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Server Wars: Attack of the penguin

Are Linux and Windows the greatest threats to the Unixverse? To read the sales numbers, it may appear so. But if you read between the numbers, you realize that they just reflect an evolving computerscape.

In the grand scheme of software sales, IDC reported that in 2000, Windows held about 92% of worldwide paid shipments on the desktop and about 42% of server paid shipments.

That same year, Linux made up about 3.8% of desktop shipments and about 27%of server shipments.

IDC also reported that overall shipments for Windows and Linux would grow, while the shipments for others would stagnate.

But numbers for shipments and revenues don't tell what's really happening, at least on the server side. IDC analyst Dan Kusnetzky said Unix and Novell Netware are consolidating. For the vendors, it means that market share numbers are down. But for the customers, it means one machine can do more work and be managed as one entity.

In 1996, Novell led in server shipments, but the following year Windows took over. By 1999, Microsoft led in server shipments, followed by Linux, Unix and Netware.

It may appear that Novell is in retreat and that Netware and Unix are suffering at the hands of Linux and Windows. "It may be true if you were only looking at shipments, but look at workload support and revenue," Kusnetzky said. "Unix is moving upstream and handling bigger tasks, and Netware is consolidating, taking on communications services, directory and security services."

"And it looks like they are examining ways to move into storage," he said.

On the desktop there are some companies that are trying to make Linux an important player, but whether they will succeed is another question. At Montana State University in Bozeman, many users are switching their desktops to Linux, and the library is considering converting all of its stations from Windows to Linux. They are currently testing the software.

But Montana State's Martin Bourque, the Unix Systems Administrator, concedes that Windows remains a friendlier OS for neophytes. "I doubt the scale will tip completely to Linux anytime soon, but Microsoft is doing a great job helping Linux get a stronger foothold," he said. "We get more conversion requests for Linux every day."

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