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At Web sites, Windows outpaces Linux

A survey finds that use of Microsoft's Windows Server 2003 is growing quickly and that much of the new business is at the expense of Linux.

A survey has found that use of Microsoft's latest server software is growing quickly in the Web site hosting market, and that much of the new business is at the expense of Linux.

Microsoft has seen a 300 percent increase in the last three months in the number of Web sites hosted on its recently launched Windows Server 2003--with a considerable amount of the new business representing moves away from Linux, according to a survey published this week.

The figures are a win for Microsoft, which dominates the desktop operating system market but currently rates a distant second to the open-source Apache, often running on Linux, in servers. Open-source software is not controlled by any one organization and can often be obtained and maintained far more cheaply than proprietary software.

The number of active Web sites hosted on Server 2003 tripled to 88,400 in the past three months, according to Netcraft, which monitors server use. A significant portion of this growth has been at the expense of the Linux operating system, with 5 percent, or 8,000 sites, having migrated from Linux.

"Microsoft will take some considerable encouragement at the number of sites that have switched from Linux," Netcraft said in its report.

But the 88,400 versions of Windows Server 2003 account for only a very small fraction of the total market. There are 4.7 million active sites that use Microsoft's Web server, Netcraft said. Apache, which most often runs on Linux or various versions of Unix, is used at 13.2 million active Web sites.

Forty-two percent of the sites running on Microsoft's new server software are new ones, 43 percent are upgrades from other Windows operating systems, mainly Windows 2000, and 1 percent have switched from operating systems other than Linux or Windows, according to Netcraft.

Netcraft also noted that the number of sites running on the BSD version of Unix have continued to increase--the only operating system besides Linux and Windows that the survey found to be on the rise.

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The number of host names using BSD is nearing 4 million, whereas the number of active sites is nearly 2 million, Netcraft said. Most of these sites are accounted for by companies with shared hosting systems, including Yahoo, which can operate hundreds of thousands of sites as part of a single system.

Yahoo accounts for 159,354 of the BSD sites. Another 152,054 are from IP services company NTT/Verio, and 129,378 from InfoSpace, the survey found.

"Never has an operating system used by so many been administered by so few," Netcraft's report said.

Matthew Broersma of ZDNet UK reported from London.