A look at Linux in the recession: Linux 2009 year in review

How did Linux and open source fare in 2009? A review of the news stories in the enterprise Linux market during the economic downturn shows that Linux's strengths aided its success -- with new OS version launches, interoperability agreements, new products, a few legal controversies and a few spectacular acheivements.

The big story of 2009 was the economy. After the collapse of major financial institutions in the fall of 2008, people began looking for a silver lining in open source and Linux.

It still wasn't the year of the Linux desktop, but 2009 showed Linux increasing its presence in the everyday electronics marketplace. Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin coined it "Year of the Linux everything else." From ATMs to netbooks and mobile phones, the strength of Linux has been recognized by device manufacturers and developers and is on the rise. Cloud computing was a hot topic in 2009 and Linux plays a strong role making the cloud function.

Here are some highlights from the Linux world in 2009.

January. Vyatta Inc., started out 2009 with the release of its third open source-based networking appliance, in a bid to take on Cisco's networking domination. Lucid Imagination launched a paid support service for Apache Web server's Solr and Lucene enterprise navigation and search tools. Red Hat released RHEL 5.3 with enhanced virtualization scalability, OpenJDK functionality and Intel Nehalem processor support.

The Linux Foundation launched the "We're Linux" video contest, the results of which were announced at the foundation's Collaboration Summit in April.

February. This was a Red Hat month. First, in a sensible business move that caught some Linux purists off-guard, Red Hat and Microsoft announced a cross platform certification scheme. The company also shifted its virtualization focus from Xen to KVM. And, bringing some positive news in a glum economy, Red Hat shared that it had crossed the $500 million in revenue mark – the first open source company to do so.

February also witnessed the Tom Tom suit brought by Microsoft. This fired up the Linux faithful, and was resolved in March with a settlement. Last, but not least, Canonical pushed its Ubuntu server certification quest forward , with an agreement with HP.

March. Not to be outdone, Novell some news of its own in March. The launch of SUSE 11 included virtualization optimization and a high availability extension. IBM said it selected SUSE to deploy images of its DB2 database, Informix Dynamic Server, WebSphere Portal and other applications on Amazon's EC2. Novell also strengthened its commitment to Mono with the goal of increasing the number of .NET applications built and run on Linux.

April. Ubuntu 9.04 debuted with a preview of Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC). Ubuntu's popularity in the data center grew thanks to its focus on being the "easy" Linux distribution.

The Linux Foundation hosted its third annual Collaboration Summit a highlight of which was an examination of the role of Linux in the "new economy." The openSUSE Build Service was also added to the Linux Developer Network, enabling developers to create packages for all major Linux distributions more efficiently.

To end the month, Oracle entered into an agreement to purchase Sun for $7.4 billion. As of today, the deal has still not been approved, but the potential ramifications for IT departments reliant on Sun products are still being discussed.

May. In May, the Linux Foundation released a report on Linux in cloud computing.. Essentially — and unsurprisingly — the report found that open source technology makes the cloud work better because it maximizes interoperability and transparency.

Citrix announced XenServer 5.5 with new role-based access control via Active Directory integration. The new release also supports SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) 11, Debian 5.0 and RedHat/CentOS/Oracle 5.3 running as guests.

SearchEnterpriseLinux.com also looked at running Linux clusters more easily, and how companies such as Novell were taking advantage of the Google Summer of Code project.

June. Following the cloud theme, June saw the launch of Verizon's cloud computing offering, featuring Red Hat physical or virtual servers. It seemed that the communications giant was hedging its bets on the future of cloud computing and showing its muscle in the IT arena, and open source and Linux was a strategic part of this effort.

The Ingres database platform and JBoss Web server were officially integrated in June. This combination provides IT shops with a cheaper alternative to the Oracle WebLogic and BEA package. Red Hat also launched a rearchitected modular JBoss Enterprise Platform and debuted JBoss Enterprise Web Platform and JBoss Enterprise Web Server.

July. Readers were intrigued by launch this month of Google Chrome and Hannah Montana Linux operating systems. And while the popularity of Linux desktops compared to Windows and Mac remained minimal, it appeared to be growing, aided by the availability of cheap netbook offerings.

Controversy erupted with Microsoft's submission of 20,000 lines of code to the Linux kernel under GPLv2. Some in the Linux community saw this as a strategic self-serving business decision for Microsoft. Others viewed it as a symbolic "win" for Linux.

August. A new IDC report forecast a robust 22.4% compound annual growth rate for open source software between 2009 and 2013. Some of the growth in Linux, specifically, is predicted to come from increased virtualization activities. VMware and Cisco executives agreed on this point, explaining that virtualization lowered the barriers that previously impeded Linux adoption and, conversely, contributed to Linux's accelerated growth rate in the data center.

Red Hat ramped up its channel partner program, but the move was met with little fanfare from the VARs, who say they prefer to work with other Linux distributions that are more accessible and less likely to compete with them for big deals.

A fun story that highlighted the power of Linux came from Sandia National Laboratories, which booted up one million Linux kernels as virtual machines in a botnet modeling project.

September. A lot of coverage flowed from the Red Hat Summit in Chicago sharing case studies such as DreamWorks use of RHEL and cloud computing for 3-D movie rendering, and the successful migration from Unix to Linux of Hilti Corp., a global construction tooling services company, among others.

The month wound up with LinuxCon 2009 in Portland, Ore. Linux developers and system admins had the chance to meet Linus Torvalds in person and learn about open source projects such as OpenVZ.

Linux fans saw the Windows 7 changeover as an opportunity for increased Linux adoption, similar to what was seen when Vista was released. But, we found that the combination of virtualization and reluctance to change the status quo during the recession meant that reported Linux adoption declined slightly in 2009 from 2008.

October. This month's big news was the release of Ubuntu Karmic Koala with a preview of the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC) technology. The desktop version was well-received, as Canonical responded to the One Hundred Paper Cuts initiative, a project led that identified 100 small points of pain for users.

Bill Claybrook proposed in a guest blog that a unified Linux desktop would be a good option for taking on Microsoft and Apple's desktop market control.

XenServer users defended their choice of the open source hypervisor over the popular, commercial VMware and Hyper-V offerings, pointing out cost savings and functionality made the open source option more attractive.

November. Linux administrators seemed to have a relatively good shot in the weak 2009 job market, and virtualization expertise is a hot commodity. November also saw the third anniversary of the Novell and Microsoft pact, and SearchEnterpriseLinux took a look at how the deal had panned out thus far. A case study of a Novell Netware and Microsoft migration to Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise by La Curacao, a Hispanic-oriented department store chain also ran The company also added Heartbeat cluster management and monitoring and Logical Volume Manager for storage allocation changes, taking advantage of the free open source software.

December. The year may be ending, but uncertainty about Oracle's acquisition of Sun continued, leaving IT professionals at the Gartner Data Center conference with questions about the outcome. Still, half of attendees surveyed said that Sun hardware remains an option despite Sun's continued limbo.

For fun, SearchEnterpriseLinux looked at some privacy concerns that all computer users should have when using Google's ever-expanding product array, as the company launches Public DNS and released the beta version of its Chrome browser for Linux.

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