Linux the darling of emotions, not realism: Meta

Linux has emerged as the darling of the ‘technical crowd’ but interest is more emotional than realistic, according to Meta Group Inc. analyst for server infrastructure strategies Kevin McIsaac.

In a research paper released this week McIsaac said interest in Linux is based on a “questionable” lower total cost of ownership (TCO) argument.

“The Linux OS license is free but that does not ensure that TCO will be reduced; for example Linux requires more staffing resources and effort to match the reliability, availability and scalability of high end Unix and Windows 2000 or XP servers,” he said.

Users must purchase high-availability add-ons and support from third parties, which increases cost and complexity. Until 2004 this will limit Linux use to applications that do not demand high levels of reliability and availability; “Even if all other Linux costs were the same, the impact of its free OS license on total cost of ownership of a significant project such as ERP or CRM would be minimal, because then OS license fee typically is less than two to three per cent of the TCO.”

McIsaac believes staff recommending replacement of Windows with Linux in their servers are doing so on a “flawed assumption”.

He said astute IT organizations will recognize that Linux’s true value is derived more from the price/performance of the commodity Intel hardware it enables than from its open source characteristics.

Meta research indicates a strong interest in using Linux in the data centre, but few clients understand the real value of Linux, and not many clients have embarked on major Linux projects outside of Web server farms, appliances (network-attached storage [NAS]), or general infrastructure servers.

McIsaac said Linux will begin to penetrate the application server tier, with IBM Corp. and BEA Systems Inc. targeting Linux on Intel Corp. as a low-cost J2EE platform.

In 2003, he said Oracle Real Application Clusters (RAC) will demonstrate adequate high availability clustering capabilities, enabling Linux to begin penetrating the low-end enterprise database market.

Although Linux has established a foothold in the Web tier due to the popularity of the Apache Web server, McIsaac said it still ranks a distant third in Fortune 1000 companies behind Solaris and Windows.

He predicts that by 2007, Linux and Windows on Intel (Lintel and Wintel) will be the dominant platform for the application server tier, leaving RISC/Unix vendors competing with IBM mainframes in the high-end database server tier.

“The success of Linux will come primarily at the expense of Unix,” he added.