1999-2011 Eleven Years of Success for GNU/Linux

I just reread the announcement of a partnership between IBM and RedHat in 1999 to promote GNU/Linux to the enterprise. Here’s a quote:

More than 10 million users currently run the Linux operating system. According to IDC Research, Linux was the fastest-growing server operating environment in 1998, capturing more than 17 percent of all server operating system shipments. A new survey in Linuxworld showed that 74 percent of those polled cite Red Hat as the most recognized Linux vendor.

What’s changed in that time is nothing and everything. Hardware and software have gone through several important changes but what has not changed is that annually GNU/Linux grew dramatically. We continue to hear of large roll-outs of GNU/Linux and the small ones, even neighbour helping neighbour continue.

It’s pretty easy to see that success on the web where Netcraft counts websites. GNU/Linux had about 3 million active servers then and 60% of active servers now. That’s 31% per annum growth. That leaves 7 million client machines or servers hidden from the web growing to about 140 million now.

The desktop is harder to see because IDC charges big bucks for that information but there has been no slowdown of migrations to GNU/Linux on the desktops although they may no longer be news-worthy or novel.

The same forces that have moved GNU/Linux ahead on the server have done so on the desktop. How can anyone claim that GNU/Linux has still a tiny share on the desktop? You don’t buy many servers at Walmart just as you don’t buy many GNU/Linux desktops but folks can still clone the software, install it for a friend, or roll out thousands on a weekend whether they are PCs or servers. The applications that most people use are available on GNU/Linux.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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10 Responses to 1999-2011 Eleven Years of Success for GNU/Linux

  1. That was big but all of M$’s money and skill still result in far more grief. I see endless vulnerabilities and malware infections. What’s with that? Are they too busy maximizing profit to do their jobs?

  2. An OS should not collect malware, slow down and require frequent reboots to function. To the extent that other OS requires these it is broken. If your pet applications were running on GNU/Linux your life would be better. Have you asked the developers to port them?

  3. oldman says:

    “All the money in the world cannot fix a broken and closed system like that other OS.”

    And yet my applications work quite well on top of it. How can that be if it is “broken”?

  4. oldman says:

    “That makes breakage very unlikely.”

    Like the wonderful testing regimen that permitted some clown of a tester to remove the security from OpenSSH? This gem cause untold headaches for upstream users and scuttled one of my evaluations of a product that happened to be based on Debian and put Ubuntu on very shaky ground in our shop. My employer Already was leary of Debian because of its non-commercial nature, this little “oops” just reinforced the perception of Debian as “hackers crap”

  5. Debian GNU/Linux has proper procedures for testing updates. If you use the stable flavour you get packages that are well tested in the unstable and testing flavours by many thousands of users. That makes breakage very unlikely. Even the upgrading process is well tested. The bug-tracking system is wide open so you can see what problems others are having. You are not on your own with Debian GNU/Linux and the system takes care of your apps as well. All the money in the world cannot fix a broken and closed system like that other OS. Phoney 7 doesn’t even have copy-and-paste. What’s with that? What were they doing with all their $billions? Certainly they were not investing it in their OS.

  6. “I don’t have horrors like that with GNU/Linux. Once you get it running, it keeps running until the hardware fails. Software failures with that other OS outnumber hardware failure rates by a large margin.”

    This is only true if you never install updates. Installing any update invites breakage, even if you only update from your distribution’s official repository. Software and hardware drivers may break randomly. And yet if you don’t update, you suffer from security holes.

    Sometimes this happens with Windows Update, but Microsoft has the resources to test their updates against huge numbers of possible configurations, so failures are significantly less likely. On Linux, you’re on your own. The distro may well push out bad updates because they’re never tested, and if they mess up your machine, then you reinstall. Unless you’re an expert, in which case you can probably fix it, but it will still use up hours of your time.

  7. That OpenOffice.org is available on both OS is not a motivator to switch but it makes switching less costly. I was talking to a guy yesterday who will be buying a new PC even though his old one is only three years old. He plans to spend $700 on Office. His computer works well, it’s just slowing down. That’s a reason to switch to GNU/Linux. He had heard of GNU/Linux and will check it out.

    Today, I received a phone call from my former employer. The secretary’s PC running that other OS refused to allow her to run her apps. The anti-malware app was blocking the other apps. They had a call into the helpdesk but they were not responding…

    I don’t have horrors like that with GNU/Linux. Once you get it running, it keeps running until the hardware fails. Software failures with that other OS outnumber hardware failure rates by a large margin.

    My wife is the last one in this house running that other OS. Today, she could not get streaming media from a website to work on that other OS. We tried two browsers and two media players. “Plugin needed” was all it told us and no plugin could be found. VLC on GNU/Linux did the job fine. I gave her a custom icon for the application and defined the command to display the stream. She now has two PCs and one is GNU/Linux. Her work used to require that other OS all the way back to the days of DOS but no longer. She just may switch. Lately she has been struggling with just finding the images she just saved along with the tens of thousands of others. GNU/Linux would have no difficulty with that. We have tons of apps for searching instead of scrolling.

  8. Comrade says:

    “The applications that most people use are available on GNU/Linux.”

    Right, unfortunately it’s just the other way around. All the really good stuff that Open Source has managed to produce (and that’s not an awfully long list), is readily available on Windows. And it more often than not runs better or even has features not present in the Linux version.

    There’s absolutely no need in 2011 to use Linux on the desktop. And for that you gotta be thankful.

  9. JairJy says:

    Sorry dude, Linux is great on the server side but on the desktop… is a mess. Still 1%, more than 300 distros, more than half of them doesn’t work together. Stupid wars like KDE vs GNOME, RPM vs DEP and more.

    When in the Windows Vista era, Linux grew little compared to OSX, people prefer to pay more to have a alternative to Windows.

    But more important is the lack of commercial software available for Linux. Still no Photoshop, or any tripe-A game. Yeah, Wine could solve this but is not the way, the most of ISV still don’t see any distribution as a market for their products, products that make companies and people more efficient.

  10. GREG BATMARX says:

    I think that the time of Linux Desktop has come.
    Not only has come but furthermore the Linux Desktop is the only viable Desktop.

    I have in my mind the KDE and what kind of desktop experience provides.
    KDE nowadays is so impressive! Different workspaces each with a different set of wallpapers and widgets.Different activities each with a different set of workspaces.Tabbing and tabbed applications.Unlimited customization!

    All these things are pure science fiction for the windows world.

    And then think about the quality of the contemporary opensource applications and how much they have been improved over the years.

    From Amarok and Libreoffice to blender, kdenlive and chromium.
    There is a wealth of qualitative opensource apps that satisfy all the needs.

    And then there is the question of games, traditionally the weakest part of linux ecosystem…

    We have now a very powerful linux game engine named unigine that is capable of making powerful games.
    If only google bought this engine and opensourced it and we would have awesome linux games!
    And wine alongside with winetricks transform a nvidia machine into a linux machine that can play the modern games.

    The next eleven years belong to Linux and we will see exciting progress. (wayland for example)

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