Linux and other open source applications are finding increasing acceptance in
the global marketplace in small and large companies alike. Statistics on the
growth of a few open source programs—like
Apache, a web server;
operating system; FreeBSD, an operating system; and
PostgreSQL, a database
server—show this to be true. In this article, we’ll consider why open source is
growing so fast, and what it means to you, the leader of a small company.
Apache: A New Challenger
Apache is a free open source web server that runs on most operating systems. The
following graph shows how it has been taking market share from Microsoft’s web
server (and others) since 1995.
Its success does not result from any lack of effort by Microsoft. Users have
found Apache to be easier to implement, more secure, and more reliable than its
competitors in the marketplace. It is also more reparable when there are
problems (after all, you have the source code) and, most of all, it is free.
Linux and FreeBSD Operating Systems
The largest and most successful software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers have all
chosen free open source operating systems such as Linux or FreeBSD as their
primary platforms for serving their high performance web sites.
Large, Successful SaaS Providers Choice of Operating Systems
||CRM - Sales
||Linux and FreeBSD
||CRM - Support
These companies absolutely cannot afford downtime. They have plenty of money;
they aren’t choosing Linux because it’s free.
Red Hat is a company
that sells services and support for the Linux operating system. They have annual
sales of $257 million and their five-year stock chart shows substantial growth.
(NasdaqNM:RHAT) Source: Yahoo.com
How does a company that gives away its products show this kind of revenue
growth? Simple: they sell support and other services to large enterprises who
are converting from Windows and Unix servers to Linux.
Apple Computer released OS X a few years ago, which is essentially code added to
the FreeBSD operating system. If you have a Mac, you have a free open source
operating system under the hood. Apple’s five-year stock chart is even more
impressive than Red Hat’s, although surely the iPod has something to do with
that. Companies like Apple Computer and Red Hat that are embracing open source
in one way or another are succeeding in the marketplace because of it.
(NasdaqNM:AAPL) Source: Yahoo.com
As for the future, Linux is looking strong.
Advisory services predict that Linux’s market share of the server market will
grow from 19 to 26 percent by 2010. And Linux will have the strongest relative
growth of any server operating system, including server operating systems from
Microsoft. Shipments will increase from 1.4 million units in 2005 to 2.4 million
in 2010. Revenue will grow to $11.5 billion by 2010.
A Free Database Server
PostgreSQL is an open
source database server that had 1.2 million downloads in 2005 alone and has
recently received commercial support from Pervasive Software (NasdaqNM:PVSW),
the original makers of Btrieve. PostgreSQL is a free object-relational database.
It offers an alternative to proprietary systems such as Oracle, Sybase, IBM's
DB2 and Microsoft SQL Server. Similar to other open-source projects such as
Apache and Linux, PostgreSQL is not controlled by any single company, but
instead relies on a global community of developers and companies to develop it.
It is very stable and bug-free.
Why the Open Source Movement is So Powerful
Software reflects a convergence of ideas; as such, ideas are very important in
the minds of software developers. The key to market power in the software
industry resides in the minds of developers. Fashion plays a role; some ideas
are fashionable, some are not. The idea or philosophy of open source is
powerful, frictionless and seductive. And like the ‘little black dress’ in the
clothing world, open source may just stay fashionable forever.
Open-source software (OSS) is software which permits the use and modification of
its source code by anyone. By definition, it has certain characteristics:
- Free redistribution. The software can be freely given away or
sold. This makes for frictionless idea transmission.
- Source code. The source code must either be included or freely
- Derived works. Redistribution of modifications must be allowed.
Apache is an open source web server. PostgreSQL is an open source
database server. Linux and FreeBSD are open source operating systems. There
are many other examples, from applications to infrastructure. The philosophy
associated with the term "open source" emphasizes collaborative development.
This philosophy tends to quickly gain developer mindshare. As you would
expect, Microsoft is visibly concerned about Linux's upsurge.
Microsoft had expressed concern about OSS, particularly as it threatened
short-term revenue on the server space. Moreover, the parallelism and free
exchange of information in OSS offers benefits that are not available with
Microsoft’s current licensing model because it would be harmful to long-term
How Small Businesses Can Use Open Source Today
Rolling out Linux in your company can provide advantages. First, it’s cheap,
fast and less prone to worms and viruses. The most common uses for Linux
today in small businesses are server-based. Linux machines make good file
servers, print servers, database servers and web servers. Open source
software has been more successful so far in infrastructure software than in
The OSS Advantage for File Servers
A file server differs from a desktop computer in that it is dedicated to
storing files in a centralized location while permitting network access. By
having a file server, users can save work and have access to files without
having to carry around a disk. Access privileges can be restricted by file
or directory, while a centralized location means one place to backup all
This is the most common type of server in small businesses. Linux works well
as a network file server. Linux includes software called Samba that allows
files on the server to be viewed and edited on any Windows PC or Macintosh
computer. Samba is faster and more secure than the native file sharing
services available on Microsoft Windows machines. You can connect to shares
on the Linux file server just as you would on your Windows file server.
Everything will look the same and there is no per-user license required.
Moreover, experience has shown that Linux will perform better as a file
server than Windows, even when Linux is on older, slower hardware.
What to Expect in the Future
Many people are more skilled in Windows than in Linux; this is particularly
true in small businesses. Therefore, investment in learning may be steeper
initially in OSS than in Windows. If you are considering rolling out OSS
technologies in your company, keep in mind the skill levels of the people in
the company regarding this kind of technology.
If you are currently using any of the on-demand SaaS applications like
Journyx or Salesforce.com, you are already using OSS technologies.
With the growth in the OSS marketplace led by Linux, more and more companies
will be using OSS as a portion of their IT infrastructure, particularly in
the area of servers. As more applications become Web-based, there will be
less and less reason for people to use Windows or Macintosh desktop
computers. Windows isn’t going away any time soon, but its days are
numbered. OSS is shrinking Windows' lifetime for servers and eventually it
may do so for desktop machines as well. And that should provide interesting
developments for all of us to watch.
About the Author:
Curt Finch is the CEO of Journyx, a provider of Web-based software located
in Austin, Texas that automates billing, payroll & project management by
tracking time, expenses and mileage. Curt can be reached at