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Commentary: Market not ready for high-end Linux systems

Gartner does not consider the Linux technology or the market itself as mature enough for a significant run at the high end.

See news story: Linux makes inroads into high-end computers

By George Weiss, Gartner Analyst

Gartner does not consider the Linux technology or the market itself as mature enough for a significant run at the high end.

High-end servers (as implemented on platforms from Sun Microsystems, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Compaq Computer, Unisys and others) have a high level of functionality in what Gartner terms the "ities": scalability, availability, manageability, security.

The "ities" represent significant investments by vendors over many years and are the core differentiating factors in the competitive dynamics of the market. Without strong vendor interest and enthusiasm to transfer hard-earned technologies into the Linux market, these capabilities may emerge only sporadically.

A particular point solution may exist here or there, but the overall big picture of a complete and comprehensive vendor-supported environment will be lacking.

Gartner believes that some vendor reluctance regarding Linux arises from the nature of the open-source movement itself. If a viable market is to develop in high-end Linux servers, strong independent software vendor enthusiasm must be present. However, the big software developers are already largely locked into specific platforms and require additional resources or a need to substitute Linux for an existing one.

Many such developers fear lackluster profit returns in an untested market. That inertia requires market momentum and a strong, sincere commitment from the vendor community on behalf of Linux. However, the vendor community is split in its allegiance. Those with a strong server position are reluctant to jeopardize their products by offering lower-cost alternatives unless the market is clearly differentiated and adds opportunity to their business models.

Therefore, Linux has been relegated to more downstream applications in server appliances or to low-end deployments in Web applications rather than the high end.

This cycle of "wait and see" in the Linux market will require some major forces to propel the operating system into the forefront of consideration as a competitive and viable long-term alternative to the server platforms in existence.

Enterprises will be reluctant to consider Linux without the full framework of global service and support, breadth of applications, vendor commitment, and a high level of "ity" functionality. A market change of such magnitude usually requires several years of maturity and evolution.

Entire contents, Copyright © 2000 Gartner Group, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.