In the business software markets where Oracle has long made the majority of its considerable income, its rivals have usually been other large conglomerates like SAP, which are built and operate along much the same lines.
However, a recent report from the 451 Group's Jay Lyman found that Oracle's big worry for most of 2012 will be Linux, as the use of that open source software platform continues to grow in a number of key areas. Potentially, this could undercut much of the company's core business.
In the cloud computing market - where Linux in particular and open source software in general have already experienced a high degree of success - Lyman said that Oracle and other proprietary providers will see demand for their products dwindle as customers opt instead for offerings like those of SUSE and Red Hat.
"We also expect Linux to continue to be the basis for most offerings in IaaS and particularly PaaS, which is burgeoning across open source languages and frameworks as well as verticals and enterprise customers. Its popularity among enterprise and other developers will also bolster Linux and open source software in 2012," he wrote.
Even in the more traditional enterprise markets that have often been highlighted as strongholds for Oracle, open source software use will likely continue to rise, according to the 451 Group expert. While recent research from the group found that two thirds of server professionals surveyed planned to increase their spending on Red Hat products, the opposite was true of Oracle software, with 55 percent reporting plans to draw down their funding for the company's offerings.
In other new market sectors as well, Lyman said, Linux seems poised for continued gains.
"In smartphones and mobile software, I also expect Linux will do quite well in 2012 with continued Android strength, diminished FUD and possibly an open source boost from a newly-open sourced WebOS. We also see Ubuntu arriving on the mobile and converged device scene, including [a] 'concept' appearance at CES," he noted.
Android is based heavily on Linux, and the mobile platform became the top smartphone OS in the U.S. market during 2011, boosted by a host of popular new device releases from Samsung, HTC and Motorola.
The shift toward Linux has already begun to be recognized in the commercial software industry as well, according to Lyman, who cited Microsoft's recent announcement that the operating system would be made available on its Azure cloud computing platform sometime this year as evidence of this shift. Where more traditional and conservative technology companies like Microsoft might in the past have paid little attention to the open source software platform's market position, its growing popularity now has them sitting up and taking notice.
According to a report from Business Insider writer Julie Bort, one of the many reasons Oracle could be in trouble as Linux eats away at its user base is the rapidly declining popularity of Unix, which was, for a time, the most popular back-end OS for specialized technology and database users. Solaris - Oracle's version of that platform - has not been spared in the general shift away from it, as users seek out options that are more modern and less expensive. While Linux is actually an outgrowth of Unix in many ways, the latter operating system has been around in one form or another since 1969, when it was developed by researchers at Bell Labs.