Planning for the unexpected

Doghouse – Strategic Redundancy

Article from Issue 259/2022

Open source software and hardware are the best choice to protect against supply chain disruption.

Supply chain disruption is a fact of life in the business world, and recent events indicate that the problem could be getting worse. Regardless of whether the disruption is caused by armed conflict, economic pressure, natural disaster, or ordinary fluctuations in the business cycle, companies need to know they can get the supplies and support necessary to keep their businesses going.

I have worked for companies that insisted on having two suppliers for every single part they needed to run their business, in case one of the suppliers went out of business or could not meet the supply goals at some particular period of time. This flexibility is one of the reasons why people started to move to Unix systems in the early 1980s instead of staying with arguably better operating systems such as VMS, MVS, MPE, etc. (For those Unix diehards who are insulted that I mention these operating systems as "better than Unix," remember that the Unix of that day was not the robust Unix systems of 1992 and afterwards.) Yet these same companies would buy a crucial part for their business from one supplier of system software: Microsoft, citing that they could get their Microsoft operating system from system integrators such as DEC, or HP, or IBM ….

Knowledge of the Windows operating system is confined to a single company, and much of the work on Windows occurs within a single geographical area (Redmond, Washington). On the other hand, GNU/Linux is developed by people all over the world, and the source code for the system is held on servers in almost every country. This built-in diversity provides natural protection against the problem of supply chain disruption.


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