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Linux deployments will surge in '07, analyst says

There's no stopping Linux now. A new survey shows that over the next five years Linux will surge into mission-critical enterprise deployments to the tune of a 50% market share by 2011.

A new survey of IT professionals shows that in two years' time, Linux in mission-critical enterprise environments will be "booming" past the point of no return.

According to a report from Westport, Conn.-based Saugatuck Technology Inc., IT directors currently evaluating and testing Linux for mission critical deployments are increasingly committing to the platform. Eventually, the report said, almost half of all enterprise data centers will have their mission critical applications running on Linux.

The next generation belongs to Linux?

Analyst Bill McNee said the next generation of computing will be built on Linux. That generation could begin anytime from 2007 onwards, and won't show signs of slowing down for some time afterward, he said.

Last year was all about planning, he said, and 2007 will see action -- both on the part of IT directors as well as the vendors working with Linux.

For some vendors and their customers, Linux made early strides in 2006. Experts say Linux has proven itself as a viable and cost-effective platform for SAP and Oracle users, and that most rollouts of Linux for enterprise apps involve new implementations in mid-sized companies and point solution applications in large, established SAP and Oracle implementations.

The year 2006 also saw cases of large-scale migrations of ERP applications to Linux, particularly on racks of blade servers.

"Our data shows [this next generation of computing] has already begun, but it will accelerate dramatically between 2007 and 2009. Then things will get even faster by the end of the decade," McNee said.

"We're not talking about collaboration deployments or portals and other non-mission critical applications here, this is core ERP, payroll – mission critical," said Bill McNee, Saugatuck's founder and author of the report.

McNee said the survey asked 133 IT pros a simple question: How they planned on using Linux, if at all, over the next five years.

Approximately 20% of respondents said they had already deployed or had definite plans to rely on Linux for mission critical areas by the end of 2007.

In the four-year period following 2007, McNee said things get even more interesting. In that period Linux adoption will surge year over year until it is responsible for handling nearly 50% of mission-critical operations by 2011.

"People will no longer be using Linux for just Web portals or hosting sites, but as the backbone for their core computing needs," McNee said.

Indeed, as Linux made gains throughout 2006, big name companies took notice. Oracle announced discounted support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Microsoft teamed up with Novell. These developments confirmed the fact that "open source is enterprise-grade," McNee said.

Stacks and cannibals

The surge in Linux deployments can be attributed to two distinct factors, McNee said.

"Part of the surge is not necessarily due to Linux itself, but instead is due to the fact that the entire open source applications stack that sits above Linux is now ready for prime time," he said. Areas like systems management, the database and the aforementioned Web server are all components McNee said were ready to sit on top of Linux in mission critical environments.

The second driver for growth comes at the expense of other operating systems currently handling mission critical loads in the data center. This does not include Microsoft Windows, which will remain strong alongside Linux in mixed-OS settings.

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"Over the next 12 to 24 months, Linux and Windows will dominate new application deployment decisions [in the data center]," McNee said. "Our research has concluded that all other [operating systems] -- whether they be a variant of Unix, or Netware or even many of IBM's core environments -- will be in decline, albeit slowly."

But even as Linux cannibalizes existing Unix deployments, McNee said Unix will never be completely erased from the minds of IT managers.

"Yes, today's OS's [like Unix] will clearly continue to be core backbones for corporate computing for at least the next 10 to 20 years, but fewer and fewer new workloads will be deployed there. Instead Linux and Windows will be new cats on the street," he said.

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