Canonical's Survey Results Give Insight to Server Market Far Beyond Ubuntu

by Ostatic Staff - Feb. 06, 2009

Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, and the analysts at RedMonk presented the results of a recent survey conducted on Ubuntu's use in server deployments. Nearly 7,000 people (representing the same number of organizations) participated in the survey, which was promoted on Ubuntu's web site and several Linux server-specific forums.

Canonical's marketing head, Gerry Carr, says that the survey is "essential reading" for any organization using (or considering using) Ubuntu's Server Edition. After taking a closer look at the survey, I'd recommend it to anyone interested in current server technologies, or where the server market is headed -- even if Ubuntu Server isn't part of the equation.

The survey results aren't lengthy (the report is just over 20 pages), but it provides an interesting look at what tasks the participants use their Ubuntu Servers for -- and, perhaps even more intriguing -- how they plan on using servers in the future.

The survey asked about specific technologies and services, and their importance to respondents. The questions in this section centered on the most commonly used applications -- including proprietary products, and software that is not available for Ubuntu.

The statement that different sized businesses use different services and applications on their server deployments isn't surprising. Perhaps what's surprising about the data Canonical has gathered is how different and tightly clustered these choices are depending on business size. For instance, the survey posed the question: "If your organization deployed a global directory service, which one(s)?" While larger business were (understandably) more evenly distributed between services (with IBM Tivoli the most popular, Novell eDirectory the next), small and medium businesses tended to use particular services in overwhelming numbers (most medium-sized businesses used Novell eDirectory, and small businesses opted for OpenLDAP).

Canonical also asked survey participants about virtualization. The latest Ubuntu Server Edition releases (8.04 LTS and the more recent 8.10 version) have focused on integrating open virtualization tools and facilitating the use of third party virtualization applications, such as VMware. Canonical's interest in these responses (and those from the even more forward-looking queries on cloud computing) is obvious -- what will our users need from our distribution in the future? But the answers aren't Ubuntu-specific by a long shot.

The virtualization platform used most often on Ubuntu Server was (unsurprisingly) VMWare. Open source Xen was the next most oft-used virtualization software, with KVM, the technology officially supported and maintained in Ubuntu, close on its heels.

Virtualization is an area where Canonical can confidently predict expansion. Cloud computing is a bit more nebulous. While more respondents said they felt cloud environments were ready for mission-critical tasks, it wasn't an overwhelming majority. Most responded that they felt Ubuntu was up to the challenge of cloud computing, though only a small number planned on deploying workloads in a cloud environment in the future (an interesting side note: the same percentage of large and small businesses anticipate future cloud deployments).

The survey, though an informal look at the Ubuntu Server landscape specifically, is a nice little snapshot of the server market as it is about to spring into action.