Linux Not Just SkunkWorks

By Blane Warrene
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A recently released study by Forrester Research, Linux Crosses Into Mission-Critical Apps, shows Linux is now widely considered mainstream at some of the largest companies in North America.

For years, Linux was introduced at many companies in the skunkworks of an IT department. These tended to be unsponsored projects or prototypes to encourage consideration of the platform. Now that all levels of business have seen the reliability and scalability of Linux and applications such as Apache, MySQL and others, Linux does not necessarily have to be deployed in the shadows.

In that survey, Forrester Analysts Brad Day and Laura Koetzle interviewed more than 100 companies, half of whom report more than $1 billion US in revenues and account for more than 5000 employees each. The survey also found more than half had Linux deployed in production, running servers for web hosting, mail as well as critical back office functions such as crm and data management.

As with many technology trends, widespread adoption begins only after billions have been spent by the world’s larger companies in research, development and deployment. IBM’s massive investments in Linux and open source is often credited for pushing corporate IT into serious evaluations of Linux.

The study revealed that more than a third of the respondents are choosing new solutions that require Linux, rather than the conventional thinking that large companies use Linux to port old legacy applications to new technology platforms.

This is insightful for web developers of all stripes. As “buy-in” is found at the highest levels, this adds additional credibility to Linux solutions for web-based application solutions at small and medium business levels. Those who may be hesitant to take a gamble with Linux and/or open source solutions may turn more receptive to the idea as they see public statistics showing wider adoption for critical applications.

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  • Of course, by and large this study (once again) ignores a lot. I was one of the respondents to this survey, so I think I’m quite a good one to be arguing about it.

    We have Linux in production. Where? In webapps that require it, or in Mainframe-replacement boxes.

    Mainstream approval here? Nope. Every box is on a case by case basis, requiring justification for why it’s not going with one of our corporate standards.

    Until Linux is our non-MS corporate standard OS it isn’t “mainstream”, and I’d bet good money that most other corps are the same way.

  • In many cases though – IT standards docs have been updated to include Linux to ease acquisition time for some projects. It is starting to spill across many firms – both large and small. I emerged from one of the largest financial services firms in the world (2002) – $65 billion and 80,000 employees – and saw them add Linux to their standards docs in 2003.

    I agree that some hesitancy still remains – but not due to Linux being untested. There is plainly a ton of benchmark and analyst coverage of corporations of all stripes using Linux from POS systems to back office and beyond.

    I wold hope that web developers would gather these kinds of statistics and build a story on why Linux can serve as a production web application platform for their current and prospective customers. That is really the next step – build the real world story and show the measurements of success to improve adoption.

  • Are they being added to standards docs? Beyond the Platform space anyways (webservers, firewalls, appliances, etc)?

    As far as I’m aware, most companies aren’t makeing any concerted effort to move anything which isn’t Platform, or wasn’t on Mainframes to Linux, and certainly not in any large numbers are they moving their core apps.

    All of that said, though, it will happen. It’s not so much a defficiency in Linux as a lack of proper management tools and support infrastructure.