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Showtime for Linux

Jan 19, 20047 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsIBMLinux

HP, IBM and others to air products; big users to be on the prowl at LinuxWorld.

With The SCO Group’s licensing issues roiling in the background and Microsoft demonstrating a Linux alternative, IT professionals aren’t distracted and are expected to do more than just window-shop this week at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in New York.

With The SCO Group’s licensing issues roiling in the background and Microsoft demonstrating a Linux alternative, IT professionals aren’t distracted and are expected to do more than just window-shop this week at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in New York.

“We’re looking into what Linux can do for us in terms of real-time performance as opposed to more-expensive proprietary operating systems,” says Hank DeGregorio, a senior engineering staff member at Lockheed Martin who will attend the show. Lockheed Martin, which uses Linux clusters in its product development, is evaluating embedded Linux as a future component of its products.

“All big companies like us are at least looking into Linux,” says Jonathon Robison, infrastructure architect for the strategic infrastructure engineering group at Ford Motor Co. “They have to, or they will fall behind the times.”

Fueling interest for Linux at the show will be vendors such as HP, IBM, Sun and Veritas Software, along with some smaller start-ups. These companies will have new Linux-friendly database software, middleware and corporate desktops on tap aimed at expanding Linux use in corporations. Linux adversary Microsoft plans to show off a product that will let users integrate Unix and Windows as an alternative to Linux (see story ).

IBM is planning a number of announcements at LinuxWorld, including a string of Linux-related updates to DB2 that will be previewed at the show. DB2 8.2, code-named Stinger, is scheduled to be available later this year, with features to balance and fine-tune Linux database workloads. Stinger will support the new Linux Kernel 2.6 , designed to run distributed applications and optimized for 64-bit platforms. It also will support IBM’s 64-bit Power platform, and it is expected that users will be able to download and preview code for IBM’s 64-bit pSeries and iSeries servers this quarter.

Also at the show, IBM is set to unveil new classes and programs aimed at helping customers migrate to Linux from NT, which Microsoft will no longer support by year-end. The idea is to help customers move from Microsoft Exchange on NT, for example, to Lotus Domino on Linux, or from Microsoft SQL Server to DB2 Universal Database on Linux.

Also on tap at the show:

• Veritas is expected to unveil, among other products, support for SuSe Linux in OpForce 3.2, the latest version of its automated server provisioning software. OpForce will support SuSe Linux Enterprise Server 8, Red Hat Enterprise Linux Advanced Server 3.0 and Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition.

• SteelEye plans to announce a business continuity product designed to replicate Linux-based servers and applications across a WAN for disaster recovery. The company will demonstrate the product using IBM Linux-based BladeCenter hardware and DB2 software.

• Sun expects to preview the next version of its Sun Java Desktop System and Project Looking Glass, its Java-based GUI. The company also plans to lift the covers off updates to its Sun Java Enterprise Systems infrastructure software package and showcase new Linux development tools.

• HP plans to announce a Linux-based thin-client product designed to work with Linux terminal servers running packages from the open source Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP) package. The HP Compaq T530 ($300) and T550 ($350) diskless workstations have been tested with LTSP software, which runs on most Linux distributions and is available for free from

• Start-up Black Duck Software is expected to launch a software package for corporations concerned about open source licensing compatibility and restrictions when mixing and matching open source components, such as operating system, Web servers, middleware and driver software, into full systems.

Real-world examples

Analysts say they expect LinuxWorld to showcase real-world examples of how Linux is being deployed as a key part of data centers.

Dan Kusnetzky, vice president of system software at IDC, will discuss distributed computing and Linux in a presentation planned for Thursday.

“If [distributed computing and Linux] progresses the way it appears to be progressing, it is quite possible it will have the impact of changing dramatically the power structure in the IT world,” Kusnetzky says.

IDC expects total worldwide revenue from both client and server shipments of Linux to more than double from $5.5 million in 2003 to $13.2 million in 2007.

“It will drive people toward commodity hardware platforms and commodity operating systems,” he says, “which would lead to the proliferation of Intel and Intel-compatible architecture systems and Linux.”

This is what attracts Ford’s Robison to Linux.

“Once IT becomes a commodity, it’s cheaper to use and leverage because you can get it anywhere,” he says. “If I start building a system on a certain kind of Linux, and three years from now I’m just not happy with it, I can go to [any other Linux distributor], and with some minor work I’ll get my system running on those distributions just as well.”

Robison’s group is responsible for analyzing infrastructure technology for all of Ford and ensuring it can be modified to corporate standards before it is distributed to the myriad IT groups in the company. Robison will be at the show looking for new ways to implement the open source operating system over the next 18 to 36 months.

He says Ford is considering Linux for a range of applications, such as database, Web, and file and print serving.

“I push for [Linux] big time, but I’m careful,” Robison says. “I know that if I push for Linux hard in the wrong areas, and something blows up in someone’s face, it’s bad for the whole effort . . . at a company of this size, you cannot jump into anything.”

Other analysts see Linux making headway on desktops and as an application platform within data centers.

“I expect to see more supporting evidence of Linux becoming an application platform,” says Pierre Fricke, executive vice president at consulting firm D.H. Brown Associates. “Linux traditionally has been considered an infrastructure platform for behind-the-wall networking, file and print, and stuff like that. Well, it’s moved past that.”

Corporations are bearing this out, as users adopt Linux.

“I’m after some info on ways to move to Linux on the desktop as well as thin-client info,” says Scott Mace, a network administrator for TravelCenters of America. The firm already uses Linux extensively in its data center to run applications such as PeopleSoft, IBM Lotus Domino and BMC Software middleware.

Mace also is interested in the recent trend by Linux vendors to try to draw more revenue by adding licensing limitations to their Linux products. “I want to see how the recent Red Hat and SuSe moves are going to affect the ability to do what I need to do in terms of distribution choice,” he says.

At Lockheed Martin, Linux is under consideration as a real-time operating system for future products, says DeGregorio, without mentioning specifics.

“We have a variety of proprietary operating systems in use, and we’d love to standardize on one,” he says. “We’re hoping that Linux is the way to do it.”

DeGregorio says he thinks Linux could help Lockheed Martin produce equipment with embedded operating systems more quickly and lower expenses. Because the software is open source, the company could have more in-house control over the code, while licensing costs on embedded Linux products are generally much lower than other real-time operating systems.

This goal is not just coming from inside Lockheed Martin, but from the firm’s largest customer. “The [U.S. Department of Defense] is moving more toward [commercial off-the-shelf] software,” he says. “We’re hoping that Linux is the way to do it.”