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Readers give high marks to security, Linux

According to a survey of News.com readers, companies will boost spending on security-related software and Linux will continue to gain in popularity.

In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, continued hack attempts and pernicious new viruses, technophiles expect that companies will boost spending on security-related software.

About one-third of the readers who responded to a recent survey by CNET News.com picked security as the niche where information technology spending would most increase. Spending on services and consulting came in second.

In addition, only 2 percent of respondents said that their companies would decrease spending in security-related applications. One in three said that they expected to spend less on business application software. Survey results

"I think security-related IT spending will increase considerably," said respondent David Holden, a systems developer in Chester, England. "Obviously this is not going to have a negative effect on the tech sector."

The Web-based survey generated more than 2,200 responses from IT professionals, ranging from rank-and-file software developers at Fortune 500 companies to senior directors at start-ups. It was conducted as part of the second installment of News.com's Vision Series, which begins Monday, June 10, and runs through June 21.

Each weekday, News.com will publish a one-on-one interview with executives who wield unparalleled influence in the IT industry: the top technology officers at America's largest corporations. Along with the interviews, the series will also include the results from the News.com reader survey, as well as a similar survey of more than 200 corporate information officers who comprise Decision Labs, a unit of CNET Networks.

The results of the reader survey reflect the growing acceptance of security as an integral part of corporate IT departments--a view that is also held by many of the technology chiefs interviewed for the Vision Series.

Many businesses are inflating the ranks of security-oriented tech workers, contrary to the hiring freezes and mass layoffs in the tech sector at large. A small number of companies, including Fortune 500s, are going so far as to recruit and hire chief security officers, or CSOs. In fact, a CSO magazine is scheduled to begin publication in September.

Respondents to the wide-ranging survey also were bullish on Linux but bearish on the economy.

Half of all respondents said Linux would play a "significant" or "major" role in their company's business plans. More than one out of three respondents also listed Linux seller and service provider Red Hat as one of the "most relevant" companies to their business in the next five years.

"I expect the most common use of Linux in our company will be as a software development platform for our customers," said Christopher Bibbs, a software developer and Royal Oak, Mich., resident who works at Detroit-based Compuware. "Generally speaking, the only Microsoft Windows software employees need is Outlook."

The enthusiasm for Linux among News.com readers was consistent with similar surveys in recent months. According to responses in a recent poll from Giga Information Group, 59 percent of IT managers said they would increase their use of Linux operating systems next year; none said that Linux use would decrease. By contrast, 56 percent of managers said they would increase their use of Microsoft's Windows operating system, while 18 percent said their use of Windows would decline.

Giga analyst Stacey Quandt said the bullish responses in polls don't surprise her--especially given the sour economy and demands that managers shrink IT spending. Linux is a Unix-style operating system originally created by Linus Torvalds with the assistance of developers around the world. Developed under the GNU General Public License, the source code for Linux is free, as opposed to Microsoft Windows, which charges hefty licensing fees to registered users.

"There are economic arguments that can be made to demonstrate that Linux offers a better price performance than Windows because of the licensing fee," said Quandt, who has been a Linux analyst since 1998. "There are other attributes that go into the total operating impact, but that's one aspect that contributes to higher costs...The downturn has focused companies on reducing their IT costs, and that's the catalyst for looking at Linux."

If the open-source operating system owes part of its popularity to the weak economy, it may be in for a smooth ride for the rest of the year and beyond. More than half of people who participated in the voluntary poll said they didn't expect a rebound until 2003. Only 27 percent expected a rebound later this year.

Some readers were even more bearish, predicting that an upturn was two or more years away.

"As long as the overall economy remains sluggish, there is just no incentive for corporations to start making large IT purchases," said Noel Wayne Abbott, a regional sales manager in Georgia. "Let's face it: All of the big spending on software in the last five years has left most companies less than impressed. ERP (enterprise resource planning), CRM (customer relationship management), business-to-business--all have ended up being a whole lot more hype than reality in terms of the end result."

Other readers echoed Abbott's concerns about the promise of technology during the 1990s and early 2000. Survey respondents said that the hype outweighed the reality when it came to concepts such as holistic computing, nanotechnology and grid computing.

But not everyone was pessimistic. Forty-four percent of respondents said the size of their company's IT department would increase by the end of the year, implying that growth would soon return to the hard-hit sector. Much growth would come in areas such as security and enterprise software, they said.

Several respondents believed that the downturn may ultimately be beneficial--a reality check that allowed the industry to trim staff that had become bloated during the 1990s boom.

"I am sure my company would prosper in case of another dot-com boom, although I do not believe another one will happen," said Vlad Mayzel, president of Vancouver-based Smart Technologies. "The industry became potentially stronger and already healthier thanks to this massive cleaning burst. It pretty much awakened the industry from the widespread illusions and (the) non-thinking, overexcited investors."