Over the past 20 years, Linux has ascended from a Finnish student’s hobby to the world’s most dominant operating system—one that runs everything from high-performance computing to mobile. Yet companies still can’t get the Linux talent they need, at least for the price they’re willing to pay for it.
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To help meet this demand, the Linux Foundation today announced a new Linux certification program. But you have to wonder whether this is anything but a stopgap.
The Need For Linux
A quick glance at Indeed.com job postings suggests that demand for Linux jobs has declined after a peak in 2009:
But the truth might be otherwise.
After all, Linux servers now represent 29% of all server revenue, up five points when compared with the fourth quarter of 2012, according to IDC. And that’s just paid Linux. Digging deeper into IDC’s numbers, while Microsoft Windows still claims over 50% of the server market, Linux—paid and unpaid—servers are rapidly closing the gap.
Some of that unpaid Linux adoption comes from the cloud providers like Amazon Web Services, which is built atop Linux. Ditto Google and every other major web company. That adds up to 30% of all Linux servers shipped in 2014 going to cloud services providers, all of which need Linux talent.
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But there’s another reason not all Linux jobs find their way into that Indeed.com graphic above: not all Linux jobs are labeled as “Linux.”
Android, the world’s most dominant mobile operating system, is Linux. So is Amazon’s Kindle operating system, a variant of Android which, in turn, is a variant of Linux. The list goes on. Were we to update that Indeed.com chart with all the different names Linux assumes, we’d see dramatic, robust demand for Linux.
Who’s Hiring Whom?
Or we could just ask those in charge of hiring budgets. According to the Linux Jobs Report, released earlier this year, employers are aggressively looking for Linux talent, but too often coming up short. Nine in 10 hiring managers said it’s “somewhat” or “very difficult” to find experienced Linux pros.
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Among other findings:
• 77% of hiring managers have “hiring Linux talent” on their list of priorities for 2014, up from 70% in 2013;
• 93% of hiring managers plan to hire a Linux professional in the next six months;
• 46% of hiring managers are scaling up their plans for recruiting Linux talent over the next six months, a 3-point jump from 2013;
• Among the hottest areas of expertise are: systems administration (58% of hiring managers are looking for this expertise), Linux application development (45%) and systems architecture/engineering (45%);
• 86% percent of Linux professionals report that knowing Linux has given them more career opportunities, and 64% say they chose to work with Linux because of its pervasiveness in modern-day technology infrastructure.
Training Up A Generation On Linux
Which is what makes the Linux Foundation’s news interesting. The Linux Foundation had already introduced new training programs earlier this year to increase Linux expertise.
Now it’s giving employers an industry-standard, neutral way to evaluate talent. Red Hat and others already offer their own certification programs, and these will continue to serve a useful purpose. But having a program delivered by the Linux Foundation that spans different distributions is a welcome addition.
The new certification program exams include designations for Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator (LFCS) and Linux Foundation Certified Engineer (LFCE). The cost is a reasonable $300.
Even so, more is needed. All major trends—cloud, mobile, Big Data—are built on Linux, for the most part. While this certification program is a great start, what we need even more is widespread teaching of Linux as part of core curricula at the university and even K-12 levels.
I’m not just talking about engineers, either. As I wrote recently, with software eating the world, any company not managed by people experienced with technology is handicapped. The same is true for all levels of the org chart, and Linux is central to much of what we build.
We need a generation learning Linux, because we already have a generation building the world on Linux.
Lead image by Michal Dočekal