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IDC puts Linux use at 27 per cent

Finger in the air method needs recalibrating

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IDC has pegged Linux server shipments at 27 per cent - more than three times the figure that the Gartner Group issued a month ago.

That doesn't, of course, mean that Linux has had a sudden surge in popularity in the last month. It's just that analysts have their own ways of counting what really constitutes a 'shipment'.

And the problem is particularly acute with Linux and BSD, with its all-welcome distribution methods, allied to a tolerance of copying. In many cases, even the major distros can't give the true figure. There are sites that may be using hundreds of servers based on a free download from the distro's FTP. Others might have duplicated dozens off of one CD. Robin Miller went into these issues in depth here last week.

IDC senior analyst Dan Kusnetzky has promised a detailed explanation of how IDC arrives at its figures on a Slashdot Q&A, which should shed more light on the research. You pays your money and takes your choice, but what made us particularly dubious about the Gartner stats was that they pegged Linux usage in supercomputer sites at zero right now.

So Lawrence Livermore Labs, Ames, CERN and many other research institutes are clearly phantom installations.

What's really interesting is where Linux is growing quickly. Rapid adoption in some areas demonstrates (or doesn't) that it is or isn't as flexible as its advocates suggest. What gets this Vulture to stir from its nest is when a technology becomes disruptive, and creates new markets no one had really thought existed before. Linux has this potential in technical computing, where it's already a proven number cruncher (despite Gartner's figures), in embedded commodity servers for file and print and a number of other areas which have little to do with business computing. ®

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