Linux Headed for the Data Center

Goldman Sachs projects that Linux will challenge traditional Unix offerings in the enterprise data center

Don’t look now, says a new report from the Goldman Sachs Group, but the upstart Linux operating system is definitely headed for the data center.

The Goldman report, entitled “Fear the Penguin,” indicates that as Linux continues to mature and commodity hardware developed by both Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. becomes more powerful, the open source operating system will play a more important role in enterprise data centers. "We are confident that the technical developments and market forces are in place for it also to become the dominant operating system on the higher-end servers of the enterprise data center,” the report says.

The Goldman report was based in part on the results of a survey of 100 enterprise IT departments. Of the respondents, 19 indicate that they use Linux today in low-end servers, 14 are using it to run database platforms, 12 have deployed it on the desktop and 11 are exploiting it on their mainframes. “Respondents who chose Linux in the data center cited the price/performance advantage of Intel-based hardware over traditional proprietary RISC-based servers and the stability and security of Linux as primary drivers for that choice."

Although there’s a perception in the marketplace that Linux is locked in a death struggle with Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating environments, the Goldman report indicates that Linux’ encroachment into the data center will at first come at the expense of vendors that have traditionally marketed high-end Unix solutions. “The companies … [that] will be most adversely affected by Linux are the traditional enterprise systems vendors like Sun, IBM and Hewlett-Packard, which are the main purveyors of the Unix/RISC paradigm that Linux-on-Intel displaces in the data center.”

Instead, the report says, Windows and Linux will increasingly compete against one another for share in the enterprise back-end: “[I]t is our view that [Linux] will hamper the movement of Windows into the enterprise data center, an area Microsoft has only recently begun to target for growth.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.