How Can Linux Market Share Be Accurately Measured?

by Caitlyn Martin

eWeek ran an article yesterday titled Linux Losing Market Share to Windows Server. The article quoted IDC sales figures. There is a real problem counting this way. Quoting from the article:
IDC analyst Al Gillen pointed out that the number of servers shipped does not perfectly equal the number of operating systems in the market. This is particularly the case with Linux where a substantial portion of the overall market opportunity comes from deployments aboard recycled servers, PCs and workstations deployed as servers, and Linux deployed as a guest operating system.

"This does not contradict any trending taking place on server hardware," Gillen said.

He added: "But we do need to remember that the Linux software ecosystem does not track exactly the same as does x86 hardware shipments."
I should note that eWeek often functions as a cheerleading section for Microsoft. Take, for example, the links to other articles with such catchy titles as:
  • Windows Server Woos Linux Customers

  • Is open source dying?

  • Windows Server 2008 features address the Linux challenge.
It is not surprising that Mr. Gillen's statement and that the article as a whole tries to minimize the fact that sales figures are not an accurate way to measure Linux market penetration. What is surprising is that the article mentioned this at all.


2007-10-26 19:52:34
Where I work at now the servers show up empty. However, the main part of the org purchases Enterprise agreements from everyone so I have various flavours of Windows, Suse, and Novell to choose from.
Roy Schestowitz
2007-10-26 20:26:21
Answer: spyware.

Surveys count sales, not distribution levels. Market share != installed base.

FWIW, The Register reports that Mr. Gillen is having his lunch with Microsoft. But let's not go into attacking the messenger (IDC), which is heavily funded by Microsoft for its studies (lots of prior proof).

Steven Rosenberg
2007-10-26 22:51:28
When you're comparing the price of a Red Hat subscription with whatever Windows Server costs, in both cases you're talking about real money.

Not being an expert, I wonder: If you are an organization that is deploying servers, especially many servers, why do you need a lot of expensive outside support? Can't you just use CentOS and have your in-house sysadmins figure out how everything works? Or is the Red Hat support both that good and that necessary?

At any rate, it makes sense for Microsoft to grab as much server market share as it can. Apple is also in that space now. But how can you compete with free Linux and BSD?

How ever it goes, this is a market that Microsoft can't dominate (add it to music players, online advertising, PDAs, mobile phones). If they could only stop with the legal threats and just make better stuff ...

Robert Pogson
2007-10-27 05:28:45
"But let's not go into attacking the messenger (IDC), which is heavily funded by Microsoft for its studies (lots of prior proof).
Roy Schestowitz | October 26, 2007 08:26 PM"

IDC also seems to do its own stuff which it sells for a high per-copy price:

da legsma
2007-10-27 06:40:13
Perhaps one day we'll have a neutral and unbiased report, until then be careful which statistics you put your faith in, many organisations like 'idc' have particular vested interests in promoting WindoZes.

I see these 'idc's' of this world acting as hired 'poisonious pens' for the corp's, similarly as in 'demonic' world of poli-Tricks, all media from radio to tv, peddle in the 'black' art of 'dis-information' and rub shoulders with the 'great satan' = da Gov't.

After all, we're just 'consumers' who take whatever we are given [by the da corp's] we have no choice - in Os'es on the purchases, Dell and others are
exception to this. Look at all the stick they are getting from M$.

Youi ought to demand what you want on your boxes from manufacturer(s), thats 'who's gettin' paid to install these 'white elephants' on new boxes, the dealers, get another 'bung' from the manufacturers - at the expense of the end-users
- remember if you attempt to change anything then the response is, 'get your' own support, hope you have Unix/Linux open source experts - on tap..!
this hardly, an encouragement for end-users - in fact they persuade you not to change the installed Os's, through warrant and 'back to factory' terms and legal BS.

Wake up 'USA' consumers, insist that all polls and reporters, reflect the data and not the proprietors, vested interests.

any for free is worth - the trial and tribulation- ie; 'rath of M $/£'.

A non voter, world citizen, planning the down fall of bill and steve....
Catch them at Bohemian groove, annual shin-dig, with giant owls, and world mis-leaders tearing into under-cooked 'dead' animal meat.

Caitlyn Martin
2007-10-27 07:43:23
@Roy Schestowitz: Pardon me if I think that spyware for Linux is the last thing we need. I do agree, however, that IDC always seems to weigh heavily in favor of Microsoft.

@Steven Rosenberg: Rad Hat subscriptions cost a fraction of what similar service levels cost from Microsoft. I should point out, though, that there are lots of independent consulting organizations that will support CentOS on a fee for services basis which often is less expensive still. The advantage of Red Hat support for large enterprise customers is that if they discover a bug that impacts their specific emvironment or application in a serious way they are likely to get a patch directly from Red Hat engineers.

It's always a cost vs. benefits analysis whether it's better to do everything in house (no paid support), buy third party support, or buy Red Hat (or Novell/SuSe or Canonical/Ubuntu) support. The right answer depends on what each business is doing with the OS and what their needs are.

Good comments all around.

Allen Dulles
2007-10-27 11:35:41

I stopped reading Eweek a long time ago, after becoming sick of their Microsoft-whore articles over and over. Peter Galli is not a journalist in any sense of the word, he's a corporate-whore hack.

Eweek is owned by one of the mega-global corporations that feed Americans fake wars, fake economics, and fake politics. Just turn on CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and watch the manufactured news and events.

You can't tell me eighteen Islamic hijackers brought-down the WTC buildings. Just hit rewind on any angle and watch the perfect controlled-demolition of the WTC! The buildings fell perfectly!

Sorry, that's a reality-theory. Only conspiracy-theories are allowed on TV. Just like Peter Galli's "experts" believe Linux is losing market share to Windows Server.

Caitlyn Martin
2007-10-28 15:31:30
@Allen Dulles: Please save your wacky conspiracy theories about 9/11 for some more appropriate forum. I don't believe that's "reality" at all.
Joe Klemmer
2007-11-01 20:25:30
It truly is impossible to measure the Linux market simply because of the way open source and free software work. While one can count things like Red Hat Linux Subscriptions, it's nearly impossible to figure the number of RHEL clones, such as the excellent CentOS.

A good methodology for estimating the number of Linux users is that used on the Linux Counter site.

It's as good as any other.

2007-11-02 04:26:21
@Caitlyn Martin
You now have reasons to back to test small distros after troubles...
GoblinX Mini 2.5 is released.
Caitlyn Martin
2007-11-02 06:52:34
@Joe Klemmer: I can't think of a more useless and pointless exercise than the Linux Counter. Some 136,000 people have registered that they use Linux with that site out of tens of millions of users. How on earth can you claim that's "good methodology"? I also can't ever imagine corporate users bothering to register their servers with such a site.
2007-11-03 21:07:03
Here is the problem with linux gaining any real ground on other server operating systems--Businesses, large and small, have commoditized the support components for most support activities and due to the "simplicity" of MS products, those will be primarily used over linux. It has absolutely no bearing on which product is best, most secure, etc. When you look at the total cost of ownership, linux is perceived as more expensive as you need support components with more than point/click skills. For those of you based in the USA, visit Bangalore, MySore, Hyderabad and Jaipur. This is where your jobs are going at a fraction of a cost for what you currently need to support your life style.

Linux is a great OS on the server and desktop, but will never own the market share no matter how you count the numbers. For the desktop component every one off distribution may satisfy a small group of the linux community but does not help reaching a critical mass for a credible use in corporate enterprises--large, medium or small.

I know it won't happen, but the linux community needs to come together as a force instead of as a diluted community with numerous agendas in the form of specialized distros.

Caitlyn Martin
2007-11-05 10:00:14
@Marco: I can't talk about India because I haven't been there. For the Unites States and parts of Europe, though, you are pretty much 100% wrong in all you wrote. Windows is NOT perceived a lower cost of ownership than Linux. There is plenty of qualified Linux help, including plenty of young people straight out of college who can be hired inexpensively. Windows support purchased from Microsoft is quite expensive and most larger companies in the U.S. do buy it if they run Windows. Indeed, the eWeek article reports a decrease in the growth of Linux, not a decrease in Linux deployments.

Regarding outsourcing to India: it is true many low level support positions and some development positions were sent your way. Most high level R&D positions that were outsourced went to Ireland and Israel instead, both of which have lower cost of doing business that the U.S. but don't have the cultural or language differences that moving to India implies. In addition there has been a backlash against companies that have moved support to India at the cost of decreased service levels and customer satisfactions. Some U.S. companies, notably Dell in the IT field, have pulled support positions back from India. I think the trend of major offshoring of IT by U.S. businesses has slowed dramatically and may even reverse.