2003 saw the server operating systems market change forever, with Linux picking up customers from all the Unix flavours and, to the surprise of many, from Microsoft Windows.
In the longer term, the advent of Linux desktops from major players such as Sun and Novell may result in an even more important shift for infrastructure software.
It may seem surprising now, but it was only back in February that analyst AMR Research was saying that the open source operating system remained unsuitable for mission-critical applications and Microsoft was busy rubbishing reports of any threat from the Penguin.
But already others were preparing their open source plans. Oracle started the ball rolling by throwing its weight behind Linux with its Unbreakable Linux reseller partner initiative in April.
Meanwhile, persistent Windows security fears ensured continued momentum for open source.
The 2.6 Linux kernel provided a further advance against Unix flavours, adding scalability.
In February came the formation of the Desktop Linux Consortium, showing that the open source market was serious about building a competitor to the Windows desktop.
But many analysts were unconvinced, with Gartner Group saying that moving to Linux desktops from Windows was not cost-effective.
This did not stop the launch of Red Hat's Linux Technical Workstation, Sun's Java Desktop System (JDS) or Novell's acquisition of desktop Linux provider Ximian and SuSE, which also offers an enterprise desktop.
The size of Sun's China order could be the first move in a domino effect as Linux desktops and support for them improves and, as a result, user confidence grows in the applications they support, pushing demand further.
Meanwhile, Linux server sales have been exapanding from specialist tasks in enterprises to general purpose use in small and medium-sized enterprises, according to recent surveys.
Of course, all the excitement over servers and desktops should not overshadow the steady progress of open source in other areas - notably the wider adoption of databases such as mySQL backed by SAP and the JBoss Java 2 Enterprise Edition application server.
And it is likely this momentum will build further through 2004.
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