Wednesday, January 19, 2005

2005: The Year of Enterprise Linux

Now that it appears that Linux has survived the SCO onslaught, it is a stronger contender than ever before to be at the heart of the enterprise. Unix is clearly on the way out, despite the fight that Sun appears to be putting in for solaris. Windows will probably never be the key enterprise OS, primarily because Microsoft itself doesn't appear to be interested enough to make things work with other systems.

As SCO showed over the last several months, patent litigation is the biggest future danger facing Linux. It is good to have IBM on the side of Linux, because the company holds the highest number of software patents. With IBM willing to forgo AIX for Linux, it is likely to play hard if someone else tries to use their patent portfolio against Linux. Sun and Microsoft are the likeliest candidates as they stand to lose the most from the Linux onslaught. It is likely no coincidence that the former litigators have settled with each other. Imagine a combined legal team from Sun and Microsoft veterans. In fact, if that team gets loaned to SCO, Linux customers could face some tense moments.

But not much more than that ... IBM is likely to pull its weight by using its patent portfolio against Microsoft and Sun. As it showed with pulling back on J2EE when it came down hard against Sun, it has the stronger cards. Given that Sun is pretty much thrashing with business models and solaris is less likely to pull it out of the mess it is in, Microsoft stays the bittermost foe to Linux, as has been maintained for the longest time by Linux afficianados.

Unix loses in all this of course. Though IBM stands behind AIX, HP behind HP-UX, and Sun behind solaris, these appear to be the last stances for these companies. The respective OS isn't really as good a differentiator as it was a while ago, and the situation will only move in the favor of Linux in the long run. The primary platforms from these companies - x86/Opteron, Power5, Itanium all support Linux, and SPARC is on its way out, despite valiant attempts by Fujitsu to rejuvenate the line. But if they move to Itanium, that leaves sparc in the lurch. Customers with heterogenous data centers are likely to standardize on Linux variations like SuSE and Red Hat as most of the systems start to support the OS.

This is one macro march that cannot be stopped.

With IBM putting money with OSDL to help reduce threats from Microsoft patents by redeveloping portions of the kernel which could be infringing, 2005 is probably going to be the year when Linux takes the hold of the enterprise.


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