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LinuxWorld Analysts Cite Hottest Open Source Trends

Resellers, Virtualization, and "Mixed Deployments"

  • August 9, 2006
  • By Jacqueline Emigh

What are some of the hottest trends in the Linux/open source market today? Avid activity among some resellers, abundant virtualization, and a growing tendency to mixed open source/proprietary deployments, according to a trio of top industry analysts, who helped to preview LinuxWorld San Francisco in an IDG-sponsored teleconference on Tuesday.

"Nothing could be hotter right now than virtualization," pointed out Al Gillen, IDC's VP of system software, one of the three analysts on the panel.

The other two speakers in the teleconference--Matthew Lawton, also of IDC, and Raven Zachary of The 451 Group--focused mostly on what's new in open source.

"Clearly, what the enterprise wants is a mixed approach," said Zachary, who is The 451 Group's senior analyst and practice head of open source.

Under the "mixed" model, open source software is "augmented by a proprietary solution," Zachary told other analysts and reporters phoning in for the call, which was moderated by Melinda Kendall, IDG's VP of LinuxWorld.

IDC's Lawton concurred with The 451 Group's Zachary about the rise of mixed deployments.

"Partners seem to be open to this mixed environment in their solutions," according to Lawton, who is director of IDC's Worldwide Software Strategies Business Group. "That would certainly reflect [the] customer perspective."

For his part, Gillen said that the industry is currently seeing "negotiations and wrangling" among software and hardware vendors over just how and where virtualization will take place -- at the "virtual hard disk layer [or] higher levels," for example.

Gillen also noted that virtualization is spawning partnerships which nobody would have dreamed of a few years ago, such as the recent pact between Xensource and Microsoft.

Licensing is another important part of the emerging virtualization picture, according to the analyst.

Novell's SLES (SUSE Linux Enterprise Server) 10 provides "a fully authorized way" of running multiple instances of other operating systems, Gillen maintained.

Meanwhile, also in the virtualization area, Microsoft has announced plans to offer "unlimited licensing on Longhorn," he observed.

Gillen predicted that ultimately, all vendors will support virtualization in some shape or form, although not necessarily to the same degree.

SLES, for example, now comes with a hipervisor layer. "[This] doesn't necessarily give you the [same] level of interoperability [as some other approaches to virtualization], [but it gives you] better support for native code," he said.

Gillen indicated that he anticipates a lot of talk at LinuxWorld about both SLES 10 and Novell's SLED (USESUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop).

"Is [SLED 10] ready for primetime?" he asked. "Interestingly enough, the desktop gets better and better."

But on the other hand, big questions remain over whether organizations will move the huge installed base of Windows desktops to Linux, according to the IDC analyst.

At the moment, he said, Novell seems to be honing in on some niche vertical and geographic markets -- not yet pervaded by Windows -- for sales of SLED.

Gillen also cited an "expectation that we'll hear more [at LinuxWorld] about the maturing of open source and Linux."

According to Gillen, much of the discussion will center on changes that will happen as the industry steps from "open source as being disruptive" to "open source for the computer public at large."

During his turn at the mike, Raven indicated that adoption of the mixed open source/proprietary approach goes hand-in-hand with changing attitudes among CIOs.

More and more, CIOs no longer view open source deployment as merely "scratching an itch on the development side," according to the analyst, who summed up some recent research from The 451 Group and other industry players to back up many of his insights.

Although reasons for implementing open source vary from one organization to the next, the decision to use open source is increasingly driven from the "top down," not just the "bottom up," Raven said.

The analyst from 451 referred to a study by CIO Insight which showed "lower cost" to be the major motivator for open source adoption among CIOs, followed by "avoiding vendor lock-in" and "security."

Raven speculated that burgeoning open source support among vendors could be another reason behind CIOs' change of heart.

As two examples of open source components now enjoying widespread adoption, the analyst mentioned Apache Web server and JBoss.

JBoss, he said, has now "emerged from obscurity" to rival IBM Websphere for industry dominance of the application server space.

In the partner community, on the other hand, value-added resellers "lead the pack" in open source deployments, according to Lawton, reporting the results of new research by IDC not yet released for general consumption.

"ISVs are [also] adopting open source, but not to the same level," Lawton said.

Why the resellers are ahead is not entirely clear, according to the analyst. "But we do know that resellers are very margin-sensitive," he said. "That could be one of the reasons."

On the whole, IDC's research also shows that about 10 percent of industry partners surveyed in the USA now generate at least 25 percent of their revenues from open source-based solutions, he said.

In specific software markets, partner activity with open source software is strongest in areas that include application development, information and data management, collaboration, and storage, according to the new research.

VARs in particular are also focusing on content management, CRM (customer relationship management), SCM (supply chain management), and manufacturing.

During a Q&A session at the close of the teleconference, one reporter asked whether a "vendor slugfest" might be brewing over virtualization.

Gillen suggested that, in his opinion, any real "fights" over virtualization are more likely to be fought around management and provisioning than over "the virtualization layer itself."

Also during the call, IDG's Kendall highlighted LinuxWorld keynotes, special events, and conference tracks which will drill down on many of the same trends the analysts addressed.

Slated for August 14 to 17, this year's show in San Francisco will include 13 tracks: Virtualization; Linux Desktop; Managing Mixed Environments; Grid Computing; VoIP; Web Services and SOA; IT/Line-of-Business Alignment; High-Performance Open Source; The Business of Open Source; Kernel and System Development; Iron-Clad Security for Open Environments; and Scalable Open Source Applications.

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