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Linux turns 25: Containers, cloud and IoT present new opportunities

By Matthew Finnegan | Aug. 26, 2016
The open source OS still has room to grow

happy birthday linux

After a quarter of a century, there are plenty of opportunities for Linux to grow -- but there are still challenges ahead. Where next for the open source project?

"Linux has a substantial opportunity in new technology segments, such as IoT, containers and cloud, but also in the industry segments that sometimes take time to adapt and evolve," says Frank Fanzilli, director of The Linux Foundation and former Global CIO for Credit Suisse First Boston.

He adds that in the mid-term challenges could emerge around maintaining such an enormous scale of contribution, while also sustaining the performance and quality associated with Linux.

"That's a good problem to have and the Linux community needs to continually evolve in order to meet these demands," Fanzilli says.

Cloud and enterprise data centres

Linus Torvalds may still hold out hope that Linux will one day dominate in the desktop -- "I'm still working on it, it's been 25 years, I can do this for another 25," he said at an event this year -- but it is in the server OS market that Linux's biggest effect has been felt, powering the majority of web servers as well as the major search engine providers.

Many of the large cloud providers - including market leader Amazon Web Services - are built around Linux, and the OS has played an increasingly large role within more typical enterprise business for new applications such as big data.

Red Hat senior solutions architect Martin Percival expects this growth to continue.

"We are literally just at that point of tipping over to parity in the server market, where Linux is now being deployed more than something like Microsoft's server operating system," he says.

"It is not that they are going to go away overnight but we have reached that tipping point and that acceptance."

Quocirca analyst Clive Longbottom believes a fragmented ecosystem of distributions could see some Linux vendors struggling, unless they are able to offer greater differentiation.

"There are too many Linux server distros out there; for many distributors, the problem will be to gain sufficient critical mass to continue successfully in the market," he says.

"With Ubuntu and Red Hat the dominant players and SUSE and CentOS reasonably-sized runners up, we then come down to the likes of Debian, Oracle Linux, Mageia and ClearOS, amongst many others.

"As each offers little in differentiation from the rest - apart from any additional functionality built around the kernel and the ecosystem around the distro - it really comes down to how commercially supportable the distro is.

"The lower-end players will find this difficult to maintain if overall revenues do not pick up."


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