SAN DIEGO -- Every year for the past four years, Jim Zemlin, the executive director of the Linux Foundation, gets in front of thousands of Linux developers and users at the LinuxCon conference to detail the success and the State of Linux.
In an exclusive interview with ServerWatch prior to his talk this year, Zemlin detailed his views on where Linux is at in 2012 and where it might be going in the future.
Linux use on server technologies continues to rise, chipping away at both Windows and Unix shares. Though in Zemlin's view, Linux today is about much more than just the server.
"Open source and Linux have become fundamental to the way people create new technology," Zemlin said.
The two major shifts in computing today, mobility and cloud, both have Linux as essential components. Zemlin also took a polite jab at VMware, which is a member company of the Linux Foundation, and is just wrapping up its own VMworld conference this week.
"While the suits are up at VMworld talking about product roadmaps, the geeks that are building the next generation of technologies that will enable the cloud are all right here," Zemlin said. "It's Cloudstack, OpenStack, oVirt, Chef and all those technology projects that are at the leading edge foundation of IT and are rapidly becoming permanent components of the way software is built."
Zemlin emphasized that even big companies that most people might not think off as being open are now embracing it as a matter of survival.
"They need to embrace open and keep with the pace," Zemlin said. "History does not bode well for companies that go it on their own."
Canary in a Coal Mine
In Zemlin's view, Linux has now become the metaphorical "canary in a coal mine" thanks to its use in leading industries such as financial services. The needs of that industry in particular are robust, and Linux as well as projects like the OpenMAMA are helping to lead the way. OpenMAMA is an effort hosted at the Linux Foundation to provide an open implementation of a Middleware-Agnostic Messaging API (MAMA).
Zemlin also sees Linux surviving and succeeding as other operating systems begin to slow.
"If you look at operating systems, they move in waves," Zemlin said. "Look at Unix,that is 40 years old and it's on the decline, Windows is plateauing and Linux continues to grow."
Linux is growing not just because of its strength in servers but also because it's the only platform that has been able to leap from one sector to another fairly seamlessly.
"Using Linux and open source is the way to compete," Zemlin said. "It's a fundamental shift that is happening, just look at the cloud and see what it has made possible."