After over a decade of Linux vendors attempting to grow into the enterprise and Red Hat, the poster child for Linux, approaching $1 billion in annual revenue, it’s easy to presume that Linux is pervasive in the enterprise. It is, but, as the Linux Foundation’s enterprise survey finds, there are still some barriers to overcome. Additionally, the survey presents new data showing Windows, not Unix, as the primary operating system for migrations to Linux.

The Linux Foundation recently released the results of a survey with 428 IT professionals from organizations with 500 or more employees, or $500 million in yearly revenue. North America represented 42 percent of the respondents, while Europe and Asia represented 21 and 15 percent respectively.

It’s unclear just how large of a percentage of respondents were sourced from The Linux Foundation’s end user council versus a broader sampling of IT respondents. That said, the survey results bode well for further Linux growth, and serve as a caution for Microsoft.

Linux growth at Windows expense
The survey results show that 84 percent of respondents reported their company’s usage of Linux grew over the past 12 months. Eighty percent of respondents felt that their company will increase Linux use over the next five years.

Alternatively, only 27 percent of respondents stated that their company plans to increase usage of Windows over the next five years.

That’s a 3x higher factor of Linux growth in the enterprise over the next 5 years versus Windows. While this is a great statistic for Linux proponents, it’s difficult to get excited considering the substantially higher market share for Windows vs. Linux in enterprises.

What Linux fans can get excited about, and should be worrisome to Microsoft is where Linux deployments have been coming from.

Over the past 2 years, 39 percent of respondents claimed that their company’s Linux deployments have been migrations from Windows. The comparable number of migrations from Unix to Linux was 35 percent.

Microsoft has often made the claim, one which I’ve repeated, that the growth of Linux was coming at the expense of Unix much more so than from Windows. However, comparing the 3x lower growth rate of Windows versus Linux usage and the virtually equivalent percent of Linux usage growth coming from Windows and Unix migrations, it’s difficult to ignore the impact of Linux on the Windows franchise.

To make matters worse for Microsoft, 69 percent of respondents claimed that Linux would be used for mission critical workloads over the next 12 months.

Management perceptions can be hard to change
When asked about the drivers for adopting Linux, there was a virtual tie between lower total cost of ownership, features/technical superiority and security, with each receiving over 60 percent of respondent selections.

With those results as a backdrop, I found it interesting that 40 percent of respondents claimed that management perception of Linux was impeding further growth of Linux at the company.

It would be great to know what these perception issues are. This is especially true since functionality and security are often held up as areas of concern for open source products in general. And yet, respondents claimed that these were the number two and three reason for adopting Linux over alternatives.

When the Harvard Business Review writes, based on Gartner data, about open source software reaching a tipping point, it’s fair to conclude that the tipping point is well behind us. In the case of Linux, while the tipping point may be a distant memory, historical perceptions about Linux, and maybe open source in general, may yet remain barriers for years to come.

What about you? Is your management still holding on to old perceptions about Linux?

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