Survey: Linux ramping up in 2004

A recent SG Cowen Securities Corp. survey of more than 500 North American IT users found that more than 80 per cent of respondents were currently using Linux and that more than half planned to increase their use of the open source operating system within the next two years.

The survey, which also found a growing interest in other open source software in areas such as application servers, e-mail and database systems, concluded that Linux will change the landscape in corporate data centers as it steals workload share away from both Unix and Windows systems.

But the report’s authors note that hurdles remain for Linux, including the possibility that the market could fragment, as the Unix market did, with commercial vendors adding middleware, services and support to differentiate their Linux offerings.

“Such risks are essentially non-existent in the Microsoft (Corp.) Windows environment and may provide the same competitive advantage for Windows against Linux as it has had all along against Unix,” the report said.

Nevertheless, Linux will continue to make inroads in corporate adoption, especially in the upcoming year.

“Linux is likely to gain share of (application and database tier workloads) faster than any other platform, including Windows,” the report said. “The per cent of sites planning to increase workloads is higher for Linux than any other operating system, as was the per cent of organizations planning to adopt Linux for the first time.”

According to the survey that queried 527 businesses across a range of industries in November, 65 per cent of respondents planned to increase their use of Linux, with 80 per cent of those planning to do so in the next one or two years. More than 70 per cent of current Linux sites planned to increase reliance on Linux and 29 per cent planned to deploy Linux for the first time.

The main reasons for turning toward Linux were reliability, scalability and lower cost, the survey found. Reasons for not deploying Linux centered around concerns regarding application availability and service and support.

The report notes that overall Linux deployments are still modest in big corporations, though, and that Windows will continue to dominate as the server OS of choice.

“The most direct victim (of the adoption of Linux) is Unix, which is seeing planned reductions in workload that are directly correlated with gains by Linux,” the report said. “While Unix workload trends are negative among all users, they are even worse among those sites planning to increase their reliance on Linux. This doesn’t suggest that Linux is a more potent competitive threat to Unix than Windows is, but rather that the combination of Windows and Linux is certainly worse for Unix than Windows is alone.”

This is particularly bad news for Sun Microsystems Inc., which failed to embrace Linux early on as competitors such as IBM Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Inc. have done, the report noted. Sun now offers its entire stack on both Solaris and Linux, however.

Other findings from the survey:

– Of those respondents using Linux, 72 per cent run it on servers and 15 per cent use it on the desktop.

– On servers, Linux is in the Web/access tier in 76 per cent of the business responding, with 68 per cent saying they use it in the applications tier, and 57 per cent saying they run it in the database tier.

– About half of the sites use a commercial distribution of Linux, with Red Hat Inc. in 86 per cent of those sites.

– 70 per cent of Linux sites plan to increase Linux workloads; 10 per cent plan to decrease.

– 39 per cent of Windows sites plan to increase workloads and 25 per cent plan to reduce workloads.

– Unix will pick up workloads in only 17 per cent of sites; 30 per cent plan to reduce Unix workloads.

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