Analysts explored the expansion of Linux into the enterprise in a panel discussion Wednesday as part of Ziff Davis Medias Enterprise Solutions virtual tradeshow.
While they agreed Linux can now be considered mainstream, its still rarely used to run critical applications.
"Increasingly, Linux is being considered as a viable choice," said Dan Kusnetzky, vice president with analyst firm IDC of Framingham, Mass.
"Its predominant use is still file and Web servers. Very few are using it to support CRM [customer relationship management], ERP [enterprise resource planning] and the like; rather for specific functions."
Paul Kirby, a research director with AMR Research in Boston, has found that 39 percent of all companies AMR surveyed are using Linux in some capacity.
While he called Linux the "clear successor to Unix," just 25 percent of those consider Linux to be in support of mission-critical applications.
"I see Linux as part of the server story for the foreseeable future," said Joe Wilcox, a senior analyst with JupiterResearch in Boston.
"Well continue to see adoption for Web serving and non-critical applications, and it will move very slowly into mission-critical places."
Its also making slight headway onto the desktop.
"People simply arent widely deploying Linux to the desktop," Jupiters Wilcox said during the panel discussion.
"Hardware, software and application support isnt yet there for it."
Though 33 percent of companies AMR surveyed dont have plans to explore Linux, the analysts believe it has plenty of room to grow, both on the server and desktop within the enterprise.
Panelists said the corporate need for standardization and interoperability, dissatisfaction with Microsoft licensing schemes, and the greater prevalence of enterprise-class products and support from Linux vendors all contribute to Linuxs expansion.
And according to Wilcox, Jupiter has found that many of the largest enterprises currently run Unix and very old versions of Windows, which opens up a huge possibility for replacement by Linux.
That bodes well for the future of Linux.
"Its really come from nowhere," said IDCs Kusnetsky. "Now it is being considered when organizations must decide what to do next."
"Linux is the future. Its prospects are good," said AMRs Kirby.
The panel discussion will be archived at www.enterprise.eseminarslive.com, and the Enterprise Solutions virtual tradeshow will continue Friday at 11 a.m. EST, 8 a.m. PST, with panel discussions, keynotes and sponsor exhibits.