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Linux x86 growth outpaced by Microsoft Windows

The Linux server market has continued its robust quarter-over-quarter growth in the x86 market, but Microsoft -- yes, that Microsoft -- had bigger growth overall.

A recent IDC report showed Linux servers continuing to increase market share for x86 architecture with a second consecutive quarter of double-digit growth, but the bigger news could be Microsoft's even bigger surge with Windows Server 2003.

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The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant's Server 2003 showed modest gains in Q1, with IDC reporting that Microsoft Windows Server revenue was $4.8 billion in Q1. This number represents 10.4% year-over-year growth and a gain of 1.9 points of revenue market share over the same period in 2006. Windows encompassed 38.8% of all server revenue in Q1 of 2007.

However, the most noteworthy accomplishment for Microsoft was that -- according to IDC -- this was the first quarter since that firm started tracking Linux server spending in 1998 that Windows Server revenue grew faster than Linux server revenue. IDC noted Linux server revenue reached $1.6 billion, which represented growth of 10%.

With the increase, Linux servers now account for 12.7% of the overall server market, or $1.6 billion for the first quarter of 2007. This is the fourth consecutive quarter of positive revenue growth and the highest first-quarter server revenue since 2001, IDC vice president of enterprise platforms Matt Eastwood said in his firm's quarterly Server Tracker report.

x86 architecture expands its reach

The reason for the growth could be attributed to the x86 architecture's continued acceleration in the data center. In Q4 2006, it grew 8.7% year over year to $6.6 billion. This was its fastest growth rate in six quarters, the IDC report said.

Hayward, Calif.-based Pund-IT Inc. principal analyst Charles King said Microsoft's gains were not surprising and did not represent shops dumping Linux in favor of Microsoft Windows Server 2003.

Instead, King agreed with IDC and said a good deal of the x86 growth – for both Windows Server 2003 and Linux -- is due to the emergence of a new generation of hardware from both Intel and AMD. This includes the dual- and quad-core servers coming into the enterprise market, he said.

In fact, for all the perceived competition between the two operating systems, King argued that in many instances the OSes are directed at different customer needs. "Microsoft's server OS is a very strong and quality operating environment. The overall strength of Linux comes from its multi-platform operating environment," he said.

Linux server usage increasing

Across Europe, IDC found that Linux is still being adopted at an increasing rate, with sales of Linux-based servers rising by 42% in the first quarter. Globally, Linux server sales grew by only 10% in the same time period.

Western Europe consumed the most Linux ever to date in the first quarter of 2007, according to IDC. Sales of Unix platforms were flat in Europe, and Windows boxes saw sales rise by 13%.

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