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It is well know that linux emerged first as an operating system for computer enthusiasts and then small enterprises and startups. Gradually it found its way to ISPs which until recently were BSD strongholds and now linux runs substantial part of Web hosting. That means that linux can be reasonably good providing commoditized services. It is now 20 years old OS and with age came decent level of stability.
But only recently (let's say after 2003) linux start winning big financial services and retail accounts, especially as a Web front-end server park OS of choice. So reading subsequent discussion it is important to understand that linux remains pretty much niche OS in enterprise space with total market share probably less then 10% and very limited presence outside Web server farms and infrastructure servers (DNS, SMTP mail, etc). Still linux server shipments are stagnant and recently a very alarming trend of losing "Web superiority" emerged, the trend that further complicates the picture. As the Street.com article Microsoft Still Cleaning Up With Windows stated in 2007:
Microsoft picked up 2 percentage points, bringing its market share to 67.1% of servers shipped during the second quarter, according to data from Gartner. Of 2.06 million servers shipped overall, nearly 1.4 million came preloaded with proprietary OS. That works out to an extra 77,650 Microsoft-based servers sold during the quarter, year over year.
Linux accounted for 22.8% of server shipments, down from 23.1% the year before. In spite of the lost ground in market share, strong sales of servers created a bigger pie for the slight growth of commercial Linux.
According to IDC, Windows worldwide server revenue grew 18.7% to $5 billion in the second quarter. (Operating systems account for only a portion of that revenue.) The Microsoft OS gained 4 points of market share by revenue. Windows servers accounted for 38.2% of all revenue. Microsoft plans to release its Server 2008 early next year.
That means that large enterprise IT is still uphill battle for linux: in enterprise space it needs to displace well entrenched competitors with higher market share including Windows, AIX, HP-UX and Solaris. The main winning card for linux: tremendous pace of improvement of Intel-based hardware now was neutralized by Sun with its emphasis on AMD platform. As I mentioned before this focus is unlikely to change and Solaris presence in large enterprise alone guarantee that part of linux server shipments now will go to it. We can argue how big this part will be but undeniably emergence of Solaris 10 as a viable competitor on Intel/AMD platform means that linux is no longer the only game in town. That's it itself is a very big, strategic change, the consequences of which will be clear only in five or more years.
From the enterprise standpoint one of the most important advantage of Solaris is scalability. It is probably the most scalable OS on the market with the amazing scalability from one to more then 100 CPUs. That's why high end Sun boxes are successfully competing with IBM mainframes (and I suspect that one of the main reasons of adoption of linux by IBM was desire to save its mainframe business).
For a free OS Solaris has quite a lot of goodies in it, obviously including implementation of zones, RBAC and great NFS support, but the most important thing is really top of the line, stable and uniquely instrumentable (via DTrace) kernel. And my point is that it is unwise to ignore the superiority of Solaris kernel over Linux kernel and expect that Linux kernel will match Solaris 10 kernel any time soon. Userspace and application space is completely another story and linux looks more competitive in his area.
We will discuss all those issues in more detail in subsequent sections of the paper. I briefly mentioned those issues in the introduction just because of their importance as probably not many readers will read all parts of this paper.
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Created Jan 2, 2005. Last modified: March 12, 2019