Linux Poses Threat to Proprietary UNIX

A new survey, conducted by and Enterprise Linux Magazine, creators of the Open-Source UNIX Research Initiative, reveals that open-source UNIX promises to be more of a threat to proprietary UNIX than to Windows NT/2000, at least for the present. The term "open-source UNIX" (OSU) embraces five different flavors of the operating system, including, of course, Linux, the best-known and most popular of the variants.

"[The OSU movement] does not threaten Microsoft's dominance of the operating system market, at least for the next few years," the survey concludes. "Windows' huge installed base, the army of programmers developing for it, and the integration technologies that link it to applications such as SQL Server and Microsoft Office are advantages that will require sustained attack over many years to overcome. Nonetheless, open-source UNIX will make definite inroads into organizations and even enterprise-level computing over the next two years, and it poses a serious threat to proprietary UNIX in particular." Results indicate that OSU may pose a particular threat to Sun.

OSU, particularly Linux, will be embraced widely enough to become one of the top three operating systems on organizational servers as well as "a viable presence on the desktop," reports In an estimate of server share for the three dominant enterprise server operating systems on January 1, 2002, the research firm predicts that Windows NT/2000 will continue to dominate the market, while proprietary UNIX will continue to dominate data warehouse/data mart applications, especially at the high end, and to compete evenly with Windows NT/2000 on database servers. "Open-source UNIX will do best in Web servers, but even there, its server share will be only about 40 percent that of Windows."

Results indicate that OSU will be most welcomed by small organizations, while Microsoft's server share will continue to grow among large enterprises. According to the research, about 75 percent of companies with fewer than 250 employees intend to adopt OSU before the fourth quarter of this year, while almost 50 percent of companies with 10,000 employees or more intend to wait until the fourth quarter or later.

Despite the interest in OSU, many companies remain reluctant to embrace it. IT professionals approaching OSU warily found the operating system deficient in these areas: support for applications, vendor support, support for drivers and peripherals, trained internal personnel, and a more-than-adequate user interface. "Overall, it appears that the two factors most likely to speed adoption of open-source UNIX are improvements in technical support (good news for companies like Linuxcare) and improved support for drivers and peripherals (good news for systems vendors)," concludes.

Other data from the survey supports the notion that IT professionals see definite benefits in commercial OSU. More than 72 percent of those already deploying OSU reported obtaining some of the operating system as a commercial download, while only a little over half indicated they had downloaded it free over the Internet.'s estimates and conclusions are based on data provided by 2,092 respondents, 11 percent whom were corporate executives and almost 75 percent of whom were IT professionals. Of the latter, 60 percent held executive or management positions. Almost 8 percent of respondents were line-of-business professionals.