After more than a decade of Linux vendors trying to grow into the enterprise — and Red Hat, the poster child for Linux, approaching $1 billion in annual revenue — it’s easy to presume that Linux is pervasive in businesses. It is, but as the Linux Foundation’s enterprise survey finds, there are still barriers to overcome. The survey also shows new data showing Windows — not Unix — as the primary operating system being migrated to Linux.
The foundation surveyed 428 IT professionals from organizations with 500 or more employees or with at least $500 million in yearly revenue. North American companies were represented by 42 percent of the respondents, while European and Asian firms were represented by 21 and 15 percent, respectively. It’s unclear how large of a percentage of respondents were sourced from the Linux Foundation’s end-user council (which would be more prone to using open source) versus a broader sampling of IT respondents. That said, the survey results bode well for further Linux growth — and serve as a caution for Microsoft.
Linux grows at Windows’ expense
In the survey, 84 percent of respondents reported their company’s usage of Linux grew over the past 12 months. Eighty percent of respondents said that their company would increase Linux use over the next five years.
By contrast, only 27 percent of respondents stated that their company plans to increase usage of Windows over the next five years. That’s a threefold jump in growth for Linux in the enterprise over the next five years than for Windows. But before you get too happy, realize that Windows has a substantially higher market share than Linux in enterprises.
What Linux fans can get excited about — and what should worry Microsoft — is where Linux deployments have been coming from: Windows. Over the past two years, 39 percent of respondents claimed that their companies’ Linux deployments have been migrations from Windows. The portion of migrations from Unix to Linux — the traditional vector — was 35 percent.
Microsoft has often made the claim, one I’ve repeated, that the growth of Linux was coming at the expense of Unix much more than from Windows. However, comparing the lower growth rate of Windows versus Linux and the virtually equivalent percent of Linux usage growth coming from Windows and Unix migrations, it’s difficult to ignore the impact of Linux on the Windows franchise.
To make matters worse for Microsoft, 69 percent of respondents claimed that Linux would be used for mission-critical workloads over the next 12 months.
Management perceptions can be hard to change
When asked about the drivers for adopting Linux, there was a virtual tie between lower total cost of ownership, features/technical superiority, and security, with each receiving more than 60 percent of respondents’ selections (they were allowed multiple selections).
With those results as a backdrop, I found it interesting that 40 percent of respondents claimed that management perception of Linux was impeding further growth of Linux at the company. It would be great to know what these perception issues are. This is especially true because functionality and security are often held up as areas of concern for open source products in general. And yet, respondents claimed that functionality and security were the No. 2 and No. 3 reasons, respectively, for adopting Linux over alternatives.
The Harvard Business Review recently wrote, based on Gartner data, that open source software was reaching a tipping point, and from that it’s fair to conclude the tipping point is well behind us. That’s certainly the case for Linux, whose tipping point is a distant memory. Yet outdated perceptions about Linux, and maybe open source in general, may remain barriers for years to come.