Open Source

Driving forces behind Linux and open source growth

Jack Wallen has been watching Linux and open source for well over a decade. In all the ebbs and flows of acceptance, he has never seen such wide-spread usage of the open source platform as now.

It wasn't just five years ago, the percentage of Linux being used in business was around 1%. When you made claims of growth, not one person in IT would listen. But as everyone knows, the landscape of IT changes faster than most. One minute you're staring down the barrel of extinction and the next you're being hoisted atop the shoulders of business claiming you a hero.

I wouldn't exactly say that Linux and open source has been lifted on top of every shoulder -- but the last five years have certainly seen some major expansion. Let's take a look at some of the signposts that herald this growth.

Social networking

Let's face it -- eight million active users on a platform run by open source software cannot be denied as growth. That's Facebook. The front-end of Facebook is served up on a LAMP server using the Big-IP product suite. Although many would deny this as a direct sign of growth (the vast majority of users use the site with the Windows platform), but without open source and Linux, Facebook wouldn't exist.

Blogging is another element of "social networking" that highlights growth in Linux. Wordpress is one of the most wide-spread blogging software platforms available. It's open source and, more often than not, runs on LAMP servers.

At this moment, there are 58,453,045 Wordpress-driven blogs in the blogosphere. Another fact that cannot be denied.

Even Twitter is run using Ruby on Rails (another open source stack) on Linux servers).

Enterprises "get it"

Take a look at the list below to see who makes use of Linux and open source (specific Linux distributions where noted):

  • Amazon
  • Google -- Goobuntu
  • IBM -- SLED
  • Twitter
  • McDonalds
  • Ernie Ball
  • Reddit -- Debian
  • London Stock Exchange
  • Audi -- SLED
  • New York Stock Exchange
  • BMW -- SLED
  • Wikipedia -- Ubuntu
  • Union Bank
  • Peugeot -- SLED
  • Virgin America -- Red Hat
  • Dreamworks
  • Novell
  • Burlington -- Red Hat
  • Facebook -- Based on CentOS
  • Nav Canada -- Red Hat

Large enterprise business gets Linux and open source. They understand that reliability and security are key to keeping their businesses up and running. Now that is not to say Enterprise snubs it's nose at Windows -- it doesn't. In fact, the enterprise desktop is still dominated by Windows 7 and XP -- but up until recently, it was unheard of that any company would consider adopting Linux for the desktop. Now... there is no certainty in that statement. Anything is possible. And with Microsoft trying to force the hand of the desktop over to the multi-touch environment, the future of possibility for Linux on the enterprise desktop looks bright.

Game on!

Everyone should be aware by now that Valve has ported Steam to Linux. The beta of the software officially arrived November 7, 2012. This is BIG news. What this means is games will finally begin arriving on the Linux platform. Because of this move on Valve's part, NVIDIA doubled up on the work for Linux NVIDIA drivers. The recent release of the official NVIDIA drivers (GeForce R310) actually doubles the performance and drastically reduces game load times on Linux.

With Steam, Linux users will be able to get their game on and, as usage spreads, more and more games will come to the Linux version of Steam. I would predict, within two years, the whole of the Steam library will be playable on Steam for Linux.


The Samsung Galaxy S3 is one of the fastest selling smartphones in the world. It is estimated that Samsung sold 56-58 million smartphones in July-September 2012. These are all powered by open source software. Once again, these numbers tell a very powerful tale. At a recent Motorola press event, Google’s chairman, Eric Schmidt, said nearly 1.3 million Android devices were activated daily, and of those, 70,000 were tablets. So even the Android tablet market is growing significantly.

The future is looking good

There is no doubt that Linux and open source are plowing their way up the food chain of technology. What was once little more than a hacker's platform is now the platform of choice for businesses and even home users. It's only a matter of time before SMBs realize the power and benefit to be found in  open source on the desktop. Once that begins, the trickle down to home users will be fast and furious.

I expect the next couple of years will be crucial to an even wider acceptance of Linux. Thanks to distributions like Ubuntu, Linux has been made incredibly user-friendly for the desktop. But for now, it's impossible to deny Linux has, in fact, arrived and significant growth is no longer a dream of the trench coat mafia.


Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website


Many consumers are choosing devices that are based on Linux without even realizing it. Apps and ease of use are the critical factors that will impact Linux growth at the consumer level, and is precisely why desktop Linux has struggled for so long. Easy enough to hand your Mom an Android phone or tablet and they are good to go, not quite so much on a desktop.


Just a note, relevant to the Facebook infrastructure. In fact, many load balancers/ADCs are Linux based.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

back in 1996 through to 2001 I was doing some IT course at a tech college and one of the guest lecturers there was involved in work on the Linux kernel, amongst other things. At one presentation he showed us industry magazines and statistics from the manufacturing and appliance industry to show how special variants of Linux was in over two billion, yes billion, devices around the world and used to run things from manufacturing milling machines to toasters, fridges, dvd players and recorders, just about any household goods with a built in computing capability had Linux in it as it was smaller and cheaper. he even demonstrated how he'd hacked his imported TIVO to send emails to the things to pass messages to his family from his phone via his computer while on the way home. Now this all makes me wonder how the people making up the 1% of business use is Linux statistics come by that figure as we all know Microsoft Windows is NOT on or in 200 billion devices world wide.


When I first heard of Linux, it was because of a very insisting friend of mine that I met in a LAN party I was invited to. Right then, I just didn't care to involve in installing Linux as I felt I didn't have the time. Odly, over the years, his persistence made the idea of using Linux grow on me. To the point that I'm now an Arch user. Up to a few years, I alway wondered if my choice of running Linux was a wise choice. Of course I prefered my experience under Linux, than what I had even in Win7, so that reinforced my decision, but still... (Win7 is a good OS, I just prefer Linux. I doubt I'll realy give win8 a try) But now, I see that a big bunch of people are getting their needs filled by Linux. Industries notice Linux elsewhere then on the servers. Games makers are noticing a new platform, one which they can participate in the development (look at Valve). I don't know where this is going, but it's fun to watch.


It's the number of desktops / laptops / workstations running Linux, not total Linux installations. Some Linux advocates ignore the dominance of the OS on single-purpose systems, servers, and other applications outside the desktop market, because those proponents don't use those systems. They act like their pet OS won't have fulfilled its potential until it's the preferred OS for PCs.

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