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Survey finds Ubuntu is the fastest-growing Linux distribution

Ubuntu is on a tear. But then, so is all of the open-source stack, as a new survey shows.

Alfresco Content Community Growth in 2007

I've written before about the data collected from Alfresco's Open Source Barometer survey. While originally a survey of 10,000 members of Alfresco's "content community" (i.e., those who register with Alfresco to download white papers, documentation, etc.), the survey now includes a swelling population of the community, with 35,000+ members.

The data becomes even more significant when you consider Alfresco's customer base: a high percentage include the world's leading financial services, media, publishing, government, and educational institutions.

So when I see Ubuntu at 23 percent of Alfresco's Linux user base (second only to Red Hat at 35 percent), with 51.3 percent of Alfresco's users choosing to deploy on Linux (with a scant 26.5 percent opting to deploy on Windows), I take notice.

When I see Red Hat and Ubuntu pulling away from the rest of the Linux pack (Debian, SUSE, etc.), it gives me pause. It makes me think that maybe, just maybe, customers actually care about freedom. Maybe they don't think about it in Richard Stallman terms, but they think about it.

Ubuntu is the fastest-growing Linux distribution

SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and Red Hat Enterprise Linux started out as equals in Alfresco's user base. No more. Ubuntu has clearly won over our customer base at SUSE's expense. My money is on Novell's deal with Microsoft as the culprit. Indeed, you can watch the deployments taper off in the data from the month that deal was announced. To its credit, Novell has managed to sell more Linux server subscriptions since that deal. To its discredit, those deployments aren't being used with open-source applications (at least, not with Alfresco).

Not that Microsoft doesn't have troubles of its own. The data shows users keeping the Windows XP (63 percent) faith on their desktops and Windows 2003 (28 percent) on their servers, with only 2 percent using Vista. Like attracts like - open source is a magnet for other open source. Vista is a magnet for...not much of anything.

I wrote yesterday about MySQL's continued dominance and the dire consequences of coming in second place, but this same principle makes me worry about JBoss. With Tomcat at 70 percent of application server usage in the survey and JBoss Application Server at 18 percent, Red Hat may have an uphill battle on its hands.

Application Server Adoption

That said, it's likely that the ones who really need to worry are BEA and IBM, but probably more BEA, as JBoss usage continues to grow. IBM, on the other hand, is a strange beast. While Alfresco actively sells into IBM, Oracle, etc. accounts, we don't actually often come across IBM technology. We're asked to support SQL Server or Oracle databases much more often than IBM's DB2. We rarely see Websphere, too. I still don't understand how we can bump into every major software company except IBM in accounts....

Regardless, with a pool of 25,000 more people to enrich the Open Source Barometer survey findings, some things haven't changed:

  1. Enterprises are more likely to use open-source infrastructure with open-source applications, including in mission-critical environments (and yes, managing the websites that churn out billions of dollars each year for Alfresco's customers counts as mission critical);

  2. Enterprises use Windows for evaluation but Linux for deployment. Windows provides the training wheels; Linux provides the robust, scalable, trusted server operating environment;

  3. Ubuntu is quickly proving itself to be a serious contender in the enterprise;

  4. Open source is on the rise, across the board.

It's a great time to be in open source. I'd like to have similar data from SugarCRM, Mulesource, JasperSoft, etc. I'm willing to bet their data would be similar.