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Linux Ready For Business?

For Linux in the enterprise, it's a simple case of diminishing excuses and growing respect from IT. The old litany of questions went something like this: "How can we trust an amorphous collective entity?" "When are the big software companies going to jump on board?" "When will more companies offer better support?" "When will it interoperate with other platforms?"

These concerns are falling by the wayside, as evidenced by the booming growth in sales of servers based on Linux. In the third quarter, IDC found that revenues from these servers jumped 49.8 percent, to $743 million. "Linux servers have demonstrated six consecutive quarters of year-on-year revenue growth, proving that they are not a flash-in-the-pan technology and that they are meeting real-world computing requirements," IDC analyst Jean Bozman told TechWeb.

If the raw numbers don't convince you of Linux momentum, check out the moves of old-line software stalwart Novell. The company bought out Linux desktop-software maker Ximian in August, and recently snapped up German open-source company SuSE"while pushing its network services to Linux. SuSE officials were thrilled with the global team-up, while rival SCO quickly looked to snuff the deal through the court of public opinion (if not in a legal court).

But the trend for Linux development is for bigger and stronger operating systems built for the enterprise. SuSE, known for its business focus in Europe, announced a souped-up Service Pack 3 for its Linux Enterprise Server 8, which will speed database access by 25 percent, while tripling the number of physical hard drives that the software can manage. And the expected upgrade to version 2.6 of the Linux kernel will support up to 64 Gb of memory and multiprocessing systems with up to 64 CPUs.

That's the power that enterprise managers crave. The question is whether the improvements"and the backing of heavies such as IBM, HP, Sun, and Novell"will stop the Microsoft freight train from pulling into the server station. Not to mention SCO's legal entanglements.