Linux gets a great deal of credit and attention in the desktop and server markets, where it's visible and gaining market share. However, too often, we overlook the power of the Linux platform when it's hidden inside appliances, the so-called embedded market where Linux has long played a dominant role (and where I got my career start in open source at Lineo).
In embedded, Linux dwarfs Microsoft. It's time we took notice.
The most recent Linux-focused IDC market-sizing report came out in spring 2008 at the Linux Foundation's annual summit. The numbers are remarkable:
- Server operating environment CAGR (compound annual growth rate) is estimated at more than 8 percent from 2007 to 2011;
- Total Linux spending on hardware, software, and services has already passed $20 billion annually and is expected to grow to $49 billion by 2011;
- IDC estimates that software spending related to Linux will exceed a CAGR of 35.7 percent from 2006 through 2011 (which still leaves it capturing only 10 percent of of the overall software market);
- Importantly, while Linux started off fulfilling mulish tasks like basic infrastructure deployments, but now Linux supports mission-critical applications like database, ERP, decision support, and general business processing, with business processing deployments jumping from 6.7 percent of new Linux deployments in 2003 to 8.2 percent in 2007.
Even despite these impressive growth trajectories, IDC's numbers miss Linux's highest-volume market: embedded.
Even more than the server market, Linux's growth in appliances stems from a simple fact: Linux is better than the proprietary competition. Beyond cheap, Linux scales, it's fast, it's secure, and it has a small footprint. This isn't just for your Sony TV or TiVo DVR or Linksys home router. Linux also powers enterprise-class appliances that perform some pretty amazing tasks, all thanks to the benefits of Linux.
One recent example the demonstrates the power of embedded Linux is LogLogic, a Sequoia-backed company, which announced on Tuesday that it is launching three new Linux-based appliances to help enterprises with security, database monitoring, and compliance management.
LogLogic was founded in 2002 in the trough of the last technology recession, and it has managed to double revenues on average every year since. Today, it boasts more than 720 customers around the world.
At the heart of that success is Linux. LogLogic decided early with its first products to sell Linux-based appliances to make it as easy as possible for even sophisticated enterprise IT departments to literally plug and play. As an appliance, it didn't have to worry about porting its software solutions to support multiple operating systems. Administrators simply had to enter an IP address and watch the magic begin.
For an application like LogLogic's, Linux is critical. LogLogic's appliances chew through mountains of arcane log data (i.e., machine language), which enterprises are typically required to save for seven years for compliance reasons. To put this in perspective, the average enterprise data center might generate more than a terabyte of log data daily.
LogLogic's Linux-based appliances can mine this huge amount of information for near-instant reports of data breaches or deliver an audit trail on a key document for compliance that allows the audit committee to sign off financial disclosure forms. The company has its own intellectual property tied up in that performance, but it wouldn't be possible without the flexibility and cost advantages of Linux.
We rightly celebrate Linux on the server and optimistically await Linux to arrive fully on the desktop. But Linux in the embedded world has already arrived. LogLogic is one great example of this.
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