Linux Popularity Sparks Salary Jump

Companies adopting the free, open-source Linux operating system are having trouble finding developers and system administrators skilled in Linux, according to a new survey to be released next week from Dice Holdings, Inc., a technology jobs board, and The Linux Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy group.The tight job market has driven up salaries and bonuses and prompted companies to increase their training and outreach to meet recruiting needs, the survey finds. The median salary for Linux-skilled technologists rose 5% to $84,000 last year with median bonuses at $5,000, according to Dice.

“It’s hard to find talented people because there’s extremely high demand,” says Dustin Larmeir, a support manager at Dallas-based FireHost Inc., a provider of secure public cloud hosting. The company, which has openings for seven Linux system administrators, is scouring all of the U.S. to find skilled hires, Larmeir says.According to the survey, 85% said finding Linux talent is somewhat to extremely difficult. Of all survey respondents, 18% said they planned to make bonuses a recruiting tool, and 8% said they would offer additional stock options.Of the 2,300 companies surveyed, 28% said they were increasing salary offers above the company norm, and 37% said they were offering flexible work schedules to sweeten the pot for potential new hires.Linux professionals are in demand because, among other things, many start-ups choose the technology over Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating system because of its low-cost and the ability to customize the operating system.”Licensing costs for Windows are really expensive,” says Justin Lintz, a systems administrator at bitly, a New York start-up that uses Linux. “If you’re a small start-up, you can get eaten up by all the costs.”  Linux is particularly popular among Internet companies, including Facebook and Google, says Jim Zemlin, executive director of The Linux Foundation. Linux is used in a variety of products, from Amazon’s Kindle e-reader to Google’s Android operating system to Samsung televisions, Zemlin said.Linux developers positions are the most in-demand, with 67% of companies saying they planned to hire for those roles; 55% said they planned to hire systems administrators; and 20% said they would be hiring IT managers.

Write to Joseph Walker at Joseph.Walker@dowjones.com

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