Enterprises that want to run their messaging applications on Linux instead of Microsoft Exchange face some significant migration and staffing challenges, in particular moving directory information
Those challenges, however, won't stop the market share of Linux-based messaging from doubling by 2008, according to a recent report from Palo Alto, Calif.-based research firm the Radicati Group Inc.
"One of the highest costs will be in human capital. A lot of companies have invested a lot in MSCEs [Microsoft Certified Engineers]," said market analyst Teney K. Takahashi. "Then there is the cost of the applications that rely on Exchange, and that could include antivirus, antispam and other back-end applications."
Software, hardware, administration and training costs aside, Linux remains a powerful alternative for enterprises looking for a platform to handle a specific application.
"Enterprises want an alternative to Exchange, in many cases," Takahashi said. "A lot of folks want an option and, in many cases, they're going to try a few Linux servers or at a remote office on a trial basis."
All of the same advantages that apply to Linux on the server -- costs, scalability, security, reliability -- all apply to messaging as well.
"With servers that are closer to the end-user experience [like messaging], you see a bigger advantage on Linux," Takahashi said. "It's inexpensive to deploy and it's very scalable, too. You can add Linux servers almost indefinitely."
Linux's server market share continues to grow year-over-year, and with little letup in that trend seen through 2008. Linux currently holds 7% of the server operating system market, and that number is expected to more than double to 15% by 2008, the Radicati report said.
Narrowing it down to the messaging market, Radicati says Linux owns 4% market share and should have 7% by 2008. Exchange, meanwhile, accounts for 31% today and will account for 33% by '08.
Already, there are numerous application offerings for Linux that could make the transition easier for enterprises. Open source Sendmail, for example, is the de facto standard mail transfer agent in the enterprise, with two products that handle e-mail routing, security and delivery, as well as message-filtering tools, directory services and e-mail storage capabilities.
Some of the largest software vendors also offer messaging applications, Radicati said. IBM's Lotus Domino server supports Windows, Linux and Unix, and its Workplace Client supports Linux. Oracle's Oracle Collaboration Suite competes here as well, and it supports Linux. Novell Inc., meanwhile, emerged as the No. 2 Linux distributor with its acquisition of SuSE Linux AG. Adding Ximian's Evolution e-mail product to SuSE Open Exchange Server or the Novell GroupWise collaboration suite makes Novell an instant player.
Radicati also identified some smaller messaging players that support Linux, including Scalix Corp., which rebranded Hewlett-Packard Co.'s OpenMail product, Gordano and Stalker Software, among others.
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