Industries where Linux makes sense

A number of vertical markets are finding substantial cost benefits by adopting Linux. They include those that are driven by improving low margins (such as retail or utilities), those that need a lot of computational power (such as oil exploration and movie animation) or those that hope to find competitive advantage in Linux. A history of aggressive technology innovation (such as financial services) also helps.

Some Wall Street brokerage houses have even built and deployed their own Linux distributions, according to Al Gillen, system software research director at IDC. "Any industry where you have a strong scientific or technical element" is a likely candidate for Linux innovation, he explains.

Industries that rely heavily on large-scale computation as a core part of their business are naturals for early Linux adoption. "Anybody that has to do a lot of work with very focused computing tasks is a good candidate to be an early Linux adopter," adds Chad Robinson, senior analyst at Robert Frances Group. In oil exploration, for example, where "you've got thousand node Linux clusters doing your work, it's an easy sell," Robinson says. Retail, which initially held back on Linux, has discovered that it's a highly reliable, low-cost solution for POS (point-of-sale) terminals, as well as the datacenter.

Telecommunication firms are increasingly using Linux in their "access layer" -- the layer between the end-user and the network -- and will eventually deploy it in their transaction layer, said Jack O'Brien, group marketing manager at Sun Microsystems. Even the government and health care sectors are starting to get aggressive with Linux, driven by its cost advantages.

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, for example, now brings up all its new departmental databases on Linux. The databases, which serve from five to 50 users, hold everything from employee directories to research projects to clinical databases. "The fact that we have clinical applications in production on Linux is about as serious at it gets around here," says Ray Duncan, M.D., Cedars-Sinai Medical Center's technology director.

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