Use of the Linux operating system will continue to grow as businesses seek a lower-cost option to Unix and a more open and flexible alternative to Microsoft's Windows. However, the future of open-source products in the enterprise is hardly a given. Compatibility with existing software is the hurdle to overcome with Linux on PCs. Other common complaints when the operating system is used on servers, laptops, and desktops are problems related to multiple Linux versions, poor documentation, and hardware-support issues.
Low-cost support and no licensing fees continue to be the main reasons companies adopt Linux. However, concern about Microsoft products has sped up use of the operating system, according to InformationWeek's latest research report, Linux Outlook.
Of the study's 155 companies using Linux on PCs, three-quarters are doing so in response to Windows security issues. Concern about Windows security also is reportedly driving use of the operating system on servers. Two-thirds of the 246 companies using Linux on servers say security worries are behind their use of the operating system on servers.
While Linux is being rolled out on PCs, it's a long way from becoming a threat to Microsoft. Windows XP is the preferred platform on PCs, while on servers it's Windows NT or Windows 2000.
In large companies, open source is more likely to be found running select business functions within departments or divisions. Smaller companies are more likely to widely deploy open-source products.
Is open source a practical alternative to Microsoft products for your company? Let us know.
Where does your company use Linux now and plan to in the next 12 months?
Linux is mostly deployed on Web or intranet servers; for application development, database management; and on system-management servers. Two in five sites planning to adopt Linux in the next 12 months will try it on desktop PCs. Deployment is expected in companies with annual revenue up to $100 million or $1 billion or more.
What has helped speed your company's decision to use Linux?
There are some compelling reasons why companies are migrating to Linux, reasons beyond low cost of ownership or no licensing fees. Users report that performance and reliability are key factors behind their adoption of the operating system. Linux also is seen as an alternative to Microsoft Windows by nearly 60% of server users and 70% of PC users.
What issues has your company encountered in its deployment of Linux?
Some companies deploying Linux concede that their IT staff needs to do a better job documenting how to use the operating system. Implementing procedures for rollouts and upgrades would be advisable. Poor documentation is a problem for one in five companies using Linux on servers and PCs.
Why isn't your organization considering using Linux?
Incompatibility with enterprise applications, lack of internal expertise, and reluctance to run mixed operating systems are the most frequent reasons why companies pass on Linux. Sites are more apt to hold off deploying Linux because of a preference for another operating system, while limited backing by software vendors is causing some businesses to look elsewhere this year.
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