Linux continues to grow both its reach and credibility among enterprise IT users and customers, bringing competition, price and time-to-market pressure and options to key markets such as cloud computing and mobile software. Looking at the coming year for Linux, these are the key areas to watch: cloud computing, Platform as a Service (PaaS), Android, the automobile industry — and not the desktop.
Prediction 1: Linux cloud domination will grow.
Linux and accompanying open source software will continue to dominate cloud computing, whether through the top enterprise Linux server vendors increasingly focusing on the cloud; other cloud OS options that may leverage Linux; virtual Linux or machine images on any number of private or public cloud options; or the use of unpaid community Linux. Linux and other open source software underpins nearly all cloud computing offerings, whether Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), PaaS, public cloud or private cloud. There are no signs of this trend slowing. In fact, with continued popularity of the Linux Amazon machine image (AMI) and projects such as OpenStack, it appears Linux and open source are only growing their presence and impact in cloud computing.
Prediction 2: Linux cloud dominance will be most prevalent in PaaS.
The evolution of this market centers on infrastructure and application development, management and automation. Linux is also predominant in today’s PaaS offerings, as noted in 451 Research’s report, “The Changing Linux Landscape.” This is largely because of Linux’s prominence in the merging of application development and deployment, known as devops. This positions Linux uniquely for the burgeoning PaaS market, which embodies implementation of devops practices. Devops will move to more mainstream enterprises and add in Windows management capabilities along the way, but Linux will contine to be the starting point and mainstay of devops implementations and PaaS. In addition, the growth of mobile application and mobile back-end development on various PaaS offerings will also make Linux more relevant to mobile software development in general.
Prediction 3: Android strikes back.
Android will emerge emboldened in the market and free itself from much of the patent and intellectual property FUD surrounding it. There are signs that aggressive patent offensives are not successfully keeping competing products out of the market because of both technical workarounds and court rulings, some of which are proving embarrassing for patent aggressors. As I predicted, the courtroom is emerging as a losing bet to compete in the modern technology market. Despite prolonged patent lawsuits and pressured licensing deals, Android has grown its developers, devices, applications, market reach and overall popularity in 2011. Continued growth and market traction for Android will supersede legal battles that become less of a concern or priority for all parties in 2012.
Prediction 4: Linux gets its license to drive.
This might be another case of Linux growth predicted before, only to fall short of big expectations. However, similar to Android as the trailblazer for mobile Linux, there are a number of efforts under way currently that may take Linux over the tipping point in cars. A number of automobile manufacturers and parts makers, including BMW, Nissan and Toyota, are among the key players this time, supporting automotive Linux just as Motorola, Samsung, Verizon and others supported Android in mobile devices. Further evidence that Linux is ready to hit the gas in automobiles came in the form of last month’s Automotive Linux Summit in Japan.
Prediction 5: The Linux desktop must die.
With all of these other predictions, it will be hard for Linux to do much of anything in terms of the desktop, so I think it probably won’t in 2012. There will continue to be discussions and debates about Linux on the desktop, including popularity, vitality, usability, commercial connections and more, which is good for users and vendors. However, based on trends in cloud, mobile and consumer computing, Linux should and will move to these areas, leaving its longstanding low use on the desktop as it is. There is one other trend, nevertheless, that may translate to gains for Linux on the desktop: virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). As worker and user desktops are moved to virtual desktops for reasons of cost, collaboration, efficiency and others, the underlying OS becomes much less relevant. In addition, if desktops are now to be managed just as servers are, and by the same people maintaining the servers, Linux is likely to benefit from familiarity, credibility and flexibility. This will be one aspect of the Linux desktop to watch in 2012.
The main action will be in the clouds and in the development and management of mobile applications and back ends, which will now include automobiles.