Linux servers keep growing, Windows & Unix keep shrinking

Linux servers keep growing, Windows & Unix keep shrinking

Summary: 2011 saw, according to IDC, Linux servers grow while Windows and Unix servers numbers shrank. In 2012, Linux's server future looks brighter than ever.


Linux servers are soaring.

Linux servers are soaring.

In 2011, we saw, according to IDC's latest Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker, factory revenue in the worldwide server market grew for Linux while it shrank for Windows and Unix. What I find especially interesting about this is that IDC doesn't measure when you or your company install Linux on a bare-metal server or a re-purposed server, which is historically how Linux got into companies, but only servers with Linux already pre-installed.

That means more and more customers are asking IBM, HP and Dell, the big three server hardware vendors, for Linux on their hardware. Specifically, IDC found that "Linux server demand was positively impacted by high performance computing (HPC) and cloud infrastructure deployments, as hardware revenue improved 2.2% year over year in 4Q11 to $2.6 billion. Linux servers now represent 18.4% of all server revenue, up 1.7 points when compared with the fourth quarter of 2010.

Its competitors? "Windows server demand subsided slightly in 4Q11 as hardware revenue decreased 1.5% year over year. Quarterly revenue of $6.5 billion for Windows servers represented 45.8% of overall quarterly factory revenue, up 2.6 points over the prior year's quarter."

As has long been the case, Unix is the server operating system that really got knocked around. "Unix servers experienced a revenue decline of 10.7% year over year to $3.4 billion representing 24.2% of quarterly server revenue for the quarter. IBM grew Unix server revenue 2.5% year-over-year and gained 7.9 points of Unix server market share when compared with the fourth quarter of 2010."

What that translates into is "fourth-ranked Oracle experienced a year-over-year revenue decline of 11.5% in 4Q11 to a 5.2% share of market while Fujitsu, ranked number 5, experienced a 10.5% decrease in factory revenue holding 3.4% revenue share in 4Q10." While Oracle also has a Linux distribution for IDC's hardware server measurement purposes, Oracle and Fujitsu saw their income go down as their Solaris Unix-powered systems continue to decline.

As Jim Zemlin, chairman of The Linux Foundation observed in his blog, "IDC attributes some of that Linux success to its role in what the analyst firm calls "density-optimized" machines, which are really just white box servers, and are responsible for a lot of the growth in the server market. These machines have gained popularity in a space still squeezed on budget and that continues to be commoditized. But there are other factors at play for Linux's success over its rivals."

These are, Zemlin wrote, "Our latest survey of the world's largest enterprise Linux users found that Total Cost of Ownership, technical superiority and security were the top three drivers for Linux adoption. These points support Linux's maturity and recent success. Everyone is running their data centers with Linux. Stock exchanges, supercomputers, transportation systems and much more are using Linux for mission-critical workloads."

In addition, Linux's growth owes a lot to "the accelerated pace by which companies are migrating to the cloud. Long a buzzword, the cloud is getting real, right now. While there is still work to do for Linux and the cloud, there is no denying its dominant role in today's biggest cloud companies: Amazon and Google to name just two."

Amazon's EC2 cloud, for example, has recently been estimated to have not quite half-a-million servers. And, what powers all those servers of the most well-known public cloud? It's a Red Hat Linux variant with the Xen hypervisor running on top of it.

Zemlin also notes that "The mass migration to cloud computing has been quickened due, in part, to the rising level of data: both the amount of data enterprises are dealing with but the also how fast that data is growing. IDC this week predicted that the 'Big Data' business will be worth $16.9B in three years."

It's not just the Linux guys who see Big Data as being a Linux and open-source play. Benjamin S. Woo, IDC Storage Systems program vice president said in a statement that, "The significant growth rate in revenue is underscored by the large number of new open source projects that drive infrastructure investments."

Corporate Linux users already know this. The Linux Foundation's enterprise survey showed that 72 percent of the world's largest Linux users were already planning to add more Linux servers in the next 12 months to support the rising level of data in the enterprise, while only 36 percent said they would be adding more Windows servers to support big data.

All-in-all, things are looking good for Linux servers and their users in 2012. Perhaps the biggest problem Linux-smart companies will face is finding enough trained Linux professionals to man all their servers. More than eighty percent of companies that use Linux are making hiring Linux professionals a priority.

Related Stories:

Big Business, Big Linux

Is Ubuntu becoming a big name in enterprise Linux servers?

Oracle's Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel 2 arrives with Linux 3.0 kernel, btrfs

SUSE ships Enterprise Linux SP2, the first under new management

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.8 boosts KVM, Xen virtualization

Topics: Software, Hardware, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Servers, Windows

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Linux servers keep growing, Windows & Unix keep shrinking

    Kudos Linux Servers
    • SJVN & IDC

      When IDC published that Windows has a server share of 74% SJVN was dismissive of the report. What changed?
      • Just his way of spinning things, I guess.

        He'll say things like - [i]What I find especially interesting about this is that IDC doesn???t measure when you or your company install Linux on a bare-metal server or a re-purposed server[/i]

        Yet he never mentions that companies with Windows site licenses do the same. He's assuming that [b]every[/b] bare metal server that ships will be loaded with Linux, when many companies will just replace the hardware and move existing Windows server licenses over, or installed with Windows server via existing site licenses

        These aren't counted either by IDC, right?
        William Farrel
      • You assume, he doesn't

        Steven didn't assume anything, you did. He simply says he finds it interesting. The IDC figures show what they show.

        Linux owns HPC, Cloud and embedded. It continues to do well in enterprise servers (at the expense of windows) and big iron (expense of unix). It's a wonderful story.

        Only one exchange server to retire at our company and we're free. Predates me, stuck around for the last remaining blackberry users.

        Developers the first to jump the windows ship, it only took a couple of different machines to show what's possible and the dam had broken. Now Linux servers and dev desktops (rhel&netbeans) with generous sprinkling of Macs and iDevices.
        Richard Flude
      • I assume nothing

        he comes right out and say it -
        [i]What I find especially interesting about this is that IDC doesn't measure when you or your company install[b] Linux[/b] on a bare-metal server or a re-purposed server[/i]

        Not "Linux or Windows", just "Linux".

        No assumption needed, he says it straight out.
        William Farrel
      • Feeling left out Wilie?

        [i]Not "Linux or Windows", just "Linux"[/i]

        Sounds like it.
      • I see those that speak the truth on these boards

        are "downgraded" by those fearful of the truth becoming known.

        Mr. Vaughan-Nichols can say what he wishes, it does not change the truth no matter how many times he says it.

        Tim Cook
      • TV sockpuppets

        [i]I see those that speak the truth on these boards are "downgraded" by those fearful of the truth becoming known.[/i]

        Yes, that's why you downgraded me you hypocritical fake pointy eared shill.
      • Missed the point William...

        @William Farrel - It seems that you are perhaps missing the point. When SJVN said "What I find especially interesting about this is that IDC doesn't measure when you or your company install Linux on a bare-metal server or a re-purposed server" you are right that he didn't mention 'Linux or Windows' so I guess you could see it as 'spin' but I don't see it.

        The point that SJVN makes is that Windows is bought and counted - always! Whereas Linux isn't! Some severs that may have come with Win installed (and thus counted as Win Servers in the stats) but then have Linux installed (so Win gets counted +1 when in fact should be +1 Linux - stats incorrect by 2 in Win favour), same for DIY servers (Win +0, Linux +0 - stats in favour of Win by 1).

        By my understanding Win servers are always counted! Win gets counted when the Server or OS is bought (pre-installed hardware or DIY/re-purposed respectively). Whereas Linux is only counted if bought as pre-installed Linux hardware!

        The only time the stats would be skewed in Win favour would be if the server was bought with Linux pre-installed and then repurposed with Win OS (but would still only be +1 Linux as the Win OS would still be counted unless it was pirate).

        I fail to see where the spin is, seems pretty basic logic to me....
    • Kudos volunteer workers, not realizing just how much they are giving away

      and for how much they devalue themselves and their labor.
      • Garbage

        [i]and for how much they devalue themselves and their labor.[/i]

        It's more a matter of how [b]selfless[/b] they chose to be. A concept foreign to you.
      • Not given away

        No, most Linux kernel workers and those that work on other business related Libre Software are paid by their employers to do so. If you knew how Open Source really works, you would know why corporations do that.
    • Credit where due.

      This is Linux going where it performs best. Linux can be stripped down to a bare kernal and a few infrastructure apps and still be useful. Slap on a purpose written hypervisor program (like xen) and a nice and secure server is created.

      Now, it would be miserable as a home PC. No "friendly" browser, no useful photo or word processing apps... who uses Python to handle spreadsheets?

      That's where Windows shines. Windows tries to be the "White Box Appliance" OS, just as Mac OSX (a flavor of Unix at the core) does. Both do well as home PC OS and small business networking OS. Places where the "Do it Yourself" Linux OS has never caught on.

      In the "Linux is better/Windows is better" debate, people forget they are different tools and you use the tool that's fit for the job, not change the job to suit the tool.
      • Linux at Home

        Linux works fine as a home desktop. Why would I worry about a word processor or spreadsheet. I have Libre Office. I also have Abi Word and Gnumeric. They do Word Processing and Spreadsheet work just fine. I also have the option of Lyx for large documents that need a 'Professional Look'. Windows has nothing like that. (It is a TeX pre-processor, much like working in old Word Perfect always in 'reveal Code' mode, except for specific instances of 'Print Preview'.)

        I can also view most video formats.

        I can also do what Microsoft does, and run Linux as a shield for Windows.

        There are some minuses though.

        First, Games, if you are a WoW type, or Steam addict, then Linux doesn't have what you need. Those games are Windows only, at the moment. Though the move from Native Code to HTML5 will change that.

        Second, Windows works like most Computer Phobes expect. They hate Hate HATE it, but are afraid to try something else, and have to go through all the pain of learning something else all over again.

        Third, Netflicks doesn't have a Linux Player. It's also very hard to get to work in Wine.

        Those three reasons are why I have both on my home laptop. But, I find that I am quite happy to be in Linux 80% of the time. This is as a home computer user.
      • Bare Kernel

        "Linux can be stripped down to a bare kernal and a few infrastructure apps and still be useful."

        Ditto for Windows Server. It's called the Core option. Server 2008 supports it, and the upcoming Server 2013 (or whatever it ends up being called) will, too.
      • well said

        its the same with Linux and supercomputers, strip out most of the OS, and let the supercomputer run actual applications, its only when Linux has to deal with real people where is falls down. Leave that up to MS and Apple.

        But Linux doing simple tasks often, perfect.
  • Meh...

    Another "Meh" article... why so many links in your article...Its seems that you are not confident in about what you are writing and in fear that readers may ridicule you...
    • What's wrong with backing up what one says?

      College students are expected to do that all the time.
      John L. Ries
      • Absolutely agreed!

        Of course, this isn't college - it's another discussion forum... :)
  • Linux servers keep growing, Windows & Unix keep shrinking

    SJVN only takes the report at face value, luckily I know how to read it a little deeper than that. The linux market only grew in HPC the market which is very limited. Since only research universities use them its very limited in scope and means growth will stagnate. Its also taking the place of UNIX servers so you can't call that growth. Microsoft Windows didn't grow because it doesn't need to. In fact the decline of Microsoft Windows servers means you don't need as many to be productive and get the job done. The report clearly shows that it takes more linux servers to do the same job as a Microsoft Windows server.

    When you read between the lines and look at what the report really says you will see that linux growth was forced due to its inability to handle tasks as well as its competitors. This is not the kind of growth and publicity you should be bragging about. Its only a matter of time before people realize linux was the wrong choice and they migrate away from it.
    Loverock Davidson-