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CIO study finds Linux ready for prime time

Survey says nearly 50% of businesses will be using Linux for critical roles in five years

Nearly half of all companies will be running mission-critical business applications on Linux in five years' time. That's according to survey of IT directors, vice presidents and CIOs carried out by Saugatuck Research, which questioned 133 businesses worldwide.

The Westport, Conn.-based firm predicts a steep rise: Only 18% of businesses will be using Linux in business-critical roles by the end of 2007.

"Linux operating systems -- and open-source-based software in general -- have reached critical marketplace mass," according to the study's authors, Saugatuck analysts Bruce Guptill and Bill McNee.

They predicted that the number of companies in "early or full deployment" of mission-critical applications on Linux would grow by 40% from 2007 to 2009 and would then accelerate to grow by 80% from 2009 to 2011.

Vendors, service providers and IT executives alike all need to take notice of the trend and reposition themselves to meet it, the researchers claimed.

"Recent Linux deals and announcements by Oracle and Microsoft have only reinforced the 'open source is enterprise-grade' message that IBM, Unisys and others have been preaching for years," Guptill and McNee said.

"In short, open source, especially Linux, is being legitimized by the major enterprise vendors, and user executives are more than happy to believe them," they said. "Microsoft's thawing toward Linux is now easier to understand when faced with such data -- even as Windows continues to grow as the other main server platform of choice."

Software as a service and application hosting suppliers will also get a boost from Linux, since it cuts software and maintenance costs and brings greater standardization, the researchers said.

However, they added that "most large vendors remain tied to legacy cash-cow operating systems" and need to reposition themselves on Linux fast.

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