The new study, Worldwide Linux 2004-2008 Forecast: Moving from Niche to Mainstream, presents a measurement of shipments and the installed base of servers and PCs running Linux that takes into consideration Linux shipped with new hardware deliveries, Linux running aboard redeployed systems, and instances where Linux is used as a guest operating system.
The study utilized existing IDC research conducted on server hardware, PC hardware, software, and other research programs in conjunction with new primary research, including a demand-side study that covered ten countries around the world on customer adoption, plans and perceptions relating to Linux.
While some may question the validity of the data because of OSDL's sponsorship, Al Gillen, research director, Systems Software and a particpant in the study, said OSDL only paid to have existing IDC research integrated in a new way.
"One hundred precent of it is independent research," said Gillen, "What OSDL's participation in this project was is they actually sponsored an integration effort between a number of different sets of data we maintain at IDC. So the data already existed and had been published in various forms, just not in a form that OSDL was interested in seeing it in."
When this expanded view of the marketplace is considered, the resulting server market for shipments and redeployments with Linux is increased by 36% over net new shipments in 2004.
Another key finding of interest to independent software vendors (ISV) and customers is predicted revenue growth for packaged applications and infrastructure software running on Linux (a market opportunity IDC forecasts will exceed $14 billion in the next four years) growing at a 2003-2008 compound annual rate (CAGR) of more than 44%.
"This is the first authoritative and comprehensive snapshot of how people truly use Linux and it's not surprising for us to see that the adoption is far ahead of even some of the most optimistic estimates, said Stuart Cohen, CEO of OSDL.
"Linux is forecast to be the fasted growing server operating system environment, and the overall Linux solution stack is growing at a commensurate rate. What this research shows is the significant and increasing influence of Linux on the enterprise IT marketplace."
Other key findings from the IDC report include:
With this expanded view of the Linux market, this study takes into account segments not previously measured. This broader perspective considers systems that are reconfigured in the field with Linux as either a secondary operating system or as a replacement of the original operating system.
"When all manifestations of Linux operating systems are counted, Linux is clearly a mainstream solution, said Vernon Turner, group vice president and general manager of Enterprise Computing research at IDC.
"Today, IDC sees a shift where Linux server operating environment deployments are moving to favor the use of enterprise server hardware. This transition is being driven by the increasing robustness of Linux and the increasingly critical nature of the applications deployed on Linux."