Linux is on the rise for business

Large companies are planning to increase their reliance on Linux over the next five years

Large companies are planning to increase their reliance on Linux over the next five years, both in terms of the number of Linux servers run in their organizations and in terms of the mission-critical nature of the work they're used for.

That's according to a report released Tuesday by the Linux Foundation in partnership with Yeoman Technology Group. With data from an invited pool of more than 1900 respondents, the survey found that 76 per cent of the world's largest organizations plan to add more Linux servers over the next 12 months. By contrast, only 41 per cent plan to add Windows servers, while 44 per cent say they will be decreasing or maintaining the same number of Windows machines over the next year.

Looking out over five years, the difference is even more marked: A full 79 per cent plan to add Linux servers over that time, while only 21 per cent will add new Windows servers.

"If I were going to sum it up in one sentence, it would be that these are good times to be a Linux vendor," Amanda McPherson, vice president of marketing and developer programs at The Linux Foundation, told me on the phone yesterday.

'Migrations at Microsoft's Expense'

To understand Linux trends among the world's largest companies and government organizations, Yeoman and The Linux Foundation focused in particular on responses from a subset of close to 400 respondents representing organizations with annual revenues of $500 million or more or greater than 500 employees. Participants included members of The Linux Foundation End User Council and other select organizations.

66 per cent of the planned Linux deployments mentioned by respondents are for brand-new applications or services, while 37 per cent are migrations from Windows, the survey found.

"We are seeing more migration at Microsoft's expense than the industry analysis might lead you to believe," McPherson noted.

While part of that is inevitably due to the fact that this survey involves some sample bias, since respondents were chosen by the Linux Foundation, another key factor is that the data isn't tied to server sales the way so much industry data is, she added. Since Linux is free, sales-linked estimates tend to underestimate its adoption considerably.

More Mission-Critical Workloads

Perhaps even more telling than migration plans, though, is that a full 60 per cent of respondents said they're planning to use Linux for more mission-critical workloads than they have in the past. And whereas typically the most common driver for adopting the free and open source operating system is thought to be cost, the current survey found total cost of ownership was cited as the No. 2 reason; rather, in first place was technical superiority. Security, not surprisingly, followed as the third most common reason cited for adopting Linux.

Lack of vendor lock-in and openness of the code were other frequently cited drivers, each noted by 50 per cent, as were the long-term viability of the platform, noted by 46 per cent, and the choice of software and hardware, cited by 38 and 36 per cent, respectively.

In cloud contexts, meanwhile, Linux led far and away, with 70 per cent naming it as their primary platform, compared with 18 per cent citing Windows and 11 citing Unix. A full 36 per cent said they're using Linux on the desktop as well. "The days of a uniform, universal desktop for companies may be coming to an end," McPherson said.

Finally, some 87 per cent of respondents said Linux is continuously improving, and 58 per cent said it's become more strategic to their organizations.

Bottom line from all this? There can no longer be any doubt -- whatever detractors might claim, Linux is increasingly the best choice for business.

Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk.

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