Linux a BIG hit in India
Leslie D'Monte | April 08, 2006
It has been over a year since UTI Bank set up its call center that
handles over 7,000 calls per day. The bank was looking for a robust
platform that could guarantee it "high availability of services and
uninterrupted call traffic". It had options but finally decided on Linux
for its core business applications.
"Today, we are really happy with Linux that has delivered 99.99 per cent
uptime so far," says Pritesh Thaker, AVP, IT, UTI Bank. The bank, in
fact, is now planning to base its credit card-based system on Linux too.
UTI is not the lone player to swear by Linux. Eveready, a leading
manufacturer of dry cell batteries and flashlights in India, has built a
mission-critical resource system to automate all functionalities of its
daily business using the Oracle e-business suite running on a Linux
platform. Central Bank of India has implemented Linux in nearly 3000
The Penguin (official mascot of Linux), it appears, has finally marched
into enterprises like IDBI Bank, Canara Bank, New India Assurance, LIC,
BSNL, IRCTC, ABN Amro, Airtel and even the governments of Maharashtra
and West Bengal. The list, of course, is not exhaustive.
In most cases, though, the implementation of Linux in Indian enterprises
is by Red Hat (primarily since Red Hat Linux has been popularised by the
media and offers support for Linux which, being open source, can be
downloaded for free and has no upfront licensing fee).
Otherwise, one can choose from the hundreds of other Linux distributions
- Mandriva, Debian, Suse, PCLinuxOS, Knoppix and Ubuntu to name a few -
for desktops and enterprises.
"All verticals are ready for Linux adoption today. However the banking,
financial and insurance services (BFSI) and government markets have been
pioneers of sorts in adopting Linux. The retail segment is also gaining
ground quickly, along with verticals ranging from telecommunications to
media and entertainment.
"In India, we are increasingly seeing corporates running ERPs and
mission-critical applications on the Red Hat Enterprise Linux platform.
Large databases and blade servers are being powered by Linux to run
online share trading and lottery applications," says Javed Tapia, CEO,
The Indiabulls group is a case in point. Indiabulls runs its Internet
trading platform - Oracle 9i - on Linux. This system, which handles
40-45 per cent of Indiabulls' revenue transactions - nearly 10,000
customers are online at any point of time and transactions are in the
range of Rs 1000 crore (Rs 10 billion) - runs on Linux. The online share
trading infrastructure at Indiabulls generates close to 150000 database
queries per minute.
"Linux has become prettly stable. We never considered Windows because of
the perception that it has a lot of vulnerabilities. Hence, we adopted
the Linux route and are satisfied with the results," says Tejinderpal
Singh Miglani, CTO, Indiabulls.
IDBI's Sanjay Sharma, Head IT, corroborates this view. IDBI has been
using an Oracle HR management and financial accounting system, which
runs on Linux. From Sharma's perspective, this is a "mission-critical"
application. "We did evaluate options like Unix and Windows too.
However, we did not want to be tied up to resource-hungry applications
and any particular vendor. Besides, you hardly have a problem of viruses
with Linux," he says.
Linux, indeed, is doing reasonably good business. IBM's business built
around Linux, for instance, was worth $16 billion last year and is
projected to be worth more than $50 billion, says the company's global
head of public sector Linux sales, Mary Ann Fisher, who recently spoke
at LinuxWorld, Australia.
She added: "Governments worldwide are spending more than $3 billion a
year on Linux hardware, software and services, and this is growing at 35
per cent a year. But it's the US military that is spending the most."
Now, mission-critical applications, among other things, need servers.
And for the first time, the server market in India is expected to cross
the 100,000-unit mark in 2006. Servers are powerful networked machines
for tasks such as handling e-mail, financial transactions, airline
reservations and file storage.
Based on the price, vendors classify servers as small (anywhere from Rs
40000 up to Rs 500,000), medium (from Rs 500,000 to Rs 1 crore) and
large (over Rs 1 crore). They are identified as Intel (or X86
processor-based), Unix (or non-X86 processor-based) and Blade servers.
Linux and Solaris are flavours of Unix. Windows and Intel form the
loosely-termed "Wintel" brand.
Back in 2000, India was primarily a Unix market in the enterprise. With
the entry of certified and supported Linux solutions, Unix users in
India found Linux an attractive proposition to migrate to. IDC has
consistently reported Linux as the fastest growing OS in the world and
predicts that the overall market revenue for Linux will exceed $35
billion by 2008.
Globally, Windows narrowly overtook Unix in 2005 to claim the top spot
in server sales for the first time, according to IDC. Computer makers
sold $17.7 billion worth of Windows servers worldwide in 2005 compared
with $17.5 billion in Unix servers. Linux came third. The Unix market,
though, is still huge. Sun is trying to restore Unix fortunes as well by
making Solaris an open-source project and bringing it to the x86
The battle for Unix customers (traditionally, the server King) is not
new, with IBM, HP and Red Hat all pushing Unix-to-Linux migration plans.
This definitely has hurt Sun's profitability. Sun, in turn, released
Solaris 10 last year as a free download (it has close to 5 million
Praveen Sawkar, country manager, Solaris, Sun Microsystems India, admits
that "Linux has gained some traction in the x86 server space and has
managed to break Wintel combination's stronghold on this segment of the
However, he adds, that most mission-critical applications in the world
"continue to be deployed, almost without exception, on the SPARC
He opines it will be a long time before the industry will start basing
their mission-critical applications on Linux. "In the BFSI industry, one
of the largest users of mission-critical applications, Linux is used for
end-user banking, algorithmic and analytical work (derivative analysis
and risk portfolio assessment). It is yet to be used in core banking
environments, something that can be classified as being
mission-critical," asserts Sawkar.
Microsoft concurs with this view. Sanjiv Mathur, director (customer and
partner experience), Microsoft Corporation India, notes that according
to IDC, 42.3 per cent of mission-critical applications worldwide run on
Windows server platform.
"With a 69.5 per cent market share, Microsoft has a strong foothold
across all verticals including BFSI and government. Linux has a much
smaller share of the market, which is limited to specific areas of
high-performance computing and other workloads like security and edge
servers, which have traditionally been on the Unix platform. So this
whole perception of Linux posing a threat to Microsoft does not hold
true. Linux growth is more from the re-platforming of Unix," he adds.
Frost and Sullivan (India) - director ICT, Alok Shende, too, appears to
be in agreement. "Linux is definitely getting into the enterprise.
However, enterprises today need end-to-end solutions. Second, the price
of the OS is a small part of the end-to-end solution. People should look
at the total cost of ownership, which included long-term costs like
services and people availability. Linux has to create a whole market
around the product. While it has matured as a technology, it is wanting
from a business perspective. And that will take some time," he opines.
However, there are major companies that stand aggressively by Linux.
Sandeep Menon, director, Linux Business, Novell West Asia, opines that
Linux is increasingly being used as a platform of choice for
"Several mainframes and super computers are running Linux. Linux is also
been embedded in routers and telecom equipment. It is used by some of
the largest banks, airlines and Internet engines in the World. What else
can be more critical?" he asks.
He adds that with proprietary software, the customer is totally at the
mercy of vendor. If the vendor discontinues support for any reason, the
customer can't do anything. In the case of Open Source Linux, even if
the vendor stops support, the customer can go to anyone else for support
or even support it using his/her own resources, given that the source
code will be available.
Ashutosh Dhanesha, country manager, Linux Business, IBM India, concurs:
"Linux gives customers choice. Our philosophy on "Freedom of choice" for
software, hardware and services and leadership in industry standards
provides customers with security, flexibility and control of their IT
infrastructure and applications. We see Linux moving to mission-critical
applications such as ERP and even high end applications such as Seismic
"Linux is the most proactive as far as security is concerned. With a
million eyeballs looking continuously at the code, bugs are fixed faster
than they can be exploited. As opposed to a licensing approach that
proprietary platforms follow, we sell subscriptions, wherein customers
are automatically covered for upgrades and updates," says Tapia.
Experts opine there is a Rs 600-crore (Rs 6 billion) market for open
source software which is growing at a compounded annual growth rate of
35-40 per cent. A sharp rise in enterprise-wide adoption of Linux or
Open Source is one of the primary reasons for this optimism.
Gartner predicts that by 2008, 95 per cent of Global 2000 organisations
will have formal open-source acquisition and management strategies. The
Penguin, it appears, will give its competitors an icy path to walk on.
* Linux is expected to have a 15 per cent share of the ERP market by
2007 (Peerstone Research)
* 55 per cent of all companies deployed Linux by the end of 2005 (AMR
* There are over 1.2 million developers with Linux skills (Evans Data
* IBM has more than 7000 services professionals working with Linux
* Robert Francis Group (IBM-sponsored research) found security levels in
Linux generally exceeded those in Windows, providing a more secure and
manageable environment out of the box with significantly more
functionality in terms of security integration and management
* The Linux kernel programming code is better and more secure than the
programming code of most proprietary software - based on a four-year
analysis of the 5.7 million lines of Linux source code conducted by five
Stanford University researchers