Server-side Linux has been pushing into the enterprise for some years now, and 42 percent of respondents to a survey conducted on behalf of Linux vendor SUSE said it was either their primary server OS or one of their top server platforms.
Perhaps more importantly, Linux is extending its reach beyond its traditional areas of supercomputing, Web servers, Internet hosting and application development to mainstream computing environments ranging from departmental servers to datacenter server clusters.
“The top three reasons people are switching to Linux are they get better performance for a lower cost; they reduce their risk of vendor lock-in; and innovation — it helps mitigate the risk of technology obsolescence,” Kim Kerry, director of solutions marketing at SUSE, told LinuxInsider.
Linux “has long been on edge-of-network devices [and] on email and other, less mission-critical applications,” Joe Clabby, president of Clabby Analytics, pointed out. “In recent years, it has become the underpinning for SAP and mainframe applications — 37 percent of mainframe owners use Linux.”
Databases were the major new area. Sixty-nine percent of respondents were either running databases on Linux or planning to do so within the next 12 months. Business intelligence came next with 62 percent of the respondents either running BI applications on Linux or planning to do so. CRM applications accounted for 42 percent and ERP 31 percent.
Nearly 200 IT executives at businesses with more than 500 employees in fields ranging from financial services to healthcare to manufacturing to government were polled for the survey. More than half worked in organizations with at least 5,000 employees.
Moving to open source platforms can help avoid vendor lock-in, most respondents agreed. Nearly half said Linux was currently either widely or significantly deployed throughout their organizations.
When respondents consider migrating mission-critical applications to Linux, they consider security, total cost of ownership and high-availability features. The biggest impediments to greater adoption of Linux are third-party service and support; security; and lack of in-house technical skills.
However, moving to Linux is not suitable for every organization.
“If it’s a Windows shop and everybody is trained on Windows, the total cost of ownership savings are not as good, because most Windows servers run on x86 hardware,” SUSE’s Kerry said. However, “if you’re in an environment where you’ve got large Unix servers — AIX or Solaris — running proprietary RISC environments, there’s a substantial TCO benefit in moving to Linux.”
Myths About Linux
Better TCO has long been the argument forwarded for moving to Linux — after all, it’s an open source OS, which means the software itself is free.
“Look at what it costs to run Windows and VMware versus Linux solutions with KVM for virtualization infrastructure and management,” Clabby told LinuxInsider. “There’s a huge difference in ISV software license costs versus open source.”
However, moving to Linux can be more costly than expected.
“It’s not just the software acquisition costs,” said Kerry. “You also have to figure in the installation, configuration, deployment and ongoing management costs, and whether or not your employees have the training and expertise to really leverage these solutions.”
Further, vendor lock-in does exist in Linux just as it does in proprietary platforms. It just takes a different form — and because Linux is open source, enterprises do have alternatives.
“There’s hard lock-in, which is contractual or legal, and there’s what I like to think of as soft lock-in, where your switching costs are so high that even though everything is open and free, you have to take those into consideration,” Kerry explained.
Some Linux vendors use soft lock-in, offering a product stack that works well with all their other products. SUSE works with third-party providers and optimizes their technology to work with its own.
“We want to deploy best-of-breed solutions using third-party technology,” Kerry explained, evoking echoes of the 1990s when this approach was common.