The Challenge That Is Linux

The number of Linux servers at U.S. companies is growing quickly, faster than Windows servers and Unix licenses, which have become a smaller percentage of the overall server market.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

May 3, 2002

4 Min Read

The number of Linux servers at U.S. companies is growing quickly, faster than Windows servers and Unix licenses, which have become a smaller percentage of the overall server market. Sure, Linux's growth is from a smaller installed base than that of older operating systems. But where's it coming from?

It's coming from Web servers, database servers, E-mail hosts, and application development systems, according to a March InformationWeek Research Web survey of 550 business-technology professionals with knowledge of their company's operating systems. The most popular use of Linux--the freely available, open-source-code operating system that resembles Unix and runs on myriad microprocessors--is for serving up Web or intranet pages, according to the survey. About 80% of sites that run Linux use it as a Web server.

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It's also popular for hosting databases, file-and printer-sharing networks, and application development projects. And while small companies with less than $100 million in annual revenue use Linux widely to host E-mail and messaging systems, that trend is less prevalent at large sites. More than half of small companies use Linux as an operating system for desktop PCs, as do nearly half of large ones. Nearly 70% of small companies and more than 60% of large ones say they decided to use Linux as an alternative to Windows.

IT managers like Linux because it's cheap, reliable, and performs well. Linux's licensing terms require that its source code be freely accessible to users and that any changes users make to the code be redistributed to the user community.

But Linux's do-it-yourself support ethos is a turnoff for many companies. About 45% of large companies and nearly 40% of small ones say their IT staff's limited technical knowledge of Linux has been an issue. That was the most commonly cited deployment problem in the survey.

How is Linux challenging your IT organization? Let us know at the address below.

Aaron Ricadela
Senior Writer
[email protected]

Shared Solutions Drive AdoptionLinux might be making headway in IT shops because of its low cost and ability to perform, but the operating system's community development model is also driving use. Business-technology professionals say wide online availability of development tools swayed their companies to adopt Linux.

Nearly half of the respondents from small companies in InformationWeek Research's Linux study say accessibility to online development tools is a reason their companies decided to go with Linux. That's just slightly more than the percentage of respondents at companies with annual revenue of $100 million or more.

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Software Is LackingLinux's most significant weakness is the limited availability of business software written for it, a problem about a third of respondents using or planning to use the platform in the next year cited. While one-third of survey participants say they use Linux to run enterprise applications, it's unclear whether they're test or production implementations.

Large companies also say they don't want to support another operating system in their data center. But this is less of an issue for small companies. While 11% of large companies report a reluctance to support another operating system such as Linux within their IT environment, this is an issue for only 4% of small companies surveyed.

Diversity Proves TroublesomeAnyone responsible for reining in legacy systems knows firsthand the frustration of dealing with a multitude of systems and software versions. They play havoc with scalability and a project's progress. Companies deploying Linux are encountering compatibility issues. Although not prevalent, companies large and small report their Linux efforts are being slowed by the availability of multiple versions of the operating system. One in five large companies that InformationWeek Research polled considers this a significant weakness of Linux. According to survey results, it's a sentiment that's equally common at small companies.

Large Companies Slower To AdoptSmall companies are more established adopters of Linux than large ones. Nearly half of the 225 small companies surveyed have used Linux for more than two years, while another 31% say they've used Linux for one to two years.

Seventy-one percent of the 149 large sites polled say they're long-time users (more than a year). One quarter have had Linux operating from one to two years, and 45% say they've been running the system for more than two years. Yet large companies also make up a larger pool of new adopters. Nearly one-third of large sites say they've installed Linux in their data center during the past year.

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