When Choosing Your Commercial Linux, Choose Wisely!

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Vince Calandra

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by Vince Calandra

“Linux is Linux is Linux,” is a direct quote I heard in a meeting I had recently with a major multi-national, critical-infrastructure company. Surprisingly and correctly, there was one intelligent and brave engineering executive who replied to this statement, made by one of his team members, with a resounding, “That’s not true.” Let’s be clear, selecting a commercial Linux is not like selecting corn flakes. This is especially true when you are targeting embedded systems. You must be considering key questions regarding the supplier of the distribution, the criticality of the target application, security and life-cycle support for your product.

Choose Wisely

There is a wonderful scene in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when our hero, Indiana, must select the true Holy Grail. Set before him is a multitude of cups ranging from opulent, bejeweled challises to simple clay drinking cups. If you have seen the movie, Indiana reasons out the best choice, and it was a life or death selection. The knight who had been guarding the challises for centuries famously says, “You chose… wisely.” Why bring up this iconic scene? When you are selecting a commercial Linux distribution, you have a multitude of choices all bejeweled with wonderful marketing. The bottom line is that you want to save dollars that you would have otherwise spent on a DIY-Linux approach and ensure the commercial Linux selected fits your particular application. Here are some questions that you will need to keep in mind:


  • Is this for an IT application?


  • Is this for an OT (Operational Technology) application?


  • How long will this system be in the field?


  • What processes and procedures are used by my supplier to cover security vulnerabilities?


  • Can my supplier integrate in other Linux packages that support functionality I need going forward?

This is the short list. Other elements to keep in mind are the specific distribution’s origin and the Open Source community upon which it is based. How important is that specific Linux supplier with regard to the Open Source community upon which the distribution is based? These elements need to be part of the thought process.

I’ll Let My Silicon Choose

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