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Linux in 2003: SCO's smoke screen doesn't hide a fired-up Linux

The SCO Group's threats hang like a shadow over Linux in the enterprise in 2003. But experts and the evidence show that Linux took massive leaps toward mission-critical applications in the enterprise.

It would be a travesty if 2003 goes down in IT history as the year SCO cried foul.

SCO's intellectual property claims certainly grabbed the headlines, as they were meant to do. But the lawsuits were just the smoke, and the fire was Linux in the enterprise.

In the battle to be the hottest Intel-based server platform for the enterprise, Linux scorched SCO's Unix-on-Intel and singed Microsoft Windows. This year, SCO's legal counterattack and Bill Gates' admission that Linux is Microsoft's No. 1 competitor demonstrate they're feeling the heat.

Meanwhile, the Unix and RISC server marketplace is reeling from Linux's success. Several leading IT research firms -- including Meta Group, Gartner Inc. and International Data Corp. -- have opined that Linux's sales increases have come largely at the expense of Unix. Gartner and IDC say Linux shipments are growing faster than any other enterprise operating system's and will outpace Unix within a couple of years.

Evidence that Linux in the enterprise got hot in 2003 isn't hard to find. Linux is used by 17% of 877 of the largest North American businesses, according to a report this year by Forrester Research.

Surfing in Nebraska was easier than finding an enterprise Linux success story in 2001. In 2002, quite a few businesses tested the waters. This year, successful projects are as abundant as surfers in Hawaii.

In general, IBM and Oracle have been the Linux movers who shook up the enterprise OS market the most. In 2003, however, Oracle was the prime mover. Oracle put Linux on the enterprise database map by porting all its software to Linux and providing enterprise-level support. Time and again, CIOs and CTOs told that Oracle's backing overcame any fears they had about migrating their data centers to Linux. Success stories on Oracle database conversions at Precision Response Corp., Golden Gate University, Sabre Holdings.

In the fall of 2003, it was obvious to all that Linux had passed a major hurdle. "When I saw the DBMS moving to Linux, I knew Linux would be a success," said Linux pioneer John "Maddog" Hall at a Linux conference in October.

The year is ending with a bang for Linux. The new Linux 2.6 kernel, which should be available within weeks, has stronger scalability, manageability and security features than 2.4. Then there's Novell Inc.'s recent acquisition of SuSE Linux AG, which has prompted CIOs and CTOs to send ebullient messages. Novell brings an enterprise level network, desktop management and messaging platform that can run on top of Linux as an alternative to Microsoft, they say. In 2004, they'll use Novell software on Linux to take advantage of this first-time opportunity to consolidate their entire enterprises onto the Linux platform.

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