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Linux jobs outpacing Windows; virtualization is 'hot'

Linux jobs rank third in job posting but demand is growing, unlike Windows. Virtualization is the most sought-after additional skill.

Windows job-seekers may have 30% more available openings today in the U.S. than their Linux counterparts. On the flipside, however, the number of Linux listings nationwide is growing while demand for Windows staffers is dropping.

According to the latest figures from IT job site, Windows had the most OS job listings on October 1 with 8,865 postings, but the tally was 8% less than the 9,643 Windows opportunities that had been advertised at the start of the year.

Linux is in every large enterprise. It's coming out of the closet.

David Acheson,
marketing director, LPI

Linux ranked third (behind Unix) with 6,168 postings in October. But in contrast to Windows, Linux postings grew by 6% during the year, increasing from 5,839 jobs listed on January 5.

Specific listings for Red Hat Inc., meanwhile, increased nearly 4% from last January, but postings for Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise skills dropped 14% during the same period.

Demand for Windows and Linux platforms, however, was down significantly from a year ago on the cusp of the recession: Windows dropped 43% from last October's total of 15,566 and Linux declined 35% from 9,451 a year ago. Red Hat and SUSE also declined sharply from the previous October, Red Hat by 34% and SUSE by 57%.

The survey also included other OSes such as Macintosh (the only other OS on the increase), Solaris, AIX, HP-UX and DOS.

The hottest job market for Linux skills is by far California with 1,455 openings, followed by New York with 721 and Virginia, Texas and New Jersey ranging between 300 and 400 apiece; the rest dwindled rapidly. More than 60% of advertised positions are permanent full-time, while 40% are contract jobs.

Tom Silver, senior vice president for North America, pointed out that the job site has more than 6,000 Linux listings and is "by far the most significant" growing category.

"This is good news for people with Linux skills," Silver said. "I expect demand for Linux will continue to grow."

Virtualization and Linux: Perfect together

A valuable skillset for system administrators and network engineers, Linux has grown over the years to mainstream status, especially now with the accelerating adoption of virtualization, which is complementary to Linux, he said.

Virtualization is definitely the hottest skill for Linux administrators to acquire, particularly VMware, although Dice occasional gets requests for Xen, Silver said.

In recognition of virtualization's escalating importance, the vendor-neutral Linux Professional Institute (LPI) will add a certification exam on virtualization next spring. The test will include Xen, KVM, OpenVZ, VirtualBox and cluster management.

Silver added that experience with security tools such as Nagios, Tripwire and NetFilter also is highly in demand. Dice also receives requests for applicants with Apache Tomcat Java Web application server experience as well as MySQL database, he added. Demand for prior work with Ruby on Rails frameworks is also growing.

Numerous training opportunities to qualify for these jobs are available, including LPI and certification programs through Red Hat and Novell, he said. (LPI only develops and runs the certification tests, but it has training partners who do offer preparatory courses.)

This past summer, launched a new Web site called Dice Learning as a one-stop-shop for IT career advice and information about certification and education programs, Silver said.

"The goal is to help people find out what skills they need, where to get them and what makes the most sense for them," he said.

Although the job listings confirm that the IT job market has improved during the year, competition is still very strong and employers are demanding a "glove-like fit" of job requirements and candidate qualifications, Silver said.

To be successful, applicants should focus on their specific skills and experience and explain how they have used their talents to help present and previous employers through difficult times, he advised.

The good news?

"Demand for Linux skills will continue to be strong," Silver said.

David Acheson, the LPI's marketing director, agrees. The decade-old organization, which has administered 250,000 Linux certification tests since its founding, is experiencing a 20% increase in test-takers every year, he said. A significant number appear to Windows administrators adding Linux to their skill set, he added.

"In this economy, corporations are looking for lower-cost IT solutions," Acheson said. "Linux is in every large enterprise. It's coming out of the closet."

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