So today, I read that Gartner has finally jumped on the open source bandwagon. I honestly thought this was a hold over April Fools joke. Seriously. In my time in the open source community (as well as my time when I actually had a physical office at TechRepublic — the time when Gartner had a majority share of the stocks), I distinctly remember Gartners’ take on open source being a slight guffaw at best. It was child’s play, a tinkerer’s OS that would never make it out of basements, the poor-man’s server, and college labs.

Linux and open source continued to gain traction, and yet Gartner continued to shrug it off, saying it would eventually fall out of the spotlight. Well, it never did. And now Gartner has finally said that by 2012 90 percent of all enterprises will use open source. But of course it couldn’t do so without a backhand to that compliment by saying that Linux deployments show higher TCO because of the technical skills to operate it. So what they are saying is this: You will all be using open source by 2012, but it’s going to cost you more. Why? Because you don’t know how to use it.

Is that true? Do you not know how to deploy Linux and/or open source software?

Interesting. It makes me wonder if anyone at Gartner has actually bothered to install one of the modern Linux distributions. I’ll give you that three to five years ago a Linux machine wasn’t as simple to use as a Windows machine. But now, things are a bit different. With the advancement of the GUI tools in Linux-land, things have evolved to the point where any admin can sit down in front of a Linux machine and figure it out pretty quickly. If not, well, they might want to consider going back to CompSci class again.

But ultimately, I can’t figure out what Gartner has against Linux and open source. A part of me, the conspiritologist in me, wants to think that Gartners’ pockets are lined in Microsoft gold. I have no proof of that, but it’s the only explanation I can come up with.

Granted, I confess to living my computing life near Linux zealotry, so my opinion is a bit skewed. But don’t you think Gartner’s opinion is equally skewed?

Now I know that I should probably, as most media do, bow down to Gartners’ might, but that’s not my style. What I want to say is this: Linux is the flagship for open source and without it, there would be no open source. So if Gartner is predicting a 90-percent adoption rate then they should realize that Linux is included in that adoption. At the same time, Gartner should give both Linux and IT professionals a little more credit. First, Linux is not that hard to use. Second, IT pros are a bit smarter than the average bear.

But this just plays to one of my biggest beefs in this industry: people making proclamations and predictions about things that they don’t use. That would be like me saying Windows Vista is going to die off in two years because no one likes it. I’ve never even used Vista – so how could I make that prediction? But I do use Linux and have done so long enough to see the trends.

Linux and open source will continue to grow, and my prediction is this: By the year 2012 people will still be using Linux and Windows (whatever version is available) and OS X, and we will never truly be able to measure what percentages are using what. Market share is nothing more than a buzzword. I could easily claim that Linux has a majority of the market share by simply polling the right people.

Gartner is one of those white elephants that just keeps tromping along making one prediction after another. They are like the focus groups that the nineties dot-com bubble relied on so heavily. And look how those focus groups helped that particular bubble.

What I honestly see is that IT departments are going to use the tools that do the job. If a department is in a budget crunch, and they need a new Web-deploy they might very well reach for Linux. If no one in the department has used Linux, someone will have to step up to the plate and learn it. That’s how it works in the real world. You use what you have to use to get the job done. In some cases, it’s Linux and open source. In some cases it’s Windows.

But ultimately what really matters it that the job is done and done well.

So, if anyone at Gartner is reading this, you might want to realize that the vast majority of IT workers in this country work for small shops where their budgets are tiny and their staff are generally intelligent enough to know that reading a survey or prediction does them no good in the moment.

And in the end, the only real prediction I can make is this:

  • By the year 2012 most IT workers will be overworked and underpaid.
  • By the year 2012 most IT departments will be understaffed.
  • By the year 2012 most IT staffers will have had to learn something they didn’t know previously in order to get a job done.
  • By the year 2012 everything will have changed and all of the predictions will mean nothing.
  • By the year 2012 Linux will still be around.
  • And so will Windows.
  • And so will OS X.
  • And in many much forgotten corners of server rooms, so will OS/2.

So there you have it: my take on Gartners’ take.