Linux showing signs of solid growth: IDC study

Linux spending totaled US$21 billion in 2007 and is expected to grow past US$50 billion in 2011

Workloads running on Linux servers are shifting to become more business oriented, including databases and line-of-business applications, and the operating system appears headed for measurable growth over the next three years, according to a white paper released Tuesday by IDC.

The report entitled "The Role of Linux Servers and Commercial Workloads" was sponsored by the Linux Foundation, which opens its second annual summit Tuesday. The nonprofit Linux Foundation is a consortium of open source developers and companies.

The IDC paper found that total Linux spending -- including customer acquisitions of hardware, software and related services -- totaled US$21 billion in 2007 and is expected to grow past US$50 billion in 2011.

IDC says the jump will be fueled by the continued growth of the installed base of Linux server operating systems into enterprise deployments.

"The data is not stunning to me," says Al Gillen, an analyst with IDC who co-authored the white paper. "I have been watching it evolve over the past several years. The biggest story is that the ecosystem is now real."

He says Linux spending surpassing the US$20 billion mark is an important milestone. "But this does not put Microsoft on the ropes from a revenue perspective."

Gillen points out that the Linux business model differs substantially from the one that Microsoft has constructed. "So Linux is unlikely to ever get to the size of total revenue that the Microsoft market enjoys," he says.

Regardless, Linux is enjoying growth.

IDC's forecast for Linux server operating environments calls for 8.2 percent of compound annual growth from 2007 to 2012 for both new paid subscriptions and non-paid deployments.

IDC says the growth will be driven by paid subscriptions of commercial Linux distributions that are deployed on physical servers, virtual servers and other hardware types including redeployed server hardware and PCs and workstations that are used as servers.

But the future is not without potential roadblocks.

The white paper points out that Linux could face challenges from OpenSolaris if that alternative open source operating system begins to find favor on x86 platforms. In addition, the market dominating position of Windows also presents a challenge to long-term Linux success, especially as Microsoft competes to win Unix migrations.

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