Dearth of qualified professionals might affect The Linux movement in India
The year 2K was definitely not a year to be etched in golden letters for Microsoft. Antitrust lawsuits, the DOJ ruling on splitting up the company, the falling share prices on Nasdaq — it was indeed a year of turmoil for Gates & Co. To top it all, it was perhaps the first time that Windows’ position as the automatic choice for an operating system was seriously challenged. No matter how much the Redmond giant might attempt to refute, it was true that the Linux brigade had been able to consolidate its position and emerge as a serious alternative to Windows as the preferred OS.
With India staking its claim as a software powerhouse, the relevant question today is how relevant is Linux for this country? “It’s an absolute must,” feels Anurag Phadke, a member of the Linux User Group (LUG) in Mumbai. “For a developing country like us, concept of a free software like Linux is the ideal option. With Windows being economically unaffordable for most users, switching to Linux is not only a better alternative, but also the way to curb software piracy.” Agrees Vishal Gupta, CEO, Aryabhatt Linux, an indigenously developed Linux distribution, “China and France have already made Linux their national operating system and India should not be far behind.” He, in fact, goes on to claim Aryabhatt as India’s answer to Linux.
However, considering the large number of programmers in India, why are we not developing more and more Aryabhatts? According to most pundits, the main reason is lack of proper training on Linux. Phadke elaborates, “We do have brilliant innovators on Linux, but all efforts are isolated and individual-centric. There is virtually no mechanism available to impart systematic training on Linux anywhere in India.”
So what sort of Linux training programs are available in India? Red Hat India, the India arm of the world’s most popular Linux distribution, leads the pack in this sphere. According To Shankar Iyer, Manager, Training, Red Hat India, “We offer three modular programs, viz., RH 003 B (Understanding Linux), RH 133 (Sys-tem Administration) and the RH 253 (Networking and Security Administration). Besides our own training programs, we have already tied up with NIIT CATS to offer courses in Red Hat Linux. We have also tied up with Mindrome Technologies in Mumbai and Brains Computer Education in Kanpur and Delhi. While the training will be provided by these institutes, the certification will be done by us which offers a unique mix of both theory and practice.”
Training on Caldera, another popular Linux distribution is provided by the Mumbai-based karROX Technologies. According to Jeetendra Nair, VP, Software Education Division, karROX Technologies, “karROX offers training on Caldera Linux as their Authorised Linux Education Center popularly known as ALEC. The courses that we offer are on three different levels, i.e, LSA (Linux System Administration), LNA (Linux Network Administration) and LEA (Linux Enterprise Administ-ration). These courses leads to LPI certification. Initially a student starts from LSA, proceeds to LNA and then LEA. This is the most comprehensively designed course for Linux which also provides hands on experience to students for advanced topics, viz. kernel configuration, firewalls etc.”
FreeOS.com, a leading distributor of Red Hat Linux in India, also offers training on it. Reveals Prakash Advani, CEO, FreeOS.com and one of the most well-known supporters of Linux in India, “We offer two courses starting from teaching the basics of Linux to advanced training. We even offer customised courses in programming on the Linux platform to corporates.”
However, everyone agree that we definitely do not have requisite number of trained personnel on Linux. According to Iyer, “There are currently not more than 200 certified Linux engineers in India today. So obviously, there is a huge demand for Red Hat certified engineers in the country. Also as most of the corporates are moving from standard OS to Linux, the demand is bound to go up and there will be a huge gap between demand and supply.” Agrees Gupta, “The demand is surely much more than the supply of Linux administrators. Today Linux dominates 70 per cent of the server market and is steadily capturing market share. The Indian sector is also actively eyeing Linux for adoption.” Nair also elicits similar sentiments. “The demand for Linux professionals is very high in US and in other parts of the world it is rapidly picking up. The popular sectors employing Linux professionals are ISPs, corporates for mail servers and firewalls, website hosting companies, government sector and public sector companies since they mainly use Linux operating system due to its reliability, scalability, security and cost effectiveness.”
Not only is there a dearth of training programs, the quality too is suspect on most occasions. Advani, unhesitatingly, acknowledges the fact. “The quality of training offered currently in India is not of very high standards.” He adds, “If the Linux movement in India has to be taken seriously, then the quality of education has to improve.” Iyer agrees. “ Other than us, nobody in India offers a complete course in Linux covering the basics of system administration to programming. Also we find that there is a huge difference in understanding of the basics of Linux.” Nair also has similar opinion, though understandably he is gung-ho about karROX. “There are very few quality training organisations imparting training on Linux. The important aspect is that the trainers should be certified and the courseware should be well designed and structured to compliment the trainer. There are very few quality trainers on Linux in the country. Fortunately for karROX, we have been training on Linux for the last two years during which we have trained many successful students and professionals. More importantly we offer training on all flavours of Linux i.e Red Hat, Caldera, Slackware, Suse to name a few.”
One serious lacuna in the whole of Linux training scheme in India is that we mostly deal with system administration courses, but not the programming ones. Advani comments, “There are almost no institutes offering courses on programming on the Linux platform.” Even Gupta agrees that the quality of training courses in Linux today is poor with almost no programming courses on Linux. Phadke sounds a warning, “Administrators are fine, but unless we develop more and more programmers to contribute to the kernel, India may be left behind in the Linux race.” He feels that beside dearth of adequate faculty, the commercial institutes only provide system administration courses because they rake in the moolah.
This is evident from both Iyer and Nair’s statements. Nair comments, “Normally people who get trained at karROX, get employed in IT companies which are into networking solutions or non-IT companies as their system or network administrator. However this is really subjective as it depends on the profile of the candidate who has undergone the training. Besides we find that the demand from the corporates to train their IT staff on Linux is very high.
Hence we find a segment of professionals already well positioned in the industry also approaching us for their training requirements.” Iyer concurs, “Most people we train get employed as system administrators. There are a host of other career options available as security administrators, in networking and mail server administrators. We have found the demand going up for Linux system administrators.”
This article was published in expresscomputeronline.com I prefer using a free OS like Linux to a pirated Windows software. Sad that Linux is not picking in India.