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www.expresscomputeronline.com WEEKLY INSIGHT FOR TECHNOLOGY PROFESSIONALS
27 March 2006  
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Home - Open Source - Article

Growing acceptance

While 2005 saw the adoption of Linux by the enterprise segment in the mission-critical space, 2006 will see an increased acceptance of open source software, predicts Shivani Shinde

Announcing the top ten trends and predictions for 2006, Gartner sees open source software (OSS) competing directly with commercial software in many segments of the enterprise market, and taking on an expanded role in the small-to-medium business sector. With OSS adoption rising rapidly, particularly in China and India, Gartner believes that by 2010 it will account for 20 percent of the global software market, displacing over $100 billion in revenues from traditional software vendors.

“It is no longer relevant to ask if IT organisations will shift to a strategy of maximising the value of open source. Organisations and vendors that ignore the potential threats and opportunities of OSS will increasingly find themselves at a competitive disadvantage,” predicts Dion Wiggins, Vice-president and Research Director at Gartner.



"According to our estimates, Linux has witnessed an annual growth rate of more than 50 percent in 2005, and we expect strong growth in 2006 as well"

-Naveen Mishra
Senior Analyst
Enterprise Systems Research
Gartner

Adds his colleague Naveen Mishra, Senior Analyst, Enterprise Systems Research, “According to our estimates, Linux has witnessed an annual growth rate of more than 50 percent in 2005, and we expect strong growth in 2006 as well.”

Linux on the rise

Everyone will (or should) agree that Linux has moved away from the geeks’ room to the corporate boardroom. Though the figures are yet to catch up with the big daddies of the server business, Linux has surely arrived. The primary reason is its cost-effectiveness and manageability.

The Linux server market that grew to $75 million in 2005 by factor revenues will continue to grow in 2006 as well.

Verticals such as High Power Computer, oil & gas, and manufacturing are driving this market, but the biggest push has come from the government—the department of information technology has already introduced Linux and open source software in educational institutions.

Even if we move away from the enterprise segment and look at end-consumers, the adoption of Linux is on the rise. Most of the Rs sub-10,000 computers on offer have a Linux OS.

Linux was always regarded and accepted as a technically superior platform; what restricted it to the techie’s room was the absence of applications and industry support. Once these began there has been a steady acceptance of Linux for mission-critical deployments. Thus, with giants like Oracle and SAP providing applications on Linux, its acceptability has grown.

Sandeep Menon, Director, Linux Business, Novell, West Asia, agrees that industry support has been a key factor in the growth of Linux and says, “This is surely one of the reasons. But we need to understand why the industry supports it. The fact is that most of these players are market-savvy, and recognise a trend early, especially when the pull is coming from their customers.”

He feels that Linux can drive development costs down significantly by allowing firms to develop the primary version of their application releases on Linux, which can then be transferred and tested across hardware architectures. This works strongly in favour of Linux. Next, supporting Linux gives a strategic advantage to many of these players who may see traditional OS vendors as competition in the near or long term.

Mishra feels that Linux will see better days, but that it will take some more time. “Linux has traditionally been known as an edge server, but it is certainly moving towards databases and application platforms. Though it will take some time for Linux to take on other servers, the shift is happening globally,” he adds.

Sachin Dabir, Head, Enterprise Sales, Red Hat India points out that with the support from the industry, the end-user is getting more comfortable using Linux as now he can see a clear roadmap in terms of growth and future upgradations. “According to a market study, Linux on the server side had about 20 percent of marketshare in 2005,” he says.



"Most enterprise
customers that we’ve surveyed prefer integrated deployable solutions that can run on commodity
standard platforms (like Linux) that are
priced on the
subscription model"

-Andy Fenselau
Linux Product Line Manager
Symantec


"Red Hat is working with some organisations in adopting open source software, helping them understand how OSS can be compatible with
commercial software and still get performance"

-Sachin Dabir
Head, Enterprise Sales
Red Hat India

64-bit computing

Andy Fenselau, Linux Product Line Manager, Symantec, believes that open source solutions continue to make great progress on point features and overall quality. Linux in particular shows all the hallmarks—and some of the growing pains—of the fastest-maturing operating system in history. “The great synergies of the 64-bit 2.6 kernel-based distributions, 64-bit commodity hardware platforms, enterprise-class support and certifications, and increasingly complete solution stacks—including commercial, non-open source applications like SAP and Oracle— make open source Linux increasingly ready for full production, mission-critical workloads,” declares Fenselau.

With 64-bit taking centre-stage and catching enterprise attention, competition is getting really stiff. 64-bit software has traditionally been run on RISC servers over various Unix flavours. Indian enterprises have predominantly used RISC-based servers for mission-critical deployments. The recent entrant in this segment has been Microsoft.

You would wonder why we are talking about 64-bit platforms. This is where the Linux players are trying to gain marketshare by taking some space from Unix vendors due to the similarities between Linux and commercial Unix.

Explains Menon, “We would not say that this is only in the RISC environment. Over the years, there emerged customers who were ready to work with both CISC and RISC chipsets in different environments. However, what was really not working was the availability of a true enterprise-architectured, scientifically-developed OS alternative that could be deployed across both architectures in conditions that required high degrees of robustness, scalability and security.”

This was the space filled by Linux; it came in at just the right time and filled the gap perfectly. Notes Menon, “This led to both 64-bit CISC-Linux deployments and RISC-Linux deployments as well as mixed environments running the same kernel of SUSE.” Suddenly there was much more choice available to customers, depending on their computing needs and available budgets.

Dabir adds, “In India what we have seen are not replacements, but additions, wherein they prefer to go in for Linux.”

Open source software

If Linux is trying to get into the crowded server market, in the software segment it might not be that tough a job. This is a segment which has been described as best-suited for the SMBs. Not for long though.

Organisations are realising that whatever software they choose, they end up paying huge sums on upgradations, licences and maintenance. However, it would be a different story if these organisations could have software that would adhere to their roadmap.

According to Dabir, “Organisations are looking for more from the open source community. Red Hat is working with some organisations in adopting open source software, helping them understand how OSS can be compatible with commercial software and still get performance. They are also looking at options which do not make them stick to OSS as the only option but allow them to share.”



"The advantage of OSS is that it is cost-effective, and this matters since
organisations are looking for options. After all, software licencing is a major concern"

-Kalpit Jain
Business Head
Messaging and Security
Netcore Solutions

He says that considering trends Red Hat has been incorporating missing elements in the OSS. He adds, “Earlier some applications were not available on OS such as directory servers or high availability cluster software. We went ahead and acquired these and incorporated them in the OSS.”

Netcore has been one of the companies offering solutions on open source standards, and has been quite successful. Their software is being run in at least 800+ locations with 500+ customers encompassing corporates and SMBs.

Kalpit Jain, Business Head, Messaging and Security, Netcore Solutions explains, “The advantage of OSS is that it is cost-effective, and this matters since organisations are looking for options. After all, software licencing is of major concern. Manageability, reliability and scalability are some other reasons why any OSS makes sense.”

To which Fenselau adds, “Open source is merely another method for providing customers the overall mix of advantages in cost, control, and choice.  Indeed, most enterprise customers that we’ve surveyed prefer integrated deployable solutions that can run on commodity standard platforms (like Linux) that are priced on the subscription model.”

He says that it’s all about enabling the lowest possible total cost of ownership—including hardware, software, support, training and standardisation—while managing the complexity and risk factors. The trends of open source and freeware (subscription/support-based offerings) are real and important enablers of this end-game.  All vendors, including Symantec, must actively integrate such market drivers into their product strategies in the coming years. 

Symantec’s suite of storage management, enterprise data protection, and high availability solutions now extend to Linux environments. These solutions enhance Linux for the enterprise because they simplify and lower the cost of storage management, and boost the performance and availability of data and applications.

CIOs on Open Source
  • Mani Mulki, VP, Information Systems, Godrej Industries:

    Linux should be not be chosen because it is free but because it makes good business sense. There is a myth that Linux is free, but nothing comes free. For the enterprise a source code makes no difference. Yes, open source would be useful for educational institutes where they do a lot of development work, or for the Government sector as they want to have an operating system that can be customised and fine-tuned.

    As a CIO I do not want to customise the operating system and the application. I would definitely not like to do that. If I do that I would have hundreds of versions of the same operating system running. Where would I find the service and support?

    We do use Linux for firewalls, our networks too have Linux. Hence I say you need to have judgement and clear understanding about the usage of Linux.

  • Pritesh Thaker, Assistant VP, IT, UTI Bank, whose call centre uses Red Hat Enterprise Linux as the platform with Oracle 11i E Business Suite software:

    We chose Red Hat Linux as the platform because it ensured transparency and was a perfect match for the Oracle business suite. We had faith in the open source platform as we had earlier used it with good results. Now it gives the bank good performance, security and flexibility which are critical for the success of the project.

  • Arup Choudhury, GM, IT, Eveready Industries. For its mission-critical ERP, the company chose Linux server software from Red Hat:

    We deployed Linux on account of its compatibility with other applications that we were planning to install. The other reason to deploy Linux-based servers was the fact that we were using Unix. We had seen the benefits of using Red Hat Enterprise Linux for the mail proxy in 2002. Eveready was convinced that the solution was reliable and powerful enough to run its mission-critical ERP infrastructure.

    In my opinion Linux servers are on par with any other stable operating system. In terms of security, the Linux kernel is difficult to crack. And there are no support issues.

    However, I do not see Linux coming on to the desktop level as users are very comfortable with Microsoft Windows.

Growth of open source Web servers
Top Developers
Developer
February 2006
Percent
March 2006
Percent
Change
Apache 5,18,10,676 68.01 5,32,87,298 68.7 0.69
Microsoft 1,56,66,702 20.56 1,59,12,427 20.51 -0.05
Sun 18,80,313 2.47 18,81,587 2.43 -0.04
Zeus 5,79,198 0.76 5,74,607 0.74 -0.02
Active Sites
Developer
February 2006
Percent
March 2006
Percent
Change
Apache 2,37,48,079 66.64 2,46,17,922 67.2 0.56
Microsoft 89,49,268 25.11 91,82,372 25.07 -0.04
Zeus 2,60,874 0.73 2,60,185 0.71 -0.02
Sun 2,39,291 0.67 2,47,825 0.68 0.01
Source: netcraft.com

OSS gets CIO nod



"Microsoft has benefitted from open source software in the past, has participated in OSS projects, and feels that OSS will continue to have an important role in the cosystem"

-Sanjiv Mathur
Director
Customer & Partner Experience
Microsoft India

As organisations are scaling up they want options that do not restrict them due to licencing policies, thus the push for open standards in software.

This can be easily substantiated by the fact that even Microsoft is now talking about open source. Listen to Sanjiv Mathur, Director, Customer and Partner Experience, Microsoft India: “Microsoft has benefitted from open source software in the past, has participated in OSS projects, and feels that OSS will continue to have an important role in the ecosystem.”

For Microsoft, Mathur says that the open source model has been propagated by its shared source initiative. “However, shared source is not open source. We recognise that open source software has some benefits such as fostering of the community, improved feedback, and augmented debugging. Shared source is a balanced approach that allows us to share source code with customers and partners while maintaining the intellectual property needed to support a strong software business. Shared source represents a framework of business value, technical innovation and licencing terms,” adds Mathur.

Desktop level

There is no doubt that users are quite comfortable with Linux servers, but getting it on the desktop is going to be very difficult. Nevertheless, Dabir feels that Linux on the desktop is quite popular among educational institutions as it is cheap and allows them to understand the software. He then goes on to cite the instance of the Supreme Court, LIC (a few users) and Canara Bank (10,000 users) that are using Linux at the desktop.

Need for open source

All enterprise data centres are wrestling with three fundamental issues these days: cost, complexity and risk.  The multiplicity—some customers have counted over 100 distinct tools across all the platforms in their data centres—of separate tools for open source Linux vs Solaris vs Windows vs AIX vs HPUX server and storage platforms absolutely  increases complexity—and thus the cost and risk for enterprise customers. 

“The coming wave of server virtualisation (VMWare, Xen, etc) adds yet another dimension to this mind-boggling matrix. Thus, open source solutions need to focus on integrating both functionality and common centralised management consoles across point tools,” opines Fenselau.

shivani@expresscomputeronline.com
(With inputs from Megha Banduni and Vinita Gupta)

 


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