The state of Linux in the public cloud for enterprises


Linux® has become the de facto standard for highly available, reliable, and critical workloads in datacenters and cloud computing environments. It supports multiple use cases, target systems, and devices, depending on user needs and workloads. According to the Linux Foundation, nine of the top ten public clouds run on Linux. Every major public cloud provider—including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and Alibaba Cloud—offers multiple distributions of Linux in their marketplaces. In fact, nearly 30% of virtual machines (VMs) running on Microsoft Azure are Linux-based.

A 2017 study conducted by Management Insight Technologies and sponsored by Red Hat examined the preferences and characteristics in a Linux operating system (OS) distribution for public clouds. This survey included more than 500 cloud IT decision makers across North America and Europe, within organizations with 500 or more employees and across various industries.

According to this study, Linux has grown in importance in the public cloud among respondents, providing many of the same capabilities that have made it so popular in on-premise enterprise IT.

Study highlights

Organizations are turning to Linux to deploy key public cloud workloads.

  • Just over half of all respondents’ public cloud applications are running on Linux VMs (Figure 3).
  • Most respondents’ enterprises plan to deploy one to two public cloud platforms (Figure 4).
  • The most popular public cloud workloads last deployed on Linux by respondents were structured databases and web applications (Figure 5).

Respondents’ requirements for enterprise Linux in public clouds are the same as those for on-premise deployments.

  • Reliability, security, ease of deployment, and maintainability are the top rated capabilities for deploying a Linux operating system on public cloud infrastructure (Figure 6).
  • 78% of respondents prefer paid, commercially supported Linux for their critical production workloads (Figure 7).
  • 65% of respondents’ enterprise Linux deployments in public clouds are paid and commercially supported (Figure 8).

Red Hat® Enterprise Linux continues to be perceived as the Linux market leader, translating to preference, consideration and selection in public cloud deployments.

  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux is the market leader among respondents for current and new organization-wide application deployments, regardless of footprint (Figure 9).
  • The #1 commercial Linux distribution in the public cloud is Red Hat Enterprise Linux, according to respondents (Figure 10).
  • Red Hat was the most considered and selected Linux vendor among respondents (Figure 11).
  • The top three reasons why respondents chose Red Hat Enterprise Linux for their lastest public cloud deployments included (Figure 12):
    • Optimized for current workloads.
    • Certified and supported for use with enterprise applications.
    • Supports the broadest range of applications.

Study overview


image container Figure 1. Overview of study by Management Insight Technologies

Participant Profile 

This study surveyed IT professionals in various industries, across North America and Europe, and organizations of various sizes—from upper mid-market companies (500-1,999 employees) to large enterprise (5,000+ employees). This survey was blinded and did not target Red Hat customers. 

Figure 2 . Additional study participant information

image container

Study results

Public cloud server instance allocation

image container Figure 3. Percentage of public cloud server instance allocation

Number of public cloud platforms likely to deploy in future

image container Figure 4. Number of public cloud platforms that respondents are likely to deploy in the future

Workload supported with last Linux OS public cloud deployment

image container Figure 5. Workloads supported by respondents’ last Linux operating system deployment to a public cloud

Cloud deployment capabilities ranked by importance paid versus no-cost

image container Figure 6. Respondents’ ranking of public cloud deployment capabilities

Linux preference by workload type

image container Figure 7. Preference comparison of paid versus no-cost Linux operating systems based on workload type

Subscription versus free linux os instances in public clouds

image container Figure 8. Preference comparison of percentage of paid versus no-cost Linux operating systems in public cloud deployments

Current status of each linux os in organization

image container Figure 9. Current status of Linux in respondents’ organizations across deployment footprints

Subscription linux vendor allocation by workload on public cloud

image container Figure 10. Breakdown of respondents’ subscription Linux deployments by vendor

Vendor consideration and selection in last linux deployment

image container Figure 11. Vendors considered and selected by respondents in latest Linux deployment

Most important vendor-specific attributes for last linux deployment

image container Figure 12. Key attributes for respondents’ latest Red Hat Enterprise Linux deployment

Tags:Cloud, Linux