Linux at 25 Has Come a Long Way

By Michael Vizard

This week marks the 25th birthday of Linux. At the time of its birth, no one inside or outside the channel paid much attention.

A quarter of a century later, and it's impressive to acknowledge just how much Linux and the rest of the open-source community have transformed how IT technologies are developed, acquired and supported.

For many solution providers, that transformation has been nothing less than traumatic. Many commercial products have been usurped by open-source projects. No one in the channel 25 years ago would have thought that Linux would own half the x86 server market. Back then, when it came to servers, the channel clearly preferred deployments of commercial Windows server licenses. Many channel partners still do.

However, many IT organizations have instituted an "open-source-first" policy. Rather than pay for software, many IT organizations would simply prefer to throw labor at their software challenges. Often, that's good for the channel because those IT organizations frequently need external expertise to master the nuances of open-source software.

But something even more profound has now occurred. The open-source model is now driving innovation at a faster rate than commercial software. Advances in containers, microservices and cloud software routinely show up on Linux platforms first.

Even Microsoft has been forced to come to terms with open-source technologies by first deploying them on Azure, then partnering with Red Hat, and now starting to include technologies such as Docker containers on Windows server.

Tim Burke, vice president of Linux engineering at Red Hat, said this is only the beginning. As the number of internet of things (IoT) deployment rise, most of the advances in this sector will be achieved using open-source software, he contended.

A big reason for that, noted Burke, is that today most open-source contributions come from IT vendors that benefit from the existence of open-source software. The simple truth is that the less money that gets consumed by, for example, a server operating system, the more money there is available for application software. From the perspective of many software vendors, making contributions to open-source projects is simply good business.

Of course, not every open-source ambition gets fulfilled. Linux on the desktop, for example, is a non-factor. But Burke said solution providers and their customers should expect to see some significant advances in the months ahead in terms of making Linux more accessible at every level of the enterprise.

One advantage that commercial operating systems such as Windows Server typically have is that they are simpler to deploy and manage. In the months ahead, however, it would appear the Linux community is gearing up to finally put that issue to bed once and for all.

Mike Vizard has covered IT for more than 25 years, and has edited or contributed to a number of tech publications, including InfoWorld, CRN and eWEEK. He currently blogs daily for IT Business Edge and contributes to CIOinsight, Channel Insider and Baseline.

This article was originally published on 2016-08-26