Business Intelligence: The Open Systems Cult: Linux and Data Warehousing

The children of the open systems revolution have spoken, and the word is Linux. Evolving from the primordial world of cyberspace, Linux is rapidly emerging as a significant platform that will play an important role as an enterprise server worldwide. The hallmark of Linux is its open systems heritage; in essence, the very foundation of the global village we now call the Web.

Until the advent of the Internet, the greatest open systems success was the personal computer itself, which created one of the largest industries in the world. This industry’s ability to standardize on hardware, bus architecture and components created unprecedented cooperation among vendors, and innovation which greatly benefited customers.

Today, open system technologies are the foundation of many new, innovative technologies that are paving the way toward unprecedented technological evolution. Although built on open system standards, Linux is a disruptive technology that is significantly challenging the leadership of the world’s largest software and hardware vendors.

However, we believe that the zealous predictions of doom for everything Microsoft are unwarranted and unsubstantiated. Bob Young, co-founder of Red Hat, was recently quoted as saying that the era of the 1980s-style, standalone desktop with shrink-wrapped software is doomed.

Although it may be unfair to Corel, a favorite of mine, there is no substitute for the years of software development devoted to the Windows platform, and our research clearly indicates that Windows-based enterprise corporate desktops won’t be thrown in the dumpster any time soon. Is Linux as much a threat to Windows as many think? We say "somewhat," in the next two years on the server side, and probably not on the desktop any time soon.

This month, we focus on Linux and apply the technology perception reality check (TPRC) to the raging Linux hype in the market.

Enterprise Linux Survey

The first step in conducting a TPRC check is to talk with customers, so we recently completed a survey of 2,200 companies and their plans for adopting Linux. The survey report will be available soon; however, early results are in, and over 60 percent of the companies surveyed indicated that they would be implementing Linux over the next several years. (Look for further results in Dave Trowbridge’s report appearing in Enterprise Linux next month.)

As you can see in the accompanying chart, our research clearly indicates that Linux is destined for the high-end server platform, and not necessarily for the file-print-messaging-server ghetto now occupied by Windows NT. This is not the first survey in which we have seen Linux planned for use as a database server and/or data warehouse/data mart. In fact, it has appeared in every data warehousing-oriented survey we have completed over the last several months.

In the first wave of Linux, many early adopters have implemented primarily Web servers; database and data warehousing servers will be one focus of the second wave of Linux adoption in the enterprise. As a stable and already 64-bit operating system, Linux will undoubtedly play an important role as an inexpensive database server, operational data store and data warehouse/data mart.

This analysis is further strengthened by survey respondent application preference. Oracle, Netscape and IBM were perceived to be the most important application vendors for Linux, in order of importance. A major challenge to data warehousing software vendors, however, will be in adjusting their pricing to adapt to the freeware world of Linux and GNU public licensing.

TPRC Net/Net: Leveraging the Burgeoning Linux Server Market

Our research indicates that open-source UNIX, both Linux and BSD, will grow between 100 percent and 500 percent as an enterprise server platform, depending on the application type, over the next two years, with Linux taking the lion’s share. E-commerce applications on open-source UNIX will grow by over 150 percent through 2001, due in large part to the validation of Linux as an e-business server platform. Linux may play a key role in facilitating the integration of the data warehouse with business-to-business e-commerce initiatives, much like Window NT is now.

The large growth rates present in the Linux market are a result of its small installed base; however, we were surprised by its planned use as an LOB server. Until next time, good luck with your data warehousing and e-commerce projects.

About the Author: Peter J. Auditore is the Vice President of the Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing Program, responsible for syndicated research services at World Research Inc. (San Jose, Calif.).