Really free Linux takes hold

Use of community Linux distributions like Ubuntu, CentOS and Debian are on the rise in the enterprise

The end of the beginning for commercial open source?

Sweden? Germany? Sure, these examples are rather far afield, and anecdotal as well. Indeed, much of the enterprise success of community Linux is outside of North America, particularly in government and academia. No one is writing obits for Red Hat or Novell.

"Despite increased competition and market fragmentation, we expect Red Hat and Novell to continue to lead the enterprise Linux market," says Lyman. "But it is unclear whether they truly appreciate the impact of community Linux distributions on their overall growth opportunities.

"Based on their sometimes half-hearted commitment to their own respective community editions -- Fedora and OpenSuSE -- and the somewhat disappointing developer mind share that both command, it seems Red Hat and Novell may not fully recognize the trend that we see growing over time," he writes.

Lyman also says that some Linux vendors are finding traction in markets other than enterprise servers (on the desktop for Ubuntu and in netbooks for Xandros, for example), "and the more these operating systems are used in workstation, desktop, and notebook deployments, the more likely they are to make their way to the server -- particularly Ubuntu."

That may be a ways off. Later in the report, Lyman notes that Ubuntu has yet to find a hardware partner that will preinstall it on the server, a key step toward enterprise acceptance. Dell does, though, offer it on notebooks and desktops, and was planning to certify Ubuntu for servers sometime this year.

Making too much of this nascent trend would be a mistake. But to borrow (and mangle) a phrase of Churchill's, we're not seeing the beginning of the end for commercial Linux, but perhaps the end of the beginning.

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