Survey: Linux gaining acceptance among users

Linux has matured and is continuing to gain acceptance at enterprises of all sizes, analysts say.

A new survey finds that Linux is continuing to gain acceptance in the enterprise, especially in the area of me...


Osterman Research Inc. interviewed IT decision makers at 103 companies and found that 55% would consider switching to Linux messaging over the next two years, as long as there were no major disruptions to end users during the migration process.

Michael Osterman, principal analyst with the Black Diamond, Wash.-based research firm, said companies are warming up to Linux-based systems because they're seen as less expensive than competing proprietary products from the likes of Microsoft and IBM Lotus, and because they've grown more reliable in recent years.

In general, the analyst said, the more companies look into the future, the more likely they are to consider switching Linux-based messaging systems. And companies that switch to Linux messaging will probably do so as part of an overall back-end migration to the open source platform, he added.

"I think that there is going to be a lot of adoption to Linux overall," said Osterman, whose firm focuses primarily on messaging issues. "If a company is in the process of moving to Linux, it really does make a lot of sense to move messaging that way, too."

Other analyst firms agree that overall adoption of Linux in the enterprise is growing at a fast pace. A newly released forecast from Framingham, Mass.-based International Data Corp. predicts that the overall Linux market will grow 25.9% annually to reach $35.7 billion in 2008. Of that number, the firm estimates that $14 billion will be in the form of packaged software, $10 billion in Linux-based PCs and $11 billion in Linux servers.

Among the Osterman Research survey's other findings:

- 21% of executives said they would prefer Linux for their entire e-mail infrastructure, if they could easily swap out their current e-mail infrastructure.

- 42% said they would probably or definitely replace their back-end messaging infrastructure for one with better performance or lower costs, if it allowed them to keep their current desktop clients.

- 20% said they plan to migrate to a different vendor's messaging system within the next 24 months.

- 82% said they have noticed an increase in the percentage of employees that access e-mail from home.

- 80% would consider changing to a Web-based e-mail client, if it offered the same capabilities as current desktop clients.

Tony Iams, vice president and senior analyst at D.H. Brown Associates Inc., a research firm in Port Chester, N.Y., agreed that Linux is gaining acceptance. At first, he said, Linux emerged as an alternative to Windows NT for edge-of-the-network applications such as web hosting and e-mail.

But over the last five years, Iams said, Linux has improved greatly in terms of overall price/performance, security, reliability and remote manageability, thanks largely to continued investments from major technology providers.

Osterman pointed out that one thing holding companies back from moving to Linux right now is a lack of expertise on the subject.

"It's harder to find Linux people than it is Windows people, particularly in a good economy," he said.

Numbers released by career site clearly back up that statement. The company said there are currently about 3,400 Linux job postings on its site, up about 200% from last year.

Despite Linux's recent and impending gains in the marketplace, don't expect the platform to become the dominant player anytime soon. Some users said they have made too much of an investment in competing technologies to consider changing to a different platform anytime soon.

Mitch Myers, vice president of operations for medium-sized manufacturer FWMurphy in Tulsa, Okla., said his company hasn't considered Linux yet because it is satisfied with the investments it has made in Microsoft Windows and Exchange, and in IBM WebSphere for middleware.

"Our core functionality that we've continued to standardize on more and more on is from Microsoft and IBM," Myers said. "Those are the two main platforms that we've engaged in, and we haven't had a need to incorporate Linux into our plans."


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