Open source claims seat at the corporate table in '08

Key areas for 2008 include power management virtualization, mobile devices and data centers

After years spent on the corporate proving ground, open source and Linux are looking at a 2008 that could likely show how hard labor pays off.

There are a number of important corporate issues -- power management virtualization, mobile devices and data centers -- where open source is not crashing the party but actually has an invitation.

Of course, invites don't mean you get to kiss the host. Open source and Linux still need to consistently hold their own when compared with commercial software.

In fact, many believe users' uncertainty about open source will shrink so much that their questions around it will evaporate in 2008.

"For me, the big story of open source in the enterprise is that it's becoming a non-story," says Barry Crist, the CEO of Centeris, which makes software to integrate user authentication services between Windows, Linux, Unix and Mac. "There was so much hand wringing, but what I am seeing at the corporate level is this has become uninteresting to them. They are comfortable with the mix between commercial and open source. Organizations are working to figure out how to best leverage and integrate these platforms with their Windows environments."

Indeed, platform integration is a big issue. By 2010, 75% of large companies will deploy open source software in combination with closed source software, according to Gartner.

Microsoft and Novell kicked off major integration projects in September 2007, including virtualization, directories and management, as part of the Interoperability Lab the two opened in Cambridge, Mass.

"Don't be surprised in the coming year when you see Microsoft partnering with open source in some new ways that were unimaginable five years ago," says Sam Ramji, director of technical platform strategy at Microsoft.

But the fruit of the Microsoft-Novell relationship, which has drawn some criticism, is only one aspect of what 2008 might hold.

Virtualization is poised to explode on corporate networks and there are many different open source hypervisor implementations available, mainly built on Xen.

Power management is becoming a hot topic, and the Linux kernel is getting updates to address the issue, including the Tickless Kernel Project, which gives the operating system the ability to go to sleep for several hundreds of milliseconds and wake up only when there is something it needs to do.

Those sorts of features likely will open 2008 opportunities for Linux and open source within mobile and embedded devices, where power management is a requirement.

Motorola's strategy, for instance, calls for Linux to comprise about 60% of its mobile portfolio in the near future with 2008 being a major stepping stone to that goal.

Other improvements in 2008 on the Linux platform also will foster growth within open source in general.

Device driver support, which has been good in many areas but weak in graphics and wireless cards, will open the year with a big assist from Intel, which has open sourced all its graphic card drivers, and AMD, which bought ATI, and is open sourcing all its drivers.

"By the end of 2008 it will nearly impossible to find a device that Linux does not support out of the box," says Dan Kohn, COO of the Linux Foundation.

In addition, the Linux Standard Base, which ensures applications can be written once and run on many Linux distributions, is undergoing updates at the Linux Foundation.

Those updates are designed to stimulate growth in open source development, as is Novell's Mono project, which allows .Net applications to run on Linux.

"These trends are going to create more applications for Linux and start to create a fly wheel effect where lots of applications beget more users which beget more applications," says Jim Zemlin, CEO of the Linux Foundation.

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