Whats Next for Linux

Linux is everywhere: It is on your Web server, your data center-and on Mars. And supporters say the open-source operating system will continue to proliferate.

NEW YORK—Linux is everywhere. its in your Web server. Its in your data center. Its in your desktop, your laptop and your handheld. It may soon be in your car and home appliances. Its being used by NASA to operate the Mars rover.

There may yet be enterprise IT executives still wondering when to jump in, but chances are, Linux is already being used somewhere in their organization. They need not look any further for a proof of concept than e-commerce company Amazon.com Inc., which, as an early adopter of Linux, began deploying it in 2000. Now, Linux runs its entire infrastructure.

"Linux is pervasive," said Ross Mauri, general manager of e-business on demand at IBM in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. "Everyone was always pointing to the future. But weve stopped pointing. The future is here."

But now that Linux has arrived, where do we go from here? Executives contacted by eWEEK editors at LinuxWorld here last month were not as sure. Linux will no doubt extend deeper into markets already running Linux, but will Linux ever reach the holy grail of challenging Microsoft Corp. on the desktop? Leading Linux luminaries such as Linus Torvalds and his right-hand man, Andrew Morton, believe 2004 will be the year of the Linux desktop.

"In the early 1980s, we saw the transition to the PC, but I believe Linux has now matured to the point where it will be taking over as the next form of computing," said Sam Greenblatt, senior vice president and chief architect of Computer Associates International Inc.s Linux Technology Group, in Islandia, N.Y. "We are into the Linux generation."

A number of new technologies underscore Greenblatts views about Linuxs rosy future, such as Looking Glass, a three-dimensional, multimodal desktop under development at Sun Microsystems Inc., in Santa Clara, Calif. The technology would help users move away from the Windows paradigm of today, Greenblatt said. "The Open Source Development Labs [Inc.] has also announced the Desktop Management Task Force, and we will all contribute to this. But Sun and Novell [Inc.], since its acquisition of open-source developer Ximian, will both be playing active roles on that task force," he said.

Next page: Evidence that Linux is challenging Windows.

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture,...