Linux opportunity buried in Unix market share data

Unix got a headline regarding IBM's rising share of the server market, but the opportunity lies in the other operating system, whose server growth has been outpacing Unix's for some time.

Last week, IBM announced that over the past 10 years, it has gone from also-ran to first place in the Unix server market, claiming 35 percent of the $61 billion market in 2008 to Sun's 29 percent share, as noted in the Post-Bulletin.

Good for IBM, but the real news in this Unix market share carve-up isn't Unix at all: it's Linux.

Linux server growth has been outpacing Unix server growth for some time, with Linux gaining more than a full percentage point of market share to land at 13.4 percent market share earlier this year, according to IDC.

As more and more enterprises switch from Unix to Linux to gain performance and shed costs, Red Hat and Novell stand to gain.

For those wondering how big Red Hat and Novell can become on operating-system revenue alone, keep that $61 billion number in mind. Most of that $61 billion is hardware-related, but it meant approximately $650 million in Linux server sales for Red Hat and Novell over the past year. As Linux eats into Unix, Red Hat and Novell can expect to grow linearly with it.

Or perhaps they can do better. As the operating system comes to include big-ticket items like virtualization, perhaps the roughly 1 percent of the overall server market that Red Hat and Novell claim in software revenue will become 2 percent...or more.

This is the big opportunity. It's a good time to be selling Linux server-related software subscriptions.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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