A prediction in 2009 that Ubuntu usage was going to grow in the face of Red Hat's Linux operating system dominance could easily have been laughed off. Yet that's exactly what Ubuntu has been able to pull off, thanks in part to developers and growing adoption of cloud computing.
Developers are ahead of the Ubuntu usage curve
Like many, I was quite surprised by results from the 2009 Eclipse User Survey that found strong adoption of Ubuntu on developer desktops and production servers alike.
Survey respondents selected Ubuntu on their developer desktops more than three times as often as RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) and Fedora combined. While surprising, this result could be explained by the fact that Ubuntu is free and positioned as a user-friendly desktop alternative to Windows. On the other hand, RHEL is a for-a-fee product targeted primarily at deployment servers, not desktops.
However, this reasoning fails to explain the strong usage of Ubuntu on deployment servers: According to 2009 Eclipse survey results, Ubuntu just barely trailed Red Hat on deployment servers with 12 percent versus Red Hat's 13.1 percent usage on deployment servers.
According to the 2010 Eclipse survey, Ubuntu usage on the developer desktop had increased to 18.3 percent, from 14.5 percent in 2009. Additionally, Ubuntu usage on deployment servers at 12.6 percent usage narrowly beat out Red Hat's 12.5 percent usage.
In another data point, RedMonk analyst Stephen O'Grady analyzed data from Hacker News consisting of 1.7 million entries. O'Grady explains, "This dataset is interesting not because it is representative of developers as a whole, but rather because it's a community of technologists who are collectively ahead of the curve."
O'Grady found nearly 10,000 mentions of Ubuntu versus fewer than 2,500 mentions of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Fedora combined.
As with many recent trends in the IT industry, developers become ambassadors for products they enjoy using and have quickly become an early indicator for enterprise technology usage in the future.