Microsoft remains the undisputed king of the operating system marketplace, with 78.6 percent of the market in 2010, distantly followed by IBM, HP, and Oracle. But the big story isn't in who is number one, or even two, three or four. The most interesting story in the OS world is Enterprise Linux, ranking at number five according to the Gartner
survey. Linux represents the fastest growing subsegment of the OS market, with Red Hat leading the commercial Linux marketplace.
We will not engage in the popular sport of Microsoft-bashing in this space, and Microsoft operating systems certainly meet the needs of many consumer and business users. However, for enterprise users who wish to deploy an OS solution that is both more affordable, more flexible, and more robust for demanding applications, Red Hat Linux does offer a distinct advantage. The economic argument is a strong one, particularly in an environment in which corporations are paying close attention to operating expenses and out-of-control IT costs. On this front, in-house support costs will not be significant, as commercial versions of Linux are today just as user-friendly and graphical as any other commercial OS. You won't have to be an engineer to handle routine, day-to-day OS functions. Purchase costs are also more advantageous, since Red Hat is available by subscription as opposed to a license fee. As a result, there are no upgrade fees or user access fees, which add up quickly for even a small company.
Whilst the financial argument is no doubt important, for the IT people, it's more about flexibility and robustness. It's about gaining enough flexibility to do what you need to do, when you need to do it. To achieve that goal, more companies (including giant names such as Facebook and Amazon) are moving towards adopting Enterprise Linux rather than other OS platforms.
Red Hat argues that there is a "perfect storm" that provides strong incentives to use open source; these arguments rightly point out that first, macroeconomic factors are affecting industry and the bottom line, and second, pressures on IT to provide innovative services and competitive advantages are at an all-time high. To do so, can a company's IT organisation depend completely on a third party vendor, which has its own agenda that may not mesh with that of the corporate user? It's true that the best software vendors do listen to their customers, provide feedback mechanisms and beta programs, but all that aside, business operations are still not a boilerplate proposition and software is not a "one size fits all" proposition. While commercial software vendors attempt to provide a broad level of functionality that suits the majority of end users, without the open source model to allow for that extra level of individual customisation, the traditional model still falls short.
The advantage of combining of open source with commercial development and support is not lost on the business community. Open source software, especially when it is supported by highly organised third party companies and industry groups, is both highly reliable, and has the flexibility built in that the enterprise so desperately needs. A CIO.com
survey shows that 53 percent of IT and business managers are already using open source, and this emergence has created a major opportunity; not just for integrators and custom shops that use it to create custom solutions, but for end user corporations themselves who can more precisely create applications to meet very specific needs while keeping operating costs down.
It's time for companies to take charge of their destiny and harness what Red Hat calls the "perfect storm." The perceived safety of proprietary systems is an illusion, and in fact the commercial open source model offered by Red Hat and other leading open source companies is in many cases more advantageous on many fronts, including cost, security, flexibility and ongoing support.