Linux is not dead

Windows operating system (OS) has over 79.46 per cent market share of the desktop computer sector. However, in every other computing sector, the complete opposite is true with Linux OS holding the majority of the market share. Here Florian Froschermeier, technical sales manager of industrial router manufacturer INSYS icom, explains why Linux is in such a dominant position.

Technology giants like Cern, Amazonand Googleand the majority of server-side and embedded technology all use Linux OS for their systems and applications. There are many reasons for OS’s popularity because Linux is a licence-free open-source OS that is highly flexible, customizable, portable and of course at no cost to the user.

Free is great unless the product is not. As Linux is open-source, it means that the source code is available to be redistributed and modified freely and with ease. With over 80 per cent of industrial applications using Linux systems, the OS is constantly being patched and upgraded by a legion of highly technical users, ensuring it remains secure and reliable, without costing you a penny.

The large variety of applications that use Linux mean that the people updating the software are from a diverse range of different industrial backgrounds. Linux OS has, therefore, been and can be customised to work in many varied applications. This has allowed the OS to become incredibly flexible due to its constantly growing range of use cases.

The main reasons for Linux’s popularity is its reliability and the lightweight nature of the OS. However, equally as critical is its portability. Many operating systems are not compatible with different versions of themselves and require modifications to the system or the software before they can work.

The different types of Linux OS are manufacturer neutral by design, meaning that it has been programmed, following portable operating system interface standards, to reduce or remove issues of porting software between different Linux environments.

Why businesses choose Linux

Another major benefit for businesses that use Linux is that they can create their own version of the Linux for specific use cases. For example, most major technology businesses have their own version of Linux such as Amazon Linux, gLinux and at INSYS we have our icom OS.

We designed icom OS due to our need for a router specific OS. This has allowed us to create a secure, portable and lightweight OS, specifically made for use with routers. Other industrial routers use off-the-shelf OS that, while still functionable, can become saddled with extra parts that slow down operations and leave it vulnerable to attack.

One of the major benefits that we have seen from implementing our own version of Linux is that our router can now support Linux containers (LXC). LXCs are self-contained programs that carry out operating-system-level virtualization methods for running multiple isolated Linux systems.

Containers are becoming a key tool in modern programming and application development. Containers allow companies, if they have the capabilities in house, to write their own code and run it without the need for OEM support. This means that developers and IT teams are not waiting on updates from the OEM to enable new functions but can go ahead and generate their own specific application.

This has become increasingly easy because, due to technological progress, modern hardware has a large amount of excess computing power. Hardware can, therefore, incorporate extra functionality beside their main duties elevating the system.

For example, INSYS routers have more than enough computing power to route data from industrial applications. By taking advantage of this excess capacity and using icom OS and LXC’s, end-users can implement extra functionality such as edge computing, which allows for industrial data to be analysed before it is sent off-site, reducing the amount of bandwidth required.

Linux into the future

The current and future potential for Linux based systems is limitless. The system’s flexibility allows for the hardware that uses it to be endlessly updated. Functionality can, therefore, be maintained even as the technology around the devices change. This flexibility also means that the function of the hardware can be modified to suit an ever-changing workplace.

For example, because the INSYS icom OS has been specifically designed for use in routers, this has allowed it to be optimised to be lightweight and hardened to increase its security. Multipurpose OS have large libraries of applications for a diverse range of purposes. Great for designing new uses, but these libraries can also be exploited by actors with malicious intent. Stripping down these libraries to just what is necessary through a hardening process can drastically improve security by reducing the attackable surfaces.

Overall, Windows may have won the desktop OS battle with only a minority of them using Linux OS. However, desktops are only a minute part of the computing world. Servers, mobile systems and embedded technology that make up the majority are predominately running Linux. Linux has gained this position by being more adaptable, lightweight and portable than its competitors. For more information on the benefits of Linux OS and industrial routers read more on the INSYS website

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