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As time passes, it appears that corporations are primarily considering one distribution when considering installing Linux, and that distro is clearly RedHat. That probably does not come as any major surprise, but it appears RedHat's dominance continues to get stronger. What use to be a landscape littered with a multitude of choices has nearly been rendered down to one. Wow! That didn't take long. The open source software dynamic seemed to be formed on the premise that users were never again going to be pigeon-holed into using one piece of software. Or, perhaps better stated, that was a byproduct of making the source code readily available. And, that is still true to this day. However, as a corporate citizen in today's business climate, one finds themselves with limited possibilities.

It was a mere 20 years ago when the buzz of Linux was starting to hit its stride. Everywhere you looked, there was a different flavor of Linux. There were nearly too many to count. And, these were not just hobbyist distros. Instead, they were corporations rising like corn stalks all over the place. Sure, there were more dominant players, but one had the ability to analyze at least 10 different fully corporate supported distributions when making a decision. With that amount of possibilities, the environment was ripe for consolidation or elimination. And, we have all watched that take place. But, did we ever think we were going to find ourselves in the current predicament?

The data that has been collected over the past five years paints a concerning picture. Even a mere five years ago, it seemed likely that at a minimum RedHat would always have Suse as a legitimate competitor. After all, those were the two distros that seemed to win the consolidation and elimination war. At least in the corporate space. As was widely reported during that time, RedHat had somewhere in the neighborhood of 70% marketshare. It was always the gorilla in the room. But, Suse was always looked upon as an eager and willing participant, no matter its stature, and tended to garner most of the remaining marketshare. That is the way it appeared for a length of time prior to this decline over the past few years.

When analyzing searches for either RHEL (RedHat Enterprise Linux), the numbers have remained steady over the last five years. A little surprising to say the least. Surely, one would have thought given RedHat's presence, the numbers would have increased. One possibility, perhaps a little concerning nonetheless, is that RedHat has now become synonymous with Linux. Is it possible that RedHat's dominance has gotten to a point where the sheer mention of the name is no longer viewed as necessary by corporations? Seems plausible.

Whatever the reason, the concern is obviously with Suse. While the RHEL score has slightly increased, the numbers for SLES have gone the opposite direction and declined or remained steady at the best. That is much more than just a lost customer here or there. Of course, we are going by what corporations are looking for in their job descriptions, so there is always going to be room for error on what is truly happening inside corporate walls. No matter, it is clear that Suse is not providing the level of competition it once had.

What about CentOS, the RedHat variant? Not surprisingly, this fully compatible, community supported distribution that closely mirrors RHEL has remained flat. Just like the operating system it mimics. Thus, the problem seems to be squarely with Suse. I am sure the litany of acquisitions it has been through has probably not helped matters. From selling out to Novell, to being acquired by Attachmate, to now being part of Micro Focus, Suse has surely seen a whirlwind of various corporate structures. All the while RedHat had remained independent until being acquired by IBM a year ago.

Thus, here we are. What once was a vast landscape has been whittled down to nearly one. Sure, the open source software movement was built on openly available code. That is and will always be its core. And, for that, the possibility of a monopoly was eliminated. But, there was always hope that the benefit of it being open would result in choice. I know that is what got me first intrigued about this space 20 years ago. And, from an operating system perspective, that seems to be diminishing. It is as if nothing was learned about the predicament corporations would gripe about before the advent of Linux. As they say, history tends to repeat itself. Thank goodness everyone has access to the code.
FLOSS is penetrating the government sector of countries throughout the world. That holds true right here in the good ole U.S.A. A world that was intent on utilizing proprietary software is slowly changing its tune. The United States has not been as progressive in this area as some other countries, but over the course of the last few years, it has finally decided to jump on the train. The benefits are just too hard to ignore. While this topic is wide ranging, the focus of this piece will be on the Department of Defense (DoD) in particular.

If there is any area of government where one would assume FLOSS would have a hard time penetrating, it would appear the DoD would be at the top of the list. After all, security is the foremost thought in any of those individuals minds. The software that the DoD uses is scrutinized to the nth degree. Thus, one might think they would favor proprietary solutions. Luckily, the DoD has seen the light and realized that one not need to only look at closed systems. This was all assisted by the Federal Source Code Policy in 2016. The policy pushed government entities to review open source alternatives. As a result, the DoD launched the Code.mil project in 2017 on GitHub. According to the code.mil site, the goal is to foster open collaboration with the developer community around the world on DoD open source projects. While this continues to be a work in progress, it showcases the interest of the DoD to participate in the FLOSS world.

While all this sounds encouraging, why is it of interest to us? Because, based on the quantitative data, we have seen great strength in the number of employment job listings mentioning the DoD in particular. Since the Federal Source Code Policy was put into effect, the number of openings requiring a DoD clearance has risen by 65%. That is a tremendous growth trajectory, especially when it is in the government sector, which historically moves at a snails pace. One would hope that the growth will continue, given the success the DoD has had up until this point.

As with most sectors, FLOSS continues to be a disruptive force. While not surprising that more progressive sectors, such as the financial and medical, have adopted it much earlier, it is worth noting the penetration into the government. Hopefully, the Code.mil project will gain more traction after being revamped in 2018. The government is like a slow moving barge, but since it has seemed to finally realize the attributes of FLOSS based software, there should be no turning back now.
Microsoft's Azure appears to be going through a tremendous growth phase. What was once termed by Microsoft as a cancer, Linux is propelling Azure to new heights. While Amazon Web Services (AWS) is clearly the leader in the clubhouse, Azure is no dysfunctional step child. And, this can largely be attributed to its embrace of its open source opponent. A shout out to Satya Nadella is more than likely warranted in this instance. From a distance, it appears his appointment to CEO in 2014 changed Microsoft's stance on open source software. And, he was the EVP of Microsoft's cloud business prior to this promotion. No more were attempts to bash a once rival. It instead started to embrace and integrate its foe. The results have been interesting to follow.

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