RealTime IT News

NT Eyed as Windows-to-Linux Migration Link

Thanks to explosive growth in the market for Linux servers, more IT managers are pondering what might be involved in a Windows to Linux migration.

In a bid to turn potential interest into action, Linux support shops such as IBM and Timesys are trying to nudge customers off the fence about whether to switch. In the process, they have their eye on Windows NT, which is being phased out as an older enterprise operating system, as a potential in for Linux.

For example, IBM has been touting its Windows-to-Linux roadmap. And Timesys has rolled out five white papers discussing the 2.6 kernel.

"The transition from Windows to Linux is sort of a techno-political event," explained Chris Walden, author of the IBM roadmap and an ebusiness architect in the company's developer relations group. "There are technical, business, and economic reasons wrapped up in there, and you're also changing traditions."

IBM and other Linux supporters point to data indicating increased adoption of Linux as a way to raise the question of migration. Though market analysts IDC said last fall that Windows will maintain its position as the dominant server operating systems through 2007 (with a 55.1 percent share in 2002, the most recent year for which figures were available), IDC reckons Linux server shipments accounted for 23.1 percent of worldwide sales in 2002.

Tech research firm Gartner reports that Linux machines were the highest growth sector of the server market in 2003. Last year, HP and IBM each saw a 60 percent rise in Linux system sales. HP's revenue in that market rose to $927 million, compared to $581 million in 2002. IBM's grew to $552 million, from $345 million year-over-year.

For its part, IBM sees opportunity for more Linux uptake in a particular server sector: Microsoft's Windows NT. Microsoft has given customers 12 months' notice that it will officially end support of the eight-year-old NT 4.0 on Dec. 31, 2004. "The users of Windows NT 4.0 realize they have to move somewhere by the end of this year," said Adam Jollans, Linux strategy manager at IBM. "Microsoft wants them to move onto Server 2003. But they also realize that now they've got a choice, and Linux may make sense in a number of cases."

Gartner server analyst George Weiss said this may be a group of Windows users most amenable to a Linux switch. "IBM is targeting the right market, older installations that are virtually obsolete," he said. However, he added that many of those sites might be likely to stick with Windows and upgrade to Server 2000. "For those that are Windows shops, and that are very production focused in terms of applications and databases, I don't think there's going to be much movement," he said.

Still, Weiss said, "IBM doesn't target anything that's less than a multimillion dollar opportunity." So Big Blue must believe it has a good shot at some wins. "Every win for Linux is a new opportunity for IBM to sell software and services," he added.