PHOENIX—Microsoft Windows will not suffer irreparable damage on the server side at the hands of the Linux operating system over the next five years, Gartner analyst George Weiss told attendees at the Gartner Open Source Summit here September 28.
In fact, in terms of worldwide server operating system revenue, Linux would come in below both Windows and Unix by 2011 in spite of its enormous growth, he told attendees in a session entitled "Enterprise Linux: Has it Arrived?"
While Linux would account for some $12 billion in worldwide server operating system revenue in five years time, significantly up from the $8.3 billion predicted for 2006, Unix worldwide server operating system revenue was expected to come in at $15.9 billion by 2011, with Windows revenue leading the pack at $22.5 billion, Weiss said.
But Weiss noted that new Unix implementations will be in decline by 2011, with Sun Microsystems OpenSolaris providing an effective alternative to Linux.
"But the effectiveness of this strategy will be limited as many users have already migrated away from Solaris on SPARC, and doing a reverse migration back to OpenSolaris is a tough sell for them," he said.
Security was also not much of a differentiator between Windows, Linux and Unix, Weiss said, noting that by 2011 it was unlikely that Red Hat would become the "Microsoft for Linux," despite the extraordinary growth rate it has been experiencing.
Weiss said Linux has been going through a maturation process, with 90 percent of all contributions to the Linux kernel coming from the Linux vendors and distributors, which have been extremely effective in bringing it to a comparable level of maturation as Unix, he said.
Going forward, virtualization would become a key competitive component of the marketplace, with the Xen hypervisor becoming a critical ingredient to establishing Linux in the data center.
Among Xens strengths are its price and the fact that it is backed by systems vendors and gives compact code for security. But weaknesses include the fact that it is unproven in the broad market, has a lack of management tools, ISV pricing/licensing is not yet virtualization friendly and VMwares ESX Server is an entrenched, mature product, he said.
Microsoft was also not taking these moves lying down and was developing its own hypervisor, known as Viridian. It was also unlikely to provide user support of Xen-based systems.
"Another potential danger for the Xen hypervisor is if VMware reacts by restructuring its pricing and speeding up the pace of enhancements," Weiss said.
On the Linux distribution front, while Red Hat holds a major share and dominance in the market, particularly in the United States, it faces increased competition from Novells SUSE Linux, which also benefits from its good relationship with IBM, he said.
Microsoft is also opening up its code through Shared Source and working on better interoperability of its products with open source products.
"So, Red Hat is getting, and will continue to get, more and more competition in this marketplace," Weiss said.
But the pressure is also on Microsoft, which can not continue to do business the way it has for much of its existence, and "will have to get smart, fast, and keep its eyes firmly on all parts of the market while providing interoperability improvements," he said.
There will also be a lot more open-source applications running on the Windows platform going forward such as Apache, Sendmail and JBoss, Weiss said.
Asked about the possibility of Oracle acquiring Red Hat or another Linux distribution, Weiss said that was possible but questioned why Oracle would do that if it could just develop its own Linux implementation based on Red Hat Linux. But that carried the risk of fragmenting the market, he added.
In conclusion, Weiss said that Unix is not dead but new implementations would decline. Xens adoption success will depend on the development of management and automation tools from the system vendors and third-party software firms, he said, and more focus will shift from islands of Linux to interoperability, management and open source.
Microsoft is also expected to be relatively slow to change its fundamental business and support strategies to cope with the open-source world, and Red Hats quest for ongoing dominance would face threats from its own partners as it pursues a wider ranging business model, Weiss said.
In addition, Novell would have another opportunity to achieve market success, but it would need to implement and execute changes in the next 12 months, he said.
"In the pervasive dual Linux/Unix and Windows shops, the decision to go one way or the other will often hinge on pragmatics such as the overall solution costs, management tools, skills and reusability," Weiss concluded.