Big data, cloud boost Linux adoption

Good bye Unix, hello Linux as the 'third platform' of big data, cloud computing, mobility and social media keeps x86's fortunes in the enterprise buoyant

The rise of big data, cloud computing, mobility and social media — what IDC dubs the 'third platform' — represents a big opportunity for Linux and open source more broadly, analyst Sally Parker this morning told the SUSE Open Forum in Sydney.

IDC describes the four technologies as representing the 'third platform' for IT. The 'first platform' was based on mainframes and terminals and the 'second platform' is IDC's term for the era of PCs and classic client/server computing.

Parker, the research director for IDC’s Software and Services Research Groups, told the conference that the latest edition of the analyst firm's quarterly server shipment tracker confirmed the continuing decline of Unix servers.

The 3Q13 edition of the server tracker registered year-on-year revenue drops of 17.8 per cent and 22.5 per cent for mid-range and high-end servers, respectively. However, IDC found growth of 3.5 per cent (in revenue terms) for volume servers. The core domains of Unix servers are mid-range and high-end, Parker said.

"If you look at [the server market in] 2000 it was about a two-fifths, two-fifths, one-fifth split between x86, Unix servers and others. But today, 74 per cent of the market is x86," the analyst said.

"Unix is still a lucrative market but it's about 15 per cent and the market is in decline. And if we look at the change over the five year period 2008-2013, whilst the volume servers gained $6 billion in revenue the other two were down at total of $14 billion."

Many workloads that in the past may have been run on Unix servers are now being run on x86-based Linux servers, Parker said.

"When I first started looking at Unix to Linux transitions a few years ago, a lot of the initial workloads — when Linux was starting to mature and starting to get enterprise support from companies like SUSE in the mid-90s — a lot of the workloads were around IT infrastructure," Parker said.

"But today we've got quite a ... diverse range of workloads that are running on Linux . So we have the traditional environments of Unix — decision support, for example, and business processing — now also running on Linux environments, and Linux is running in stock exchanges. It's no longer a question of maturity around Linux and open source; it's just a given."

The emergence of the 'third platform' presents an opportunity for Linux "well beyond Unix transitions", the analyst said. It's also "an opportunity for the IT department to really step and show business value in areas that are relatively new, and change the perception of the IT department."

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