By Siobhan Kennedy Despite the huge marketing hype, Linux won’t displace mainstream enterprise operating systems in the near future, but it will become a dominant platform in the appliance server market, analysts said this week. Speaking to a packed crowd of users at the Gartner Group’s Symposium ITxpo in Orlando analyst George Weiss criticized what […]
By Siobhan Kennedy
Despite the huge marketing hype, Linux won’t displace mainstream enterprise operating systems in the near future, but it will become a dominant platform in the appliance server market, analysts said this week. Speaking to a packed crowd of users at the Gartner Group’s Symposium ITxpo in Orlando analyst George Weiss criticized what he called the downright arrogance of Linux aficionados for over-hyping the free OS and raising users’ expectations before the technology was ready to deliver.
While he praised Linux for its low cost and features such as stability, he said concerns over salability, standards and availability of key applications would prevent the software from replacing Windows NT and Unix systems for mission critical applications within the next few years. If someone invested in Linux then it would catch up pretty soon, but if that doesn’t happen, Unix will continue to get stronger because NT has not delivered on its promises, Weiss said.
By 2004 he predicts that Linux will account for a very small percentage of the total systems marketplace but he says the OS will have a sizable share, roughly 15%, of the low-cost appliance server market. It will be very popular for the type of single purpose application, like email or caching, where users need rapid and stable deployment of pre-configured solutions, he said.
Beyond that, however, as more and more ISVs begin to develop applications on Linux and scalability improves, Weiss said Linux will begin to encroach on the non-leading Unix vendors. At the moment, he said NT and Unix each account for 40% of the worldwide server OS market, with the remaining 20% on proprietary platforms. But he predicts that Linux will get 10% of the Unix share and that apart from the top two, three or four vendors, the rest will have a very hard time penetrating the market.
Likewise, NT will begin to feel the effect of Linux too, he said. Already, the OS is widely perceived to be more stable than NT and he predicts that companies will gradually start to rely on Linux for more than just their appliance servers, causing trauma among NT vendors, he said. As that happens, NT will be quietly put in a part of the organization where it can’t do much damage, said Weiss.
He warned users to maintain a degree of skepticism about vendors’ enthusiasm for Linux, accusing them of jumping on the bandwagon without offering any serious commitment to Linux as an OS. We’re not seeing a lot of applications coming to market, but we are seeing a lot of enthusiasm, he said. The ISVs are afraid that if they support Linux they’re going to be pressured by the open source community into giving away their software for free. He added: They don’t really understand the Linux community so they’re reluctant to jump in and no one distributor has enough clout to corral ISVs in.
He praised IBM for its efforts to support the OS, but said that both Hewlett-Packard and SGI are still clearly confused as to their strategies. In SGI’s case, he said the vendor’s apparent Linux enthusiasm was more to do with the fact that it wasn’t doing well with its own platform. SGI’s making strong pronouncements but they’re more from a position of weakness than strength, he said. It will support Linux but only because it takes away from NT.
Sun Microsystems too, Weiss said, is showing dubious support for Linux. In fact, Sun has actually gone out of its way to do things to thwart the OS, the analyst said, citing the recent launch of the Sun Ray thin client terminal as one example. Sun has to worry that Solaris is going to be affected and if Linux really takes off it has a lot to lose in the long term, he said. It won’t get aggressive about Linux, it’s just looking for reasons to straddle the fence.
Pricing will also become an important factor, he said. You can get Linux on pretty cheap disks now but as it catches on, distributors will offer value adds which will raise the overall system price, said Weiss, don’t think this is going to be a freebie for you forever.
By 2001, he predicts that the Linux package will be much fatter than today, and within the next four to five years pricing will rise to as much as $500 to $1000 from the average $50 today. Early signs are already beginning to show, he said, pointing to Linux distributor Red Hat’s recent pricing restructure which offers Linux for anywhere between $30 to $150.
At the same time, there will be consolidation of distributors, driving down the number of entrants to just three major players, Weiss said. Some, notably Red Hat and Caldera are already beginning to take the lead and that will carry on as investments continue to pour in from vendors. It will be an ongoing development expense for the distributor. The packaging is costly stuff, then looking to the future there’s the introduction of Intel’s IA-64 and so on, he said, so the ones with funding have the most chance of surviving.