Survey Details Linux Expansion Opportunities

Could Linux creep out of the underground and take the world by storm? A report by market research firm indicates that Linux has the potential to grow in the enterprise space, particularly for database applications. polled more than 1,500 IT managers on open source Unix (OSU) adoption trends. OSU, which includes the Linux and Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) Unix operating systems, has gained momentum recently as the corporate world’s attitude has shifted. Previously viewed as a toy for power nerds, it is now accepted as a powerful alternative to Windows and other PC-based operating systems.

One growing trend of OSU adoption is its use as a platform for databases and data warehousing. Only 11 percent of respondents use OSU for a database server, but 58 percent of respondents not currently running OSU are considering implementing an OSU-based database server. Similarly, a paltry 5 percent of respondents have an OSU-based data warehouse, but 36 percent of respondents are considering implementing one.

Stability, security, and reliability were the most important factors cited by respondents in their choice to deploy OSU. Windows, historically criticized for its unreliability with some applications, has caused some users to be reluctant to deploy Windows-based database servers.

While Microsoft has made inroads in the database market, Unix and other big-iron systems dominate the segment. Dave Trowbridge, an analyst at, believes OSU adoption is eroding Unix market share for databases. "Linux is eating proprietary Unix’s lunch," Trowbridge says. "The use of OSU as a database server will explode." Respondents indicated that if OSU were to replace a platform, it would most likely replace Unix machines.

The survey results also indicate that the most widespread use of OSU was for Web servers and firewalls. Fifty-seven percent of OSU users say they currently run OSU for their Web servers, and 44 percent said they use it for their firewalls. Trowbridge does not believe these applications will account for OSU’s future growth. "We’re seeing the slowest adoption in the Web server segment," he says.

While Corel Corp. ( and others have introduced office productivity software in the hope of creating a OSU market for end users, but neither Trowbridge nor the survey results indicate Linux desktops will gain in popularity anytime soon. "OSU’s initial growth will be in the back end of systems," he says.

Paul Falbee, an independent consultant, specializes in helping businesses set up Linux networks. He believes Linux is the future of PC networks since "the bottom line for most businesses is reliability." Businesses are interested in getting ahead of the curve, he says, and are installing Linux. His current clients include health care organizations using Linux for Web-enabled claim filling.

OSU is particularly attractive to smaller enterprises since it allows PCs to operate in a Unix-like environment. Small ISPs and other Internet companies have employed Linux for some time.