Teaching MCSE dogs new (Linux) tricks

Microsoft has successfully lowered the bar for average people to participate in IT administration. But it has yet to unlock the doors to IT creativity. If you want to color within the lines that Microsoft lays out for you, Windows and its ecosystem is i

Paul Murphy at ZDNet has a great post on why many MCSEs (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) struggle to gain proficiency with Linux. In part it may stem from apathy, but Paul (following a long post from a would-be Linux adoptee) identifies something more fundamental:

A divide between theory and practice.

As Paul writes:

...[T]here's a great divide between the Windows and Unix camps: a divide one side doesn't recognize and the other doesn't want to cross. It's the divide between training and education: the difference between rote learning and the application of theory to practice.

Basically, to learn Unix you learn to understand and apply a small set of key ideas and achieve expertise by expanding both the set of ideas and your ability to apply them - but you learn Windows by working with the functionality available in a specific release.

Later, Paul suggests that MCSEs are looking for convenient scripts that they can memorize and regurgitate, whereas Unix (and, by extension, Linux) developers rely on general principles to learn and use the system. It's why, I believe, it's difficult for Microsoft-based IT shops to truly innovate. How can an MCSE innovate when she's taught to color within the lines, and innovation is all about coloring outside the lines, or redrawing the lines?

That's a gross generalization, obviously, but it seems to hold true in the enterprises with which I work. Microsoft has successfully lowered the bar for average people to participate in IT administration. But it has yet to unlock the doors to IT creativity. If you want to color within the lines that Microsoft lays out for you, Windows and its ecosystem is ideal. But if you want IT to drive competitive advantage...time to get off Windows.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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