OpManager: A single console to manage your complete IT infrastructure. Click here for a 30-day free trial.
Welcome Guest | Sign In
LinuxInsider.com

Why the World Is Desperately Seeking Linux Talent

Why the World Is Desperately Seeking Linux Talent

A recent study from The Linux Foundation has found that Linux talent is a hot commodity among many hiring companies. The conclusions made sense to many on the Linux blogosphere. "Linux and open source are becoming strategic investments in many companies and have been for years," said Chris Travers of the LedgerSMB project. Others, however, took issue with the study's methodology.

By Katherine Noyes
02/23/12 5:00 AM PT

Well, it's been another wild week here in the Linux blogosphere, with the news announcements coming so fast there's scarcely been time for a cape-wearing champion of FOSS to catch her breath.

There's been particular excitement around Ubuntu for Android, of course, but that's a topic for another day. Today, it's time to give another important item the attention it deserves.

Specifically, "Linux talent in high demand" was the headline atop a recent release from The Linux Foundation, and its news was nothing if not exciting.

Above-Average Pay Increases

A few key excerpts from the group's 2012 Linux Jobs Report:

  • 81 percent of recruiters say hiring Linux talent is a priority
  • 63 percent of employers are seeking talent in Linux more than in other areas
  • 85 percent of hiring managers say Linux talent is hard to find
  • Roughly one-third of companies are offering above-average pay increases to Linux pros

Bottom line: more jobs, more opportunities, more cash. Need we say more?

As per usual, Linux bloggers have replied in the affirmative.

'M$'s Share Keeps Shrinking'

"A few years ago one could see lots of job descriptions requiring Linux, but now we see lots of jobs requiring Linux only," observed blogger Robert Pogson down at the Linux blogosphere's Broken Windows Lounge. "That's a big change, and indicates lots of organizations are setting up new systems running only GNU/Linux and not that other OS on servers."

Very few jobs target desktop support of GNU/Linux, "but that's OK in a server-centric world of Web servers and terminal servers," Pogson added.

"M$'s share of the world of IT keeps shrinking as IT matures," he concluded. "No one wants to be locked in. No one wants to pay more than necessary for IT. No one wants performance that sucks in hardware, resources and labor to maintain.

"M$ is finally having to compete on price and performance, and the old, fat dinosaur is not fit," he said.

ROI, Not TCO

Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project, took a similar view.

"Linux and open source are becoming strategic investments in many companies and have been for years," Travers told LinuxInsider. "Indeed, when Microsoft launched the 'Get the Facts' campaign in the early 2000s, I suggested that the data they gathered indeed showed that companies were treating open source platforms as strategic, rather than ordinary, investments, and this alone accounted for the entire additional total cost of ownership.

"Microsoft, of course, tried to spin it as showing that Linux wasn't the low-cost alternative," Travers noted. "The tactic didn't work, IMO, because most decision makers were making decisions based on return on investment, not total cost of ownership."

'The High-Value Alternative'

In other words, companies were spending more because they expected a larger return on investment, not because they had to, Travers opined.

"The idea is that with open source, you can do almost anything, and so companies have an incentive to spend more to develop proper support for their internal business operations," he explained. "Linux -- I think as Microsoft rightly showed -- was not the low-cost alternative, but was actually the high-value alternative."

These latest figures confirm that trend, Travers said.

'Linux Talent Is Just More Valuable'

"Companies continue to be willing to spend more on Linux because they get more out of it," he noted.

"Linux talent is just more valuable to the company than Microsoft talent," Travers asserted. "This means more on consultants and it means more on employees."

It's worth keeping in mind that "Linux is not the 'free as in beer' solution," he added. "It is the 'spend as much as makes sense to you' solution, so this is one more indication of important, lasting value."

'Not Representative'

Consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack had an idea as to why companies report having trouble finding Linux talent: "Their ridiculous requirements of a university degree, even though for most sysadmin tasks a degree will have taught nothing relevant," he told LinuxInsider.

Barbara Hudson, however -- a blogger on Slashdot who goes by "Tom" on the site -- took issue with the study's methodology, which she called "fatally flawed."

To wit: "Respondents needed to have hired at least one Linux professional in the last year, or have plans to hire Linux professionals in 2012, to participate in the survey," she pointed out. "In other words, companies that didn't plan to hire people with Linux skills weren't part of the survey."

Any resulting numbers, then, "are not representative of hiring intentions in the IT industry at large," Hudson charged.

'Fakery and Hype'

Then, too, there's the fact that, "even from this cherry-picked subset of employers, only 47 percent are actually hiring," she pointed out. "Simple math says that the majority -- 53 percent -- are either not hiring or are laying off."

Hudson also did a search on Dice.com, which was a partner in the study, and clicked on "Linux" in the jobs category, she said.

"The first page of results listed a Windows QA engineer, a Windows Systems engineer, an IIS engineer, Cisco, Oracle, and Java developers -- LOTS of Java developers," she recounted. "Those aren't exactly 'Linux' jobs ...

"Was my research scientific? No, but my conclusion -- that Oracle and Java are 'hotter' skills than Linux -- is more justifiable than the claims made from the original study," she said. "Such fakery and hype does Linux a disservice.

"You would get just as good an idea of Linux hiring trends by studying the droppings of howling wombats (wombats don't howl)," Hudson concluded.

'Sure They'll Hire More ... IN INDIA'

Last but not least, Slashdot blogger hairyfeet says he would warn against any career in IT, whether it involves Linux or not.

"Suuuure they'll hire more Linux guys -- IN INDIA -- because they can hire that Indian with 5 degrees and 10 years of Linux experience for less than you'd hire a junior coder straight out of Vo-Tech," hairyfeet explained.

"While Linux hiring going up is nice, what really matters is where those jobs will end up, and it's looking like those new jobs simply won't be going to YOU, they'll end up overseas.

"Let's face it -- any job they CAN send overseas they WILL, and programming can be done from anywhere, so why pay an American (US)$100,000 a year when you can get six Indians with similar skillsets for the same price?"

'A Dying Profession'

In the end, IT is "simply a dying profession," hairyfeet opined. "Right now we are roughly where TV and appliance repair was in the mid '80s, where they saw the numbers declining but thought things would pick back up."

Eventually "you'll have auto-deployed disc images and a centralized server keeping all the files while the programming will have one or two local guys whose job it'll be to interact with the Indian teams," he predicted.

"Linux will continue to grow simply because you can use Linux for the OS of that embedded widget and pay $0 in OS contracts, but just as all the chips come from China, all the programmers will either be offshored or H1-Bs," he added.


Katherine Noyes has been writing from behind Linux Girl's cape since late 2007, but she knows how to be a reporter in real life, too. She's particularly interested in space, science, open source software and geeky things in general. You can also find her on Twitter.


CyberSource Peak Season Fraud Management Guide
Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ RSS