But that doesn't mean there aren't problems with the operating system. While each new release adds more features, it is still an "almost there" platform. Gartner, Inc. (Stamford, Conn.) is advising clients to limit its use of Linux to peripheral applications.
"We feel comfortable with the deployment of Linux for low end infrastructure tasks such as Web, cache and proxy servers," says Gartner Vice President Andy Butler, who works out of Gartner's UK office, "but the ability of Linux to be a reliable database server is still being tested."
"Linux involves significantly more than just downloading and installing the software," says Candle Corp. (El Segundo, Calif.) Assistant Vice President Pete Marshall. "Issues such as performance monitoring, patch management and security require both time and training."
And the Linux vendors recognize there are problems.
"We need to become trusted, credible and viable suppliers," says Mike Evans, Red Hat, Inc.'s (Raleigh, N.C.) vice president for channel development. "Enterprises need to see a stable Linux platform with robust support and trusted roadmap of upgrades rather than changes every month."
So, what are the major shortcomings and what needs to happen to eliminate them?
While everyone can have their own opinion on what needs to be improved about Linux, and each of their opinions may be valid, let's take a look at the approach that IDC took. In February of this year it surveyed 1,000 clients on the barriers to adopting Linux. It then aggregated these surveys and presented the top 10 issues mentioned.
"Note how many times management-related issues and support costs show up," says Dan Kusnetzky, vice president of system software research for IDC.
The top 10 surveyed items in order were:
"Before you can have the applications, you need the hardware support and middleware that allows you to perform effective systems management," says Juergen Geck, SuSE, Inc. (Oakland, Calif.). "That is a major reason for lack of desktop adoption."
"Other than the lack of in-house Linux skills and platform support issues, the open source community has done a great job of addressing the issues that were seen in February 2003," says Kusnetzky.
Give and Take
The lack of applications and vendor support will soon be a memory as more and more vendors support the platform.
"All major ISV's and all hardware vendors are into the Linux game, so it has become mainstream," says Red Hat's Evans. "Everyone is getting on the Linux train."
As Linux gains in popularity, the nature of the developer community continues to change. But those changes go both ways. Just as Linux vendors are scrambling to meet the needs of potential customers, it is also driving changes in other aspects of the IT industry. One of the principles behind Linux is shifting the emphasis from the software onto the service. This affects the way that other hardware and software vendors do their jobs.
Oracle, for example, is one such company. It now offers Linux versions throughout its product line, most notably the Oracle 9iRAC cluster database management system.
"Linux is forcing vendors to be service providers before being product providers," says Jay Peretz, Oracle's vice president for partner technical services. "So we are altering our view of the market due to the influence of Linux."