Aug 212010

fear of Linux ?I was driving down the road thinking about writing a bit about reliable and inexpensive backup solutions, and my thoughts kept getting interrupted with a “giant elephant in the room”, or perhaps we should call it a “Giant Penguin”? So yeah, it became clear to me I needed to tackle the giant elephant first. Clear the room of an uncomfortable silence and try and break the ice barriers surrounding the fear of using or switching to Linux as a side-by-side, head-to-head or mano a mano server platform.

So, tackle it we shall. Let’s consider what are probably the top 5 Linux fears:

  1. Linux what? Yeah, I know ‘nada’ about Linux.
  2. Cost! Considering most Linux platforms are free, I am talking about the expertise factor, the affordability of a Linux Admin employee.
  3. Employee knowledge transfer. What if my Linux employee leaves?
  4. Support! Can I get server support? And how much is that going to set me back?
  5. Can it do the job? Can it reliably replace my Windows Server job functions?

Fear #1 (Linux what?): OK, here is an extremely short history lesson and I’ll provide links for those who can’t help that inner burning desire to know all you can know about every topic. Linux is commonly pronounced /li’nuks/ and refers to the family of Unix-like computer operating systems using the Linux kernel and are primarily used for servers. Basically, a guy named Linus Torvalds in 1999 rewrote Unix from scratch and made it “Open Source”. Open source in its very basic terms means it is free for anyone to use. Keyword here is free. Yay! right? Well, yay if you were a University or College or some government organization like NASA. That is about the extent for which Linux was used for many years. Only the most geeky (yeah, that’s right) of computer geeks started to adopt Linux into personal use and eventually into business.

Fast forward 15 years(yes, we geeks adopt quickly) and Linux became the most commonly used server for web servers. In 2009 Linux is taking a whopping 61.8% of the web server market. That is huge especially considering the cloud computing and hosted applications movements. Let’s bring another staggering statistic into this picture; overall server operating system market share. I need to set the stage before I drop this percentage bomb.

The Stage: Answer this question: How can we track overall server operating system market share? The answer to that is sales statistics. How many purchases of the windows operating system were made versus the purchase of a server with Linux on it, or purchased through Linux giants like RedHat and Suse. It provides a number that can be verified and tracked. This method is unfortunately one-sided. Microsoft doesn’t provide free downloads of it’s operating systems. Linux operating system distribution websites do. So when I present the next statistic please keep this thought in your mind: For every Linux server that is tracked as a purchase, there is a very significant number of Linux downloads and installations that are not being tracked.

Even without that stage set this number is still considerable and alarming to most. 21.2% of the server operating system market, based on sales, is run by Linux. I’ve heard through the tech grapevine that a more realistic number is about 50%, and I believe it. This number has significant affect on the software developers of the world. Currently more software is written for Linux than any other platform and 75% of Linux core(kernel) code is written by paid developers.

So to conclude fear #1, be assured that Linux is a server OS leader right next to Windows. The big difference between the two in today’s server economy is Linux is on the incline. The goal was to show that Linux is really as popular and widely used as Windows. So fear not! They are both synonymous with “gets the job done”.

Fear #2 to be continued…

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About the Author

Brad Triem brings years of experience from start-ups to large well established companies in business systems analysis, project design, implementation and process management, network infrastructure, network security and systems support. He is also an accomplished software developer designing and deploying affordable hosted solutions for IT professionals.

Brad is co-founder of Trinsic Technologies, Inc., a provider of managed IT services for small to mid-sized businesses and easy-to-use hosted IT solutions for IT professionals.

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