Switching to Linux picks up steam

Survey from The Yankee Group shows cautious corporate interest in moving desktop and server systems to Linux.

About a third of businesses plan to migrate at least some Windows machines to Linux, according to a recent survey, but adoption will continue to be both slow and cautious, as companies evaluate a maze of economic factors.

In a report on total cost of ownership for the Linux, Unix and Microsoft Windows operating systems, research company The Yankee Group found that only 4 percent of businesses planned to migrate Unix servers to Linux within the next two years. A total of 11 percent intended to move Windows servers to Linux, while 21 percent proposed to add Linux servers to a predominantly Windows environment.

On the desktop, 36 percent of businesses expected to have a few Linux PCs in their business, but only 5 percent planned a total migration to Linux. A majority--57 percent--planned no changes for Windows on the desktop.

The report cites a number of factors for corporate caution in moving to Linux, most notably the increasingly complex calculations required to determine whether such moves are cost-effective.

"All of the firms would like to reduce the amount of up-front capital expenditure dollars they spend on expensive Windows and Unix software licenses," the report found. "However, they also recognize that in certain instances, a wholesale or significant switch to Linux might reduce up-front costs but result in higher overall costs."

Factors to consider in such a cost analysis range from interoperability with existing applications to the relative scarcity of trained Linux support personnel. "The establishments that have or are seriously considering Linux bemoaned the present dearth and high cost of skilled Linux administrators, even as they praised the open-source operating system's ease of use," the report stated.

Such concerns may loom larger if a company is governed by a central IT strategy, which would discourage a piecemeal approach to technology adoption, Yankee analyst Dana Gardner said.

"The position companies need to look at is whether there's a tactical or strategic role for Linux and open source," Gardner said. "They're looking at what would be a strategic platform that's fully integrated and supported."

The report found that even businesses that were relatively satisfied with Windows are making some use of Linux, however--as a bargaining chip in negotiating with Microsoft on further purchases. "We have no intention of switching to Linux," an unnamed MIS manager is quoted as saying in the report, "but we do find it useful as a stone to throw at Microsoft."

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