Linux Foundation Survey Sees Great Enterprise Linux Future Ahead

Nearly 80 percent of respondents to increase Linux servers over next five years

A new survey from the Linux Foundation released in conjunction with the 2010 End User Summit starting today in Jersey City, NJ reveals positive adoption trends for the Linux operating system over the next five years.

In other news, scientists report that the sky is, indeed, blue.

That is likely the initial reaction most people are going to have when they read the headlines and stories about this paper as they hit the news cycle today. Of course the Linux Foundation (LF) is going to report these results: what else would they say?

Looking at the report itself, however, reveals a slightly unexpected take on the usual survey of IT users. For one thing, the LF states right up front that it interviewed, with the help of the Yeoman Technology Group, 1,948 invited Linux users and filtered the data to report for the 387 respondents that reported from companies with $500 million or more per year's revenue or more than 500 employees.

If that just screams bias, I don't know what would.

But to its credit, the LF isn't close to pretending that this is an independent survey. They spell that out right away in the intro to the results, entitled "Linux Adoption Trends: A Survey of Enterprise End Users:"

"Admittedly, The Linux Foundation End User Council and other enterprise end users who are motivated to complete a survey from The Linux Foundation are not an unbiased lot. But the organizations’ size, buying power and technical backgrounds--as filtered by The Linux Foundation and Yeoman--certainly make this data worth noting, both for Linux vendors and developers, as well as for their competitors," the report states.

This is not a report that is trying to be anything more than a look inside the collective plans of the top enterprise Linux users, and not a general representation of IT trends. This summation was confirmed when I posed the question to Jennifer Cloer, the Director of Communications at the LF.

"What we hope the report does is gives a closer look at how the largest companies already invested in Linux are using the OS. By working with The Linux Foundation End User Council and thousands of other Linux users throughout the year, we're able to capture some important data on the behaviors of enterprise Linux users," Cloer said.

Put into that framework, then, what does the data show? For one thing, a vast majority of Linux users have no plans whatsoever to move away from Linux. Nearly 80 percent of Linux-using companies plan to increase the amount of their Linux servers over the next five years, while just over 21 percent of the same respondents plan to add more Microsoft servers in the same period.

When queried about past deployments, 66 percent of the respondents said they launched new Linux servers, and 36.6 percent reported they had migrated from Windows, compared with a slightly lower 31.4 percent figure for Unix to Linux migrations. That figure is a bit of flip from other reports in the past, since typically it was reported Unix machines were the usual victims of Linux migrations.

Curiously, there isn't a big push to jump into the cloud amongst these Linux users. Just over 40 percent of respondents said they were not planning to move to any sort of cloud in the coming years, with just under 34 percent unsure, and only 26 percent of respondents saying a cloud move was imminent. That trend is very interesting, given the amount of cloud hype of late.

Of course, if the survey respondents are already in the cloud, 70.3 percent use Linux for their cloud systems, and just 18.3 percent use Windows as their primary platform. So clearly the love for Linux is continuing--if they move out into the cloud.

The stat that piqued my interest was the little sidebar on page seven of the report. Apparently a surprising bit of data from the report (even for the LF) was the higher-than-expected numbers of desktop Linux users.

"A rather interesting surprise was the relatively large number of organizations that cited some level of desktop Linux in their organizations. 36.3% report they are currently using it, with another 11.5% evaluating or planning deployments over the next year. Many respondents cited small, specialized uses, but a few noted more than 400 deployments underway with at least one citing an 8,000 desktop target," the report read.

Note that the LF emphasizes the "small, specialized uses," which is why their title and the headline for this blog doesn't read something like "one-third of enterprise users on desktop Linux." But the amount of use seems to shed a little doubt on all of those "desktop Linux is dead" stories running about.

Taken as is, this report seems like a lot of self-validation from existing Linux users. But no one's holding a gun to their head to make them use Linux, and a continued expansion of Linux servers at the expense of Windows and Unix deployments means that Linux is continuing to deliver the promise of a solid OS.

Otherwise, even die-hard Linux users would vote with their feet to get better systems.

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