Once relegated to small businesses and departments, Linux servers are increasingly being called upon to process enterprise-class workloads, driving applications and databases.
This is one of the main thrusts behind the volcanic growth in Linux server shipments, which grew from 15 percent in 2001 to 40 percent in 2004, according to research firm IDC.
Moreover, gone are the days when customers shelled out for Linux servers with single processors; the majority shipped today are dual-processor machines capable of powering larger workloads.
Dual-processor systems account for 74 percent of total Linux server shipment volume in the market today, ballooning at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 89.8 percent from 1998 to 2003.
The open-source operating system is also appearing in more form factors, such as in blade servers, which are small one to two-processor systems that can be pulled in and out of a chassis and use fewer cables than their rack-mounted counterparts.
For example, IDC said Linux represents about half of the worldwide server blade market, in terms of shipments, compared to 20 percent of all rack-optimized servers and 11 percent of all standalone servers.
With the high-tech industry emerging from a spending slump the last few years, lower cost remains the primary reason for the explosion of popularity for Linux. But the software has also been buoyed by constant marketing and hype from server vendors, such as HP, IBM, and Dell.
Linux use is also growing, in part because version 2.6 of the kernel is more sophisticated than previous versions, tailored more than ever for the enterprise, as it is supporting scalable servers, middleware and databases.
Unix and Windows-based machines still perform reasonably well, according to IDC, but those entrenched systems no longer enjoy the same volcanic growth as Linux. IDC believes Linux growth will continue as businesses find more variety in deploying the operating system in their data centers.
"Customers will be able to deploy Linux workloads on scale-out clusters of small Linux servers, on Linux servers with larger form factors, or in partitions of high-end enterprise scalable servers," said Jean S. Bozman, vice president of Enterprise Computing at IDC.
Going forward, Linux server customer revenue is expected to reach $9.1 billion in 2008, driven by a CAGR of 22.8 percent, compared to the broad market CAGR of 3.8 percent for the worldwide server market.
IDC also said that Linux server shipments will be 25.7 percent of worldwide server shipments in 2008, up from 15.6 percent of worldwide server shipments in 2003.
This article was originally published on internetnews.com.