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Cost Could Become a Factor with Enterprise Linux

As commercial versions of Linux climb the enterprise ladder, cost will become more of an issue with the open source operating system, according to a Gartner analyst.

Adding to Linux the cost of necessary enterprise add-ons like support fees, middleware and database software will move Linux further from its genesis as a cost-free operating system, Gartner analyst George Weiss suggested at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2004 last week in San Diego.

Weiss predicted that 2004 will be a key transition year for Linux, as it enters a period of “high commercialization,” moving toward further acceptance as an enterprise operating system. Weiss leads Gartner's research and analysis in Unix, Linux, open source trends and the future of servers.

Weiss warned the audience against ignoring SCO’s recent lawsuit against Linux users, in which the company claims copyright infringement. The lawsuit, he said, may create a “cloud of uncertainty” for high-level executives involved in operating system decisions that may linger through 2005 and perhaps beyond.

Novell’s acquisition of SUSE Linux early this year introduces another element for companies considering Linux. Although Novell faces “a big challenge” with the acquisition, Weiss said, introducing a second major Linux distributor for the enterprise market may pressure Red Hat to lower prices, as Novell brings its experience with enterprise customers and channel marketing structure to bear. Red Hat holds about 70 percent to 80 percent of the U.S. market share for Linux. Gartner predicts that Novell’s SUSE Linux may erode Red Hat’s market dominance of Linux in the U.S. by perhaps 30 percent by early 2005.

Regarding continuing migrations from other platforms to Linux, Weiss said Microsoft is affected, but the biggest impact continues to be on Unix, by a two-to-one factor over Windows. Through 2005, Gartner predicts that 60 percent to 70 percent of migrations will come from Unix, with 20 percent to 30 percent from Windows. The firm gives that prediction a 0.7 probability rating, where 0.0 indicates something definitely will not happen and 1.0 means it definitely will.

About the Author

Linda Briggs is the founding editor of MCP Magazine and the former senior editorial director of 101communications. In between world travels, she's a freelance technology writer based in San Diego, Calif.

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