Research and consulting firm Meta Group Inc. is predicting that Microsoft Corp. will begin moving some of its current proprietary application enablers, such as the components of its software-as-a-service .Net strategy, to the Linux environment in late 2004.
In this weeks Client Advisory, which gives Metas current analysis and five-year forecast for Linux and its impact on the IT landscape, the firm said its research indicated that Linux currently commanded between 15 percent and 20 percent of new server operating system shipments, but that by 2006 or 2007, Linux on Intel, or Lintel, would be on 45 percent of new servers.
Meta said it expects Microsofts move to the Linux environment to include major Microsoft back-office products, such as the SQL Server database software, Internet Information Server, and Exchange e-mail and calendar software.
“We also believe Microsoft will re-price and/or separate the Windows server operating system into kernel and add-on components, so it can be favorably compared against free Linux. As a result of Linuxs growing market share, and the support of IBM, Oracle, HP, Dell, et al., we believe systems management, networking, application development, and applications in general will increasingly be available on Linux platforms during the next 12 to 18 months,” the advisory says.
But Peter Houston, senior director of Windows Server Strategies at Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., rejected these assertions out of hand. In an interview with eWEEK on Tuesday, he said the software maker had absolutely no intention of porting its software to the Linux environment.
“I want to be really clear about this: we continue to believe we are delivering greater business value and lower long-term cost for customers by focusing on the Windows platform. We have no plans to deliver our products on Linux,” he said.
While Microsoft does see Linux as a threat, Houston said, the company feels there is just too much hype in the market today around Linuxs growth potential. “One of the classic challenges has always been projecting early market growth rates into the future, and many, many mistakes have been made in this regard in the past,” he said.
: Meta Predicts Microsoft Move to Linux in 2004″>
Microsoft also believes that numbers from other research groups, such as the International Data Corp. (IDC)—which point to flat growth in the Linux area going forward, falling Unix market share and rising Windows market share—are more accurate. “We tend to look at those numbers. I am concerned that some of these projections are being very optimistic based on a very small part of the market today,” Houston said.
But the Meta researchers said they expect to see leading-edge users and even some “fast followers” moving to Linux in 2003, with the management and administration of Linux becoming mainstream by late 2003. Scalability to match that of proprietary Unix operating systems the likes of AIX, HP/UX and Suns Solaris will, however, take a couple more years, said the researchers.
“But the bottom line is that widespread Linux adoption during the next five years will catalyze major changes in the IT industry landscape…Until 2004, we believe Linux will be a larger threat to Unix (particularly Solaris) than to Windows… Although Linux is now only a small enterprise data center player with 3 percent penetration, strong growth through 2007 will propel it to an 11 percent presence.
“Our analysis indicates that, by 2012, driven by Intel platform economics, Linux will grow to a 26 percent presence, with Windows moving to 51 percent and Unix contracting to 20 percent,” the advisory said.
While Linux is currently a manageable, but still maturing platform with most of the necessary tools and capabilities present, easier installs and better user interfaces are needed and it still lacks consistency across all Linux distributions.
“Management is not a barrier to Linux adoption, but it is important to account for the training and tools needed to ensure consistent support with all open systems platforms…Linux appears to be a low-priced option for development and testing, but best practices demand that the test platform matched the deployment platform,” the research group said.
As both the Sun Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) and .Net platforms mature, they will become de facto “operating environments” by 2006, predicted the researchers. Linux adoption in application development should be driven by its acceptance as a deployment platform, and “to best position themselves to exploit the cost savings Linux will eventually provide, organizations should focus on solutions that enable easy code portability,” the researchers said.
The Meta report follows the release last week of a Microsoft-sponsored white paper from market researcher International Data Corp., which found that Windows 2000 offered a lower five-year total cost of ownership in certain Linux server environments.
The report compared the TCO of Microsofts Windows 2000 and Linux server environments across five enterprise computing workload situations at 104 companies and found that Windows offers a lower TCO in four of the five selected workloads.
Mark de Visser, a vice president at Red Hat Inc. in Raleigh, N.C., told eWEEK that the study was largely valid and did not surprise Red Hat, which was basing its strategies on similar feedback.
Red Hat recently introduced a new certification, the Red Hat Certified Technician, which will put a large number of qualified people in the market going forward, but not at the same high level as the Red Hat Certified Engineer.
Red Hat has also made significant investments in the management of Linux, with some 750, 000 systems currently being administered through its Red Hat Network. It has also recently acquired systems management software firm NOCpulse, which shows the direction in which the company is moving and which has also helped lower the cost of ownership, De Visser said.
“But this is good stuff as we have shown that Unix to Linux migrations involve cost savings of as much as 80 percent, so there is still good incentive for Unix users to move to an Intel platform, on either Windows or Linux.
“The cost of a transition from Unix to Windows is far higher than for Unix to Linux. Our focus has always been on driving migrations from Unix, not Windows, so the study actually validates what we are doing and our focus,” he said at that time.