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As Red Hat Enterprise Linux celebrates its first decade of leadership in enterprise Linux software it is a good time to look at the numbers collected by industry-leading market research firms behind its success story. First, of course, is the growth of open source and Linux over the past twenty years. During the 1990s, Linux grew rapidly as a free, innovative operating system used in academic, HPC, research, network infrastructure, and hobbyist environments. There wasn’t any formal product and support ecosystem. But nevertheless it flourished – bringing the power and flexibility of Unix to the commodity x86 market. Red Hat Linux was one of many Linux distributions, and is generally regarded as the most successful.

In early 2002 we launched the first enterprise-focused version of Linux with a goal of providing a stable, supported platform for application developers, hardware suppliers, and customers. The results were impressive. By addressing the risk associated with using constantly changing open source code and providing support for the software, we enabled customers to deploy Linux in business-critical environments. The impact on Unix and other operating systems was dramatic. Ten years later industry research firm IDC published research results substantiating how the operating system industry developed and stating that IDC sees Linux and Microsoft Windows as the two primary established platforms, both now and in the future.

WWW Server Operating Environment Chart from IDC Server Tracker - March 2011

This picture of open source growth spans the software industry, including such areas as web browsers and servers (e.g. Firefox and Apache) and application servers (e.g. Tomcat and JBoss).

Diving a little deeper into the numbers, we can see the role Red Hat played in the development of the enterprise Linux industry. By offering stability, performance, and security, we have consistently provided the most popular and successful enterprise Linux environment throughout the last decade. It’s always worth bearing in mind that many Red Hat Enterprise Linux customers are running truly mission-critical systems – consider the 28 stock exchanges highlighted in last week’s blog. These customers require the best of the best, regardless of the vendor or development model.

The chart below shows IDC’s analysis of the top enterprise Linux vendors in 2008-2010. Red Hat's position is clear.

Linux Server Vendors Chart - IDC 2011-2015 Forecast
The same report forecasts an overall CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 18.6% during 2006-2014 for Linux server software (new license shipment/subscription and upgrade/maintenance revenue).

Corporate Contributions to Linux Kernel Chart - The Linux Foundation

We believe that our leadership today has little to do with first-mover advantage – which rarely lasts a decade – but has everything to do with our prominent roles in the development community. The chart above provides a simple snapshot of Linux kernel developers at the end of 2010 (later numbers are not yet available); and once again shows Red Hat in the lead. Of course, there is more to an enterprise Linux product than the kernel, but the kernel is a vital component. And, complementing our leadership in kernel development, we play a leading role in many other technology areas. Our commitment to being the leading developer of the enterprise Linux environment is demonstrated by growth of our engineering facilities around the world during the past decade. We're not surprised that enterprise customers value this connection, understanding that the developer of the software is likely to be the most competent supplier and supporter.

In the next decade we look forward to driving Red Hat Enterprise Linux deeper into exciting new areas, such as private, public, and hybrid cloud, unstructured data from social media, and big data and analytics, without forgetting to build on our roots in operating system and middleware.