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From the Data Center to the Desktop: Linux Grows Up - page 4

From Humble Beginnings

  • November 4, 2003
  • By Amy Newman

Examining and tracking Linux in and of itself is meaningless. To measure the penetration of the operating system, one must take into account the software that runs on Linux. Stacey Quandt, a principle analyst for the OSDL who has been following Linux since 1998, notes that "ISVs not supporting Linux at this time are at a competitive disadvantage."

Eunice noted that all of the major OEMs support Linux, as do the leading system management software, middleware, and applications. Eunice added that like Unix in its early days, Linux has found a particularly loyal following on Wall Street. It currently has a strong presence in Merill Lynch, Ameritrade, Reuters, and Credit Suisse/First Boston.

Quandt said that E*trade recently migrated from Sun systems to IBM's xSeries 330 running Linux, and the Securities Industry Association division of the New York Stock Exchange relies on Linux.

Server blade vendors Egenera, which targets the financial services community, and RLX elected to go with Linux-based systems. This is not surprising, given that 33 percent of all edge computing is Linux-based. Balma expects that blades, which are typically deployed at the network edge, will mimic that.

Moving away from financial services, Linux continues to be strong. It has become such an accepted and standard component of enterprise computing that Eunice said, "it's getting to the point where you might as well list the people who don't use Linux."

For example, Amazon.com, long the poster child of e-commerce, may turn out to be the poster child for Linux profitability. Red Hat CTO Michael Tiemann, and others, referenced Amazon's long history of successful sales yet failed profitability -- until it switched its operating system to Linux. Prior to the switch, Tiemann explained, "Amazon's cost structure kept it from being profitable. Since switching to Linux it has made money off of every transaction."

HP has put its money where its mouth is with regard to Linux and now boasts about 3,500 Linux-based systems in-house involved in a range of activities, from DNS servers to clustering to electronic design, Balma said.

Now that Linux has its footprint in the data center, it is slowly making its way to the desktop. There was nearly unanimous consensus that Linux on the consumer desktop is "not ready for prime time," as Eunice put it. He contends, however, that specific organizations and institutions are ready for Linux on the desktop, and in such situations it would do fine on the desktop.

With such widespread acceptance for Linux, the question being asked by the Linux community clearly is no longer "is Linux ready for the enterprise?" but rather "are enterprises ready for Linux?" In most cases, the answer will be a resounding yes, which then begs the questions of where to deploy to maximize its strong points and what functions can it most effectively accomplish.

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