Linux distribution share likely to change

One company that has a firm grip on its customers' attention is Red Hat, which has made significant changes to the licencing, pricing and support of its Linux distribution. Red Hat is presently the most widely deployed Linux distribution on the websites we find on the internet. However, it is clearly prepared to lose significant market share in an effort to increase revenue.

Companies with the largest current exposure to Red Hat, August 2003
Hosting Company IP Addresses Active Sites Hostnames 11,987 131,326 205,239
Rackspace 6,931 57,852 141,506
Interland 20,587 57,130 119,890

Hosting companies, in particular, have started to reconsider which Linux distributions they should run, and have developed a new interest in checking which of their competitors may have switched distributions. Additionally, hosting automation vendors are checking which alternative distributions and operating systems their customers are considering.

In theory, Red Hat has only limited leverage in the hosting industry, and one would expect that many hosting companies and dedicated server customers would switch distributions if important security patches are unavailable:

  • Many Hosting companies have a lot of Linux expertise, and little need for external support.
  • Much of the dedicated server market is very price sensitive. Roughly $1K per annum buys a moderately well specified machine with reasonable bandwidth, and customers of these systems are unlikely to swallow $350 per annum for support.

However one of the reasons hosting companies are anxious is that the process is likely to be disruptive for dedicated server companies with customers currently on Red Hat. Just asking the question about whether they wish to switch to the new Red Hat operating system, may lead to customers to consider a hardware upgrade at the same time and without mentally shifting gear to compare prices with those available at other hosting locations as changing hosting locations involves little incremental effort over a hardware upgrade.

From this month onwards we will be tracking switching between Linux distributions in our Hosting Provider Switching Analysis.