Ritz Camera looks to Linux for POS apps

Ritz Camera Centers plans to deploy Linux in more than 1,200 stores across the country, joining a growing list of retailers that have opted to run their in-store point-of-sale (POS) applications on the open-source operating system. Novell's announcement that the retail chain has selected its Linux Desktop highlighted the customer-related news at the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo.

Ritz Camera is hardly the first retailer to opt for Linux. A 2005 North American retail POS terminal study released earlier this year by IHL Consulting Group showed that shipments of Linux-based POS units increased 34 percent from 2003 to 2004. Although Linux-based POS systems represented only 6 percent of the overall market, IHL predicted that figure will rise dramatically in the future.

Linux also is seeing an uptick in adoption in the government sector on a worldwide basis. According to Susan Heystee, president of Novell North America, more than 130 educational institutions around the world have signed on in the past six months to use the Novell Linux Desktop.

Novell spotlighted that trend with yesterday's announcement that the Indiana Department of Education plans to deploy Linux desktops in high schools as part of its Affordable Computers for Every Secondary Student (ACCESS) initiative. The state's ACCESS effort will start with 1,600 desktops on Dell hardware, according to David Patrick, general manager of Linux open-source platforms and services at Novell.

Although Novell elected to draw attention to Linux client deployments, most user activity still centers around Linux server deployments. IBM announced at LinuxWorld that Baldor Electric Co., a designer and manufacturer of industrial electric motors and generators shifted its SAP applications from Unix-based servers to a single IBM eServer zSeries 990 running Linux.

Baldor runs its entire set of SAP applications in 24 separate partitions on Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 and z/OS on the zSeries hardware, according to IBM. As part of the move, Baldor upgraded from SAP R/3 to the latest version of the mySAP Business Suite with the SAP NetWeaver integration and application portal.

During an afternoon panel presentation on the growth of Linux and open-source software, one high-profile user talked about the operating system's appeal for his company. Chris DiBona, open-source programs manager at Google, said the company has been "really, really happy" using Linux servers since its early days as a start-up.

"Why did we stick with Linux? Why did we go to other commercial Linuxes, other commercial platforms?" he said. "It wasn't for ignorance of the platforms or a lack of money, frankly. It was because we could keep on doing exactly what we wanted with the machines running.

"Why should we hand over control of our software investment as it were to another company?" DiBona said. "Why should we have to do this, especially when we have such a terrific solution in Linux?"

DiBona said Google does "some very odd things with the Linux kernel to have it perform the way" it wants and "to do the weird things we want to do inside of our data center."

"To do that with, say, Windows or even pick your favorite commercial operating system -- we just can't do it. It's not ours to do. It's somebody else's that we have to get permission from," he said. "And why should we have to do that?"

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