A recent article in in TechTarget has speculated that only one commercial Linux vendor will prevail and be viable in the data center, arguing that Novell and others won't be able to compete. This kind of simplistic analysis makes for a good headline but, we believe, is bad research based on faulty logic and a selective use of the facts. Here's why.
In the data center, Red Hat and Novell are clearly the market leaders, controlling over 90% of paid Linux server shipments. And although Red Hat maintains a market share lead, the gap is narrowing very fast: Novell's share of the paid Linux market actually increased by 5 percent, while Red Hat's share decreased by 5 percent, according to the most recent published data from IDC.
The single vendor view isn't supported by the level of industry investment, either. Whether one looks at IBM's driving software appliances and mainframe Linux with Novell, HP's focus on SAP and mission-critical computing on SUSE Linux Enterprise, or SAP's delivery of joint solutions with Novell for large and medium enterprises, it's clear the market has no interest in stifling diversity or innovation.
The migration to virtualization and cloud is also creating new opportunities for Linux, while driving strong demand for complete solutions that address security and management issues inherent in these new environments. Among potential adopters of virtualization and cloud, almost 90% have significant concerns about security, performance and availability. Novell's approach to the intelligent workload management (IWM) market is designed to address these concerns. To suggest that because Novell is offering these integrated solutions for the IWM market somehow infers a lack of commitment to Linux is absurd. Linux is a key ingredient in Novell's vision for IWM. Take the software appliance market. IDC has estimated growth of over 118% in 2010 for software appliances, a building block for creating intelligent workloads. Linux is uniquely suited to this kind of deployment because of its modular nature, and independent software vendors (ISVs) like this approach because they can give their end customers a ready-to-use system that is much easier and faster to deploy, with virtually no configuration or ongoing management needed. This ability to “mass customize” software appliances creates a lot of opportunities for Linux, for ISVs and for an ecosystem of solution providers. At Novell we've invested in this approach and have seen more than 300,000 software appliances created using our online tool SUSE Studio. Major ISVs such as IBM, Ingres and SAP are shipping appliances based on SUSE Linux Enterprise. And SUSE Linux Enterprise now offers more certified applications – over 5,000 – than any other Linux distribution.
There is simply no hard evidence to support the view that a single commercial Linux vendor will dominate the data center, with all others “pushed aside.” This is good news for customers, for partners building solutions on Linux, and for Linux itself. Competition breeds invention, and Linux would be much the poorer if a monopoly emerged.