You’re not just building an application or a company—you’re building the future you want to be a part of. The operating system you choose when building your solution depends on the challenges you’re tackling and will shape that world. Linux is a wildly popular OS with a huge footprint. But is it right for you?
Linux is one of the most prolific operating systems the world over due to its open-source versatility and flexibility. Developers and builders of all stripes appreciate the ability to make the system do whatever they want it to and communities spring up around every distribution (aka distro) and the myriad open source apps that populate the Linux ecosystem. A Linux based operating system can offer the power and ability to customize that you need to succeed. Let’s dig into this beloved OS.
The Cloud (and Enterprises) <3 Linux
Here’s a statistic to start with: in 2017, Linux was running 90 percent of the public cloud workload.
Let that sink in: Linux isn’t everywhere the cloud is, but it’s close enough. Every time someone uses Google, their search query goes through a machine running a Linux kernel. Other fun Linux stats include an 82% market share for smartphones (hello, Android?), 62% of the embedded analytics market, and a whopping 99% of the supercomputing world. Plus, nine of the top 10 public clouds run on Linux.
Linux is popular in all these settings and continuing to gain traction with technical teams and engineers. This is likely due to its adaptability and suitability for a wide array of use cases, devices, and target systems. AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform all use some form of Linux (40% of Microsoft Azure’s Virtual Machines run on Linux).
Not only are these big names, but they’re also big companies with big challenges, on the cloud and elsewhere. Linux is a natural fit for cloud computing: modular, performant, efficient, and easy to scale. As large companies, beyond the big players mentioned here, come up against more cloud computing challenges, like handling tons of data from remote sensors, communicating with IoT devices, and seeking solutions for edge computing, Linux only looks more and more appealing.
So.. Why Linux?
There are tons of reasons teams choose a Linux based operating system to tackle their organizations’ unique challenges. Whether they’re trying to build a solution that deals with data from cloud-native apps or a wide array of other unique data needs, Linux delivers low TCO, high flexibility and scalability, and security and reliability. It also has a unique army of developers working to future-proof the open source code that undergirds the Linux ecosystem and a large supply of ready-to-work Linux-trained professionals.
Linux delivers a super-low total cost of ownership because the software is basically free. Even an enterprise version purchased with corporate support will be cheaper overall than Windows or other proprietary software, which generally involve user-based licensing and a host of expensive add-ons, especially for security. The same is true for most of the tools and applications that might be used on a Linux server: there’s an incredibly robust community of developers building new pieces of software for a wide variety of purposes, most available free or by donation.
Flexibility and Scalability
While other operating systems can require frequent hardware upgrades to accommodate ever-increasing resource demands, Linux is slim, trim, flexible and scalable, and it performs admirably on just about any computer, regardless of processor or architecture. That flexibility carries over into being easily customized and reconfigured to include only the services needed for your specific goals and to run the way you want it: enable the features your team or customers require, bring memory requirements and performance levels right to where you need them, etc.. As we saw in the sections above, Linux also runs on just about anything: from supercomputers to phones to watches.
Linux’s flexibility also ties into its scalability. Whether you’re building an embedded analytics app, using a Linux based operating system on a pint-sized Raspberry Pi, powering a whole data center, or supporting a collection of globally-distributed computing clusters, you can customize and scale your distro to suit your needs. Whatever device you’re using Linux on, the basic functionality—command line tools, configuration, automation, and code-compatibility—stays the same. This is great for builders like DevOps Engineers, Enterprise IT, Shadow IT, support teams, and end-users alike.
Secure and Reliable
Linux’s high security can be traced back to its origins. Linux is based on Unix, and was designed from the start to be a multiuser operating system. It also gets attacked less frequently by viruses and malware, and vulnerabilities tend to be found and fixed more quickly by its legions of developers and users. Additionally, only admins/root users have administrative privileges, and fewer users and applications have permission to access the kernel or each other, keeping the system protected from both bad actors and the accidental actions of the less-technically-savvy. The root-user control also makes it easier to maintain Linux systems, as the OS and additional software can be centrally updated.
Reliability is another thing Linux based operating systems are known for. It’s not unheard of for Linux systems to have years of uptime (some Linux users have never even seen a crash). Running large numbers of processes at once is another place Linux excels. The overall lack of a need to regularly reboot helps make Linux upkeep simpler by pretty much eliminating the need to defragment servers using Linux.
Linux: Today and Tomorrow
Being open source isn’t just convenient because it saves organizations and consumers money, for many of the developers who maintain the various Linux distros or build open-source software for the OS, it’s a philosophical and personal decision as well. Being open source means something to many members of the Linux software community. This commitment to the ideals of open source software and the fact that the software itself is free (and thus, free to learn on), has led to the rise of a large number of skilled Linux practitioners around the world.
If you’re looking to use Linux to build your next analytics solution, you’ll likely find a number of people to help you with the skills and knowledge to jump into the project right away. The skills needed to manage and develop Linux are also quite common, so interested parties within your own organization can often pick up the knowledge to get involved quickly too. Either way, you’ll benefit from a huge developer base that’s constantly working to patch and improve the open source technology that is the Linux ecosystem.
There’s no such thing as the perfect operating system, but many in the tech world would probably say that Linux comes close. With the ability to run on almost any machine, configured how you want it, and with a super-low TCO (just to name a few of its awesome attributes), a Linux based operating system could be your go-to for the next time you have a challenge to tackle. This vital and popular OS will only continue to gain ground as cloud-native apps become more prevalent and companies look for new ways to build the future they want to see.