Linux Report: The Year in Review

Linux's stellar year shines with 14 certified distributions from eight companies.

By 2007, we said one year ago, "No one will be fired for recommending Linux." Shortening our own timeline by four years, we suggest that an IT buyer might already be fired today for failing to consider Linux. Thats a small step but one of Neil Armstrong caliber.

At the end of 2001, Suns Linux director, Herb Hinstorff, was deprecating Linux as an enterprise platform, saying, "Users who buy our systems are free to put Linux on it, but were not seeing demand." Before 2002 was out, Sun was shipping its own Linux distribution, and CEO Scott McNealy was saying that Sun software would soon be available in open-source and enterprise-supported versions—a promise fulfilled with LinuxWorld announcements including Linux versions of Sun ONE Application Server and Directory Server.

IBM was already well into Linux territory last year and was not only selling Linux-based systems to corporations but was also offering innovative Linux On Demand services where computing-as-a-utility fit the bill. The company announced last month that a beta version of DB2 is running with SuSE Linux on AMDs 64-bit Opteron processor. For the year, IBM calculated Linux sales of $1 billion, inducing HPs Carly Fiorina to make a more extravagant claim of $2 billion in Linux revenue at HP.

Linuxs success is not writ in the stars, though. Failure is possible but has been sidestepped so far. Last June, we urged the Linux community to avoid fracture and stay focused on mutually beneficial standards such as the Linux Standard Base ( At this writing, there is reason for optimism, as14 Linux distributions from eight companies are certified under that standard. Last October, we urged Linux developers to push Linux scalability to multiprocessor machines. Scheduler and I/O subsystem changes coming in the 2.6 kernel will help here. IBM has already posted competitive SPECweb99 results on a 16-CPU iSeries system using the 2.4 kernel and is tuning Linux on 32-way pSeries systems in its labs.

And in a very small but telling step at LinuxWorld, Microsoft won an award for its Services for Unix 3.0, showing it accepts heterogeneous architectures that include Linux.

It has been quite a year.