Linux got a big jolt this week when PeopleSoft announced at its Leadership Summit in Las Vegas that it will be migrating all 170 of its enterprise applications over to the open-source OS by the fourth quarter. By any stretch, this is a weighty endorsement for an OS that most in corporate IT land would not have dreamed of officially sanctioning as recently as two years ago. Sure, some renegade IT outsourcers and systems integrators put Linux on a backroom Web server or two, impressed with its never-needs-a-reboot reliability. But the general zeitgeist held that Linux mastermind Linus Torvalds and his ilk were idealistic software utopians pushing a collaborative development model that simply wouldn't fly in the for-profit commercial world.
Boy, how times have changed. First we had the emergence -- albeit financially shaky -- of individual Linux OS distribution vendors such as market leader Red Hat, SuSE, BSD and others. Then came the flood of support from J2EE infrastructure giants like IBM, Sun and Oracle, which saw Linux as another vehicle -- beyond Windows and high-end Unix -- for their Java-based products. IBM, in particular, has championed Linux as a cornerstone of its platform strategy for products ranging from WebSphere to DB2 to its Intel-based hardware.
Now we have the ISVs stepping forward. PeopleSoft isn't the first apps player of its size to commit to Linux -- powerhouse SAP has ported some of its apps -- but it is certainly the largest to date to pledge optimization of its entire portfolio for the OS. To that end PeopleSoft has struck a deal with IBM, making Big Blue the technology partner fueling its applications port. IBM's troika of WebSphere applications server, DB2 and eServer xSeries hardware will serve as the development platform and reference design for the PeopleSoft Linux suite.
With Linux now owning 25 percent of the server OS market, PeopleSoft's move has smart business written all over it. New and incremental revenue streams, which Linux represents, are the name of the game for ISVs of all sizes.
PeopleSoft describes its motivation as twofold: First off, Linux has matured to the point of being "ready for prime time" technologically; second, customer demand is very much there.
David Sayed, PeopleSoft's technology product marketing manager, explained it to me this way: "Linux is moving from an OS that is used for edge applications like directory servers, e-mail and other IT infrastructure stuff to a platform that people use to deploy enterprise applications across their enterprise."
All the more attractive, Sayed says, is the fact that Linux offers "unparalleled" price performance on commodity hardware.
That can't be welcome news to Microsoft, whose executives have been quoted in the past comparing Linux to cancer. That rhetoric has softened of late, but whether the Redmond machine is ever going to commit to a Linux strategy remains in doubt.
Ironically, Microsoft's own move into the business applications market with its MSCRM product and Great Plains and Navision acquisitions may be working to promote Linux adoption elsewhere. With the help of IBM. software vendor ACCPAC, for example, ported its applications suite to Linux last summer to give itself another platform sales opportunity beyond Windows.
It remains to be seen whether many other defectors will follow, but with large and small ISVs taking a hard look at Linux, one has to wonder how long it will be until that 25 percent server OS market share figure creeps up.
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