If you engage in a discussion with the average IT professional about which operating system is the most popular, you will more than likely hear claims that Windows has more than a 75% market share. I argue that this is the furthest thing from the truth, and I will explain why below.
Linux operating systems are widely used in numerous software applications. From large scale social media platforms to gaming consoles to popular coding languages, it’s hard to avoid the use of Linux anywhere on the Internet. The integration of IoT, embedded systems and robotics in Linux has driven innovation across several industry verticals and is also fuelling increased market growth. Moreover, the availability of numerous open source codes and products will generate wider adoption across the world. The ongoing efforts taking place to replace conventional operating systems in the IT and telecom sectors with Linux-based systems has opened up massive growth potential for the overall market in the coming years. The increasing adoption of these systems in enterprise data centres and the explosion of data centre build-outs will have a huge impact on the growth of the market in the foreseeable future. But why is Linux so popular?
What makes Linux attractive is the free and open source software (FOSS) licensing model. One of the most attractive elements offered by the OS is its price – totally free. Users can download current versions of hundreds of distributions. Businesses can supplement the free price with a support service if needed. Either way, there is no new hardware required. Another Linux benefit is the availability to download and run thousands of free, fully functional applications. In many cases, the quality of the software is equal or superior to well-known Windows applications.
This is a debatable point, and where I think Linux triumphs is because of its community. As Linux’s popularity grew, so did the number of developers and users involved in evolving the codebase. This army of highly competent and dedicated individuals has spent and continues to spend countless hours discovering and quickly correcting bugs, while also improving the code. The massive community support is in my opinion what makes Linux more stable and reliable.
For the same reason underpinning its stability, Linux continues to be the most secure kernel currently running in production. When an exploit is discovered, it is immediately patched into the latest stable kernel and to all affected Long Term Supported (LTS) kernels. Taking cues from its UNIX predecessors, Linux was from the very beginning designed to be a multiuser operating system. This resulted in tighter permission and access controls for both users and applications. Consequently, attackers are pretty much disincentivized to write viruses or malware for the platform.
While Linux and the operating systems using the kernel are free, supporting those operating systems typically requires companies and end users to pay for support subscriptions. As such, they are guaranteed to get the latest software technologies, hardware support and security patches integrated into their environment and onto their physical or virtual machines. They can also take advantage of the availability of many talented developers across the globe who can support their deployments.
All that sounds nice, but who really uses Linux anyway?
- Android is Linux-based (there are currently more than 2.5 billion Android devices, representing 85% of the mobile market and 40% of all devices connected to the Internet)
- AWS, Azure, Google, Rackspace and others use Linux to deliver their cloud services
- Linux is running on most resource constrained devices, including IoT hardware and Raspberry Pi boards
- A large percentage of home Internet routers run Linux
- Telco networks are largely Linux-based (e.g. AT&T, Verizon, Nippon Telephone & Telegraph, China Mobile, Vodafone, Telefonica, etc.)
- Science-based organizations, particularly those running supercomputers, rely on Linux (e.g. NASA, CERN, NOAA, universities, etc.)
- The defence industry uses Linux to run submarines, ground control systems, radar, aircraft carriers, warships, etc.
- Countries like the US, China, North Korea, Germany, Estonia, Iceland, Spain, India, Brazil, etc. use Linux in multiple public sector applications, especially for education, law enforcement, military, and e-government
- National e-voting systems across the world predominantly use Linux
- Embedded control systems for power utilities, water companies, manufacturing, auto assembly, etc. all use Linux
- Most global stock exchanges run on Linux
- Most in-flight entertainment systems run on Linux
- Sabre, the ubiquitous airline reservation system, runs on Linux
- Connected car systems run on Linux
- The most innovative software such as OpenStack, Docker, Juju, Kubernetes, etc. were all designed initially to support Linux
- Linux supports 32-bit and 64-bit x86, ARM, MIPS, SPARC, POWER microprocessors – making it highly portable
- Linux runs on many types of obscure and outdated hardware
And the list can go on and on…
What are your thoughts on Linux?