"Linux is gaining strength as a Web server, with open source databases, and in [technical computer] clustering," he said. "It is also taking over the low end of the Unix Intel server space."
According to Dan Kusnetzky, the vice president of System Software Research at IDC, Linux is seeing increasing usage as part of the basic IT infrastructure at many organizations. IBM has positioned itself well to be considered one of the leading suppliers in this emerging market, Kusnetzky said.
If IBM gains in the emerging class of NetGen (or network generation) companies, said D.H. Brown's Fricke, it gains new customers -- customers that want open source software.
One more OS
In a company that supports so many operating systems, one more may not be an overwhelming undertaking. Among IBM operating systems, AIX may be most vulnerable to Linux incursions. Analyst Fricke does not see this as an issue. "AIX customers don't throw it away," he said.
But he and other viewers see wider Linux use as it gains maturity. "The enterprise Unixes are still ahead, especially on [non-Intel-class] machines," Fricke said, "But Linux is moving up the pipe."
He adds: "In three years it is conceivable that Linux can satisfy 95 percent of customers that use Unix today."
Those are the types of numbers that IBM leader Gerstner is looking at as he plots the next course for his company.