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Linux Gaining Popularity
by MSCTimes.COM

Linux is slowly but surely gaining popularity in the local market scene, evident by more and more corporations and government departments crossing over to this operating system, says Meor A. Fauzi, operations officer, Magnifix Sdn Bhd, which distributes and provides support for Red Hat and the SuSE line of Linux products or "Linux distributions" in Linux terminology.

He says there was a time when it was virtually impossible to push Linux products. Techies knew of its existence and many used it to run their web servers, but few corporate decision-makers had heard of it.

"Trying to enlighten them was next to impossible," adds the 27-year-old.

According to him, it is a much better scenario today. As a result of the winds of change, there is increased awareness and interest in Linux.

Wider media coverage of Linux has also made the name better known to the right people, especially since Red Hat has been using good public relations to make Linux known prior to the companyís initial public offering (IPO) earlier this year.

At present, Magnifix feels that the worst is over with the economy showing signs of recovery and foresees a good year ahead. It has since made inroads into Telekom Malaysia, Hock Hua Bank, Phileo Allied Security and Syarikat Takaful Malaysia. It has also been doing work for Hewlett-Packard and Oracle.

One of its biggest contracts was with Telekom Malaysia which required it to construct an intranet for the Corporate Global and Government Department. The revenue from this job provided Magnifix allowed it to reinvest in the company.

Adds Meor, "Malaysia is one-and-a-half to two years behind the United States where Linux has a very strong presence. There are predictions that Malaysia will also follow suit."

He quotes an IDC survey which found that 17 percent of the world server market was on Linux in 1998 and the current year would probably show an increase to 25%.

Encouraged by the growing acceptance of Linux, especially in the server market worldwide, Magnifix, which focuses on corporate and government businesses, is targeting the low tier to middle tier NT market.

It is confident of succeeding as Linux can be obtained for free over the Net or for a nominal price of RM270 or RMRM370 in shrink-wrapped versions depending on whether it is a Red Hat or a SuSE distribution.

This price is irrespective of the number of users, and is considered more than a bargain compared to the competing operating systems with their user licenses in addition to the cost of the OS itself.

Asked how Magnifix become the authorized distributor for Red Hat Linux, Izzauddin Mohd Isa, its senior network and systems engineer, explains, "During our early days, we were always in communication with Red Hat and sought its advice. That developed into a good working relationship which resulted in Red Hat appointing Magnifix its authorized distributor and support for Malaysia. SuSE followed suit."

The four partners of Magnifix have sunk in about RM300,000 to finance the business. They are presently negotiating with another party to pump in an additional RM1-RM1.5 million.

Meor says this is to expand the business by offering support services nationwide, develop applications, expand marketing activities and improve overall services. It also has an office automation application ready for market, but lack funds for effective marketing.

Adds Meor Safi Zainal, the business development manager, "When times were tough we hunted high and low for funds but came to a brick wall. We approached financial institutions when the Entrepreneur Development Minister announced the government was creating an Entrepreneur Fund, which would be channeled via such institutions."

Buoyant by the news, he says, they applied for RM50,000 as working capital with a finance company which was more interested in the equipment they were going purchase with the money.

The partners had to explain that what was needed was working capital and not a hire-purchase facility since they already have the computers. Eventually, they were granted RM15,000 which wasnít enough, but they took it anyway.

Says Meor Safi Zainal, "We feel that there is a lack of cohesion between the government and the financial sector. Polices announced are not known by the sector until very much later.

"Often we read in the papers that a fund is available to entrepreneurs and available through participating financial institutions. When we visited them carrying the press cutting, the officers didnít know anything about it."

The partners intend to apply for MSC status for Magnifix, but say this is not in the forefront of their plans because of the hassle of bureaucracy.

Incorporated in 1997, Magnifix started life as a system integrator offering intranet, internet and extranet total solutions. These, among others, include design and installation of cabling works, local area network, wide area network and intranet.

It also offers IT maintenance outsourcing services for small and medium sized companies, consultancy and total solutions services

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