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IDC: Linux spending set to boom by 21 percent in 2009

Linux is expected to outpace the overall software market by a healthy clip in 2009--and continue to grow beyond.

Most vendors are already preparing for a tough Christmas.

Those selling Linux-based solutions, however, can expect to spread plenty of holiday cheer, according to a new report from IDC, "The Opportunity for Linux in a New Economy." (PDF)

Even as Red Hat recently talked up its impressive quarterly results, it's important to recognize that not all of Linux's success can be seen in corporate financial results. Much of the benefits of Linux comes from unpaid deployments, which continue to account for a healthy margin of total deployments:

Of course, as noted, there remains plenty of revenue growth in Linux, as IDC notes, though most of it is still not coming at Microsoft's expense:

  • Linux is set to outpace the larger market, with customer spending on Linux expected to grow year over year by 21 percent in 2009. The larger software market, meanwhile, will struggle to deliver 2 percent growth in 2009. And from 2008 to 2013, the Linux market is set to grow $12.3 billion to $35.5 billion, representing a 23.6 percent compound annual growth rate.
  • Even so, it is important to note that the size of Linux versus, for example, Windows, is telling: the Microsoft software ecosystem was $149 billion in 2008. IDC rightly points out that "even with a sub-10 percent growth rate through 2013, (the Microsoft ecosystem) will add $56 billion in spending.
  • Virtualization is expected to be a big driver of Linux. While cloud computing is also expected to drive Linux and open-source adoption, the real money is coming from increases in Linux adoption--from 13 percent to 18.6 percent--for more traditional workloads like ERP, database, etc. Most of this growth in traditional workloads is coming at Unix's expense.
  • IDC finds that 53 percent of enterprises it has surveyed are planning to increase adoption of Linux on the server and 48 percent expect to increase adoption of Linux on the client (desktop, laptop, etc.) "as a direct result of the economic climate."
  • Perhaps not surprisingly, while Microsoft has been attempting to make Windows an inviting platform for open-source vendors, IDC expects no movement from Microsoft to make its software available on Linux. This is war, and Microsoft for all its talk about interoperability, apparently sees interoperability as a one-way street on which other vendors interoperate with it, on its terms, to its advantage.

All of which bodes well for Linux, but suggests that longer term, Linux vendors are going to have to start stepping on Microsoft's toes to grow, as Linux growth is starting to slow. The way forward may be to complement Linux offerings with other open-source solutions:

The good news is that the more CIOs buy into Linux, the more they tend to invest in other open-source technology, as well. So Red Hat, Novell, and Canonical have ready-made buyers if they choose to extend beyond core Linux. (Red Hat, of course, also offers JBoss middleware, and Novell has a range of other products, but neither of them has taken the steps to build a full open-source ecosystem.)

It's a good time to be in Linux, as IDC's data suggest. But there's room to improve.

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.