Linux skills: A hot commodity for job hunters

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

While only a few years ago Linux skills were just one in a series of possible assets for job applicants looking to stand out, in today's fast-paced, highly competitive workforce, it can actually be a make-or-break element. In fact, a quick search of job sites shows more than 8,000 technical jobs requiring Linux. Add to that recent reports showing demand for Linux skills has exceeded Unix for the first time ever and this is one trend IT professionals need to be aware of.

The steady advancement of Linux through community and business involvement has made it the world's fastest-growing operating system. It is the core of large data centers all over the world, successfully carrying mission critical workloads at a fraction of the cost of proprietary operating systems. Following a major push in the last decade, Linux is also now being used on a variety of servers, mobile platforms and even HDTV set-top boxes, allowing IT professionals to choose where their applications run best.

IN PICTURES: The oddest places to find Linux

Need more evidence? Consider these facts:

• When it comes to supercomputing, Linux is king. As of November 2010, 91 per cent of the world's top 500 supercomputers ran on a version of the Linux kernel.

• The flexibility of Linux has made it the operating system of choice for Hollywood animation and special effects departments. Linux has been used in production of more than 30 blockbuster films, including "Lord of the Rings," "Star Wars: Episode II," several "Harry Potter" films, "Shrek the Third" and "Titanic."

• The Linux Foundation estimates that more than 500 companies are currently participating in Linux development.

• Within the next four years, the number of mobile users is expected to reach 4.9 billion. As the volume of mobile data and transactions continues to grow exponentially, managing mobile information is becoming a critical issue for global businesses. Linux is the driving force behind a broad range of smartphone and mobile devices, including RFID devices and sensors. For example, Google's breakthrough mobile phone operating system, Android, is based on a modified version of the Linux kernel -- using Linux 2.6 for core system services such as security, memory management, process management, network stack and driver model.

Feeding the business need

Admittedly, job searches are still not always easy. But, with the growing business demand for Linux, applicants with proven skills are having an easier time. In fact, the Linux Foundation recently established a Linux Job Board to help house all the positions currently available.

Jim Zemlin, the Linux Foundation's director, was recently quoted saying, "Linux's increasing use across industries is building high demand for Linux jobs despite national unemployment stats. reaches millions of Linux professionals from all over the world. By providing a Jobs Board feature on the popular community site, we can bring together employers, recruiters and job seekers to lay the intellectual foundation for tomorrow's IT industry."

IN DEPTH: Bashing Microsoft 'like kicking a puppy,' says Linux Foundation chief

And what types of Linux skills are needed?

Organizations across all industries are looking for people who can step in and solve IT issues quickly and effectively because they've done it before. When looking at potential employees, someone who has recently done a Solaris-to-Linux migration will definitely be more appealing than, say, someone who has a Linux training certificate.

However, if you are just beginning your career or are looking to gain experience, formal certifications are helpful and can increase the value proposition for potential employers. Key vendors Red Hat and Novell offer a series of certifications for IT professionals with a particular focus on their Linux distributions.

The Linux Professional Institute offers vendor and distribution neutral certification for those looking for a broad set of Linux skills. There are also a host of no-charge learning materials available for developers and administrators in places like IBM developerWorks. At last count, developerWorks was home to more than 70 articles and resources to help developers get started and improve their Linux skills, and draws 311,000 unique monthly visitors to the Linux Zone alone.

Once you you've landed that coveted position, what can you expect? New employees with expert Linux skills will see a significantly higher salary than Windows professionals with a similar job title. Second, with open source increasing its share of enterprise computing, and mobile applications continuing to permeate the markets, we're looking at an extremely stable, resilient career move.

So, Linux professionals or Linux professional wannabes, happy hunting, and may the penguin be with you!

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