Where Is All the Linux Going?

by Doc Searls

When "Linux company" was still a category, there was no shortage of news. Nothing posed a bigger threat to Microsoft, and all the companies in Tier 1 on the stock page at LWN did their best to generate publicity.

Today Microsoft still considers Linux its number one threat, but without a suitably huge proponent, no news ensues.

Yet Linux adoption continues to grow. John Gantz, chief research officer for International Data Corp. , says IDC expects 2002 to be a "breakout year" for Linux--against projected modest growth in IT spending.

So the question becomes, where is all the Linux going?

Gantz points to embedded and high performance applications, along with space-saving "blade" server designs. But is that all? I didn't think so, but I didn't run across the evidence to back up my hunches until I got on the phone a couple days ago with Mary Anne De Young of 1mage ("One Image"), a document management and retrieval company. 1mage makes software that sells to, and resells through, large industrial companies. One of their largest, for example, is Reynolds & Reynolds, a 135-year company that supplies technology to car dealerships. If you're a car dealer who needs to manage a lot of paper files in a paperless way (and do lots of other stuff you need software for), your supplier is Reynolds & Reynolds. They're the big boys in that business.

After 1mage began shipping its software on Linux, De Young told me, sales went through the roof. Why? Because 1mage's customers are constantly looking for ways to cut costs, remove hassles and improve reliability. Linux filled the bill all three ways, and Reynolds & Reynolds is just one of those companies. Right now they're shipping thousands of new systems out to car dealers, all running on Linux.

De Young says, "We announced that we were running on Linux in 1999. I would say that ninety percent of all our installations since that date have been Linux. Everybody wants Linux." Why? Here are some of the virtues mentioned in my notes from our conversation: "flexibility", "lower cost of entry into markets", "tinkerers--technically smart people who love to get in and tinker with the technology--love Linux".

Linux-based "solutions", she says, sell increasingly well against systems that run on "sealed box" OSes from Microsoft. This also ties to another big issue with customers: "viruses". These are a huge and growing problem on Microsoft-based systems, and no problem at all on Linux.

One customer at the University of Georgia told De Young "your product has 95% of the features" he wanted, "at only 20% of the cost." And the difference was Linux. In fact, he said the University had saved enough on the sale that he was able to buy everyone in the department a flat screen monitor, plus other goodies.

The bottom line: Linux is going into a lot of vertical applications, and it's being adopted by a lot of big, old companies with customers who are not sexy enough to show up on the what's-hip radar but who move a huge part of the economy.

If you have any more stories like that, let us know.

Doc Searls is Senior Editor at Linux Journal.

email: doc@ssc.com

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