Guardian Digital > Company > Press > 2004 > Software programmer sold on Linux

Software programmer sold on Linux

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

When David Wreski was Internet security guru at the delivery giant United Parcel Service, he was frustrated.

The software programmer saw problems he could fix in 30 minutes using Linux-based software that he couldn't buy from a commercial software vendor.

So in 1999, he left to establish Guardian Digital, setting up shop in Allendale and eventually hiring a staff of 20 like-minded Linux supporters.

Linux is an operating system developed by a Finnish programmer named Linus Torvald. Linux is free, and the source code is open - anyone can work on the Linux operating system - making it easy to customize and update rapidly, unlike Microsoft Windows, which is owned by the Seattle-based software company.

In the world of computer programmers, Linux is touted as a publicly developed alternative to Windows-based systems.

In recent years, Linux has gained ground against Windows, with more corporations opting to run their systems using Linux, and even companies like Dell and Hewlett-Packard shipping PCs based on Linux operating systems.

And that has helped Wreski's company, whose team of programmers has developed a suite of programs that provide things like virus and spam protection for computer systems based on Linux. They've had success selling to a wide of range of companies, as well as some government customers, who have installed computer systems based on Linux.

Wreski recently spent some time talking with The Record about his company and the growth of Linux.

Q. What's sets Linux apart from other operating systems?
A. It puts the control of the software into the hands of the customer. They have the ability to make changes and control how the software operates on a much more fine-grained level than they would for a non-open source solution. It's as if Coca-Cola gave away their secret recipe and gave you the ability to make it sweeter or a little less sweet. And the customer doesn't feel inextricably tied to the [software] vendor they purchase it from.

Q. Is open source software more vulnerable to all the different threats we hear about?
A. In a word, no. Some reports may say there are more vulnerabilities for Linux than for a Windows-based platform. But the benefits of Linux are that those vulnerabilities are more easily disclosed and more easily discovered. A customer doesn't have to rely on one [software] vendor to find those vulnerabilities. And once they are disclosed, they can be repaired and fixed and updated much more easily than otherwise.

Q. What would it be like if we were living in a Linux-based world? What would be different?
A. Software companies would be entirely service oriented. It would shift the business model from one of [software companies] selling a shrink-wrapped package to one that sells a service delivered through the software they developed.

Q. From where you sit, how big is Linux getting?
A. I see remarkable amounts of growth and investment by organizations and large multinational corporations that even as recently as three or four years ago wouldn't even have considered admitting they were involved with Linux in any shape or form.

Q. Linux supporters have always seemed to be more passionate about what they are doing. Why?
A. The people that are involved with it are the people that use it. They have their own personal reputation to maintain compared with a proprietary software developer who gets to sit behind a corporation. In that case, it's the corporation's name that goes on the product, not the programmer's name. In the open source community, where the developers are exposed, they gain a reputation and people learn who are the good programmers and who aren't.
Before a program is really adopted by the community, it goes through a rigorous process where the best version wins. The programmers all compete against each other - in good spirits, of course - but to produce the best and fastest and most secure program that's possible.

Q. Earlier this fall, Guardian Digital announced a deal with India's Space Research Organization (India's version of NASA). What are you doing for them?
A. We designed an entire portfolio to protect their entire internal communications; that involved e-mail security, a firewall, proxy services, file sharing services.

Q. What's your company's biggest challenge?
A. The economy is certainly affecting us all. And there's still some resistance to adopt the open source approach, although not nearly as much as there was. Companies are increasingly recognizing the value that Linux provides.


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