the managing editor of Linux Planet and Linux Today.