As many of you are no doubt aware from the coverage, we at RedMonk recently participated in a survey with the good folks over at Canonical to get a better sense of where the Ubuntu community is at at present. Not shockingly, the returns are interesting and clearly – in my view – worth exploring. The following Q&A will explore some of the more interesting questions, though I encourage you all to take a look at the survey data yourselves, as I’d love to hear what you extract from it. You can get that here; you do have to register, but it’s all opt-in vis a vis the contact aspects, which is good. Anyway, the Q&A.
Q: Before we begin, anything to disclose?
A: Indeed. Obviously we directly participated in the survey in question with Canonical – a RedMonk customer. No project funds were applied to our participation in this project. Separately, a number of Canonical competitors, including Microsoft, Red Hat and Sun are RedMonk customers. Last, RedMonk is something of an Ubuntu shop, with my personal desktops running the distribution as well the production server that hosts redmonk.com.
Q: Can you provide some context for the survey? How many results were collected?
A: According to the folks from Canonical, 6819 returns for the survey were collected.
Q: And what kind of audience was it, both in terms of its composition and their exposure to Ubuntu?
A: The survey itself was generally self-selecting, being most actively promoted to an Ubuntu audience (through the website, etc). As far as the composition of the audience, it’s skewed towards smaller deployments: while there were respondents running a few hundred machines, the majority were in the 1-50 category. And while ~15% (14.85%) of the replies originated in organizations with north of a thousand employees, the largest single demographic remained businesses with under 50 people.
Q: Any specific vertical focus?
A: Not really. Technology (Services), Technology (Software), and Education were 1/2/3 in the verticals reported, followed by Other, Manufacturing, Government, Non-Profit, Finance and Retail. Pretty decent spread.
Q: So what statistical significance does the survey have?
A: As a self-acknowledged survey of a self-selected audience, I don’t know that anyone would argue it’s useful for drawing wider market conclusions. What it is useful for, rather, is taking the pulse of the Ubuntu community. What do their workloads look like? What are they deploying Ubuntu for? And where?
And so on.
Q: What are other folks saying about the survey?
A: The most common comment I hear – see Dave’s post as an example – is the assertion that Ubuntu is now ready for mission-critical workloads. And based on the results, it seems clear that the Ubuntu audience believes this to be true: the worst showing statistically had better than eight in ten believing that Ubuntu is ready for mission-critical tasks.
But while that’s certainly positive news for the Ubuntu community and their commercial backers Canonical, because of the nature of the audience, I’m actually more interested in other aspects of the survey.
Q: Such as?
A: The diversity of use cases, for one. As I’ve told the media in commenting on the survey, one of the criticisms generally leveled at the Ubuntu distribution is that it is relevant only in the desktop context. And while I’ve never subscribed to that idea – not least because we employ it at RedMonk in server capacities – it’s nonetheless been a persistent myth.
The data obtained via this survey, however, indicates that Ubuntu is being leveraged against workloads that have little to do with desktop use cases. Among the workloads running on Ubuntu servers, respondents mentioned clustering, CRM, data mining, database, directory server, media streaming, security (firewall, IDS, etc), and web server. Specific applications cited include DB2, Domino, Oracle, SAP, WebLogic, and WebSphere. Granted, the sample size is small, and the overall volume of customers leveraging Ubuntu in this capacity is limited.
But it’s still indicative, to me, of a distribution that is increasingly deployed in a server context.
Q: What else did you find interesting?
A: There are lots of interesting tidbits. Take virtualization: the top four replies to the question “If you use your Ubuntu servers as a host for virtualization, which product(s)/technology(ies) do you use?” were, in order, VMware (by a sizable margin), Xen, none and KVM. From which you might conclude that a.) VMware remains well positioned in that market, b.) Xen is surviving in the face of strong competition from KVM, and c.) that in spite of (b), KVM is coming on strong.
I also found it interesting that package/update management was the second most important feature – behind proven security – for mission critical deployment. While I hate to keep banging this drum, I still find it bizarre that Linux distributions – all of them – undermarket their abilities in this regard.
Q: What about the questions regarding cloud usage and, more specifically, Ubuntu’s readiness in that capacity?
A: This was one of the areas of the survey that I was most curious about, actually. Of the seven thousand-ish respondents, better than seven in ten answered “No” to the question “Do you plan to deploy workloads of any type to cloud environments?” Which was interesting. Equally interesting, however, was the fact that better than six in ten considered cloud environments ready for mission-critical workloads (eight and ten said Ubuntu was a viable platform for cloud deployments).
Q: Your general takeaway, then?
A: The survey is precisely what I expected: an interesting cross-section of the Ubuntu community. I’m still crawling through the statistical data that Canonical kindly shared with us, so look for further insights at a later date. But for now, I recommend giving it a read. Self-selecting audience or not, the report is an interesting datapoint.