Vendors ready for LinuxWorld

Despite the specter of The SCO Group's legal scuffle with IBM and Linux users, big players such as BEA Systems, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Sun Microsystems and Veritas Software will roll out products and services at this week's LinuxWorld Conference & Expo in San Francisco.

The legal battle is expected to have little effect - save for being a hot topic of conversation - at LinuxWorld, the first since SCO filed its US$3 billion lawsuit against IBM alleging the company had inappropriately used portions of proprietary Unix code to beef up Linux scalability. Instead, show-goers can expect to find a long list of announcements from major vendors that are pushing Linux into more-critical data center roles.

IBM jumped the gun this week in announcing a pre-integrated Linux cluster. The cluster includes Linux on the company's new 32-/64-bit AMD Opteron-based servers packaged with network switches and storage. It also comes with IBM's new DB2 Integrated Cluster Environment, which can support up to 1,000 nodes, the company says.

HP also will announce pre-integrated Linux clusters and a tighter relationship with BEA to support BEA's application server on Linux. HP and IBM are expected to announce a slew of management products for Linux, enabling their flagship management systems to run natively on the Linux platform.

For its part, Veritas will unveil clustering tools for IBM DB2, MySQL and Oracle databases to increase recovery and step up availability of those applications running on Linux.

"Linux is moving into database and application server environments beyond just the very early razor-edge adopter of last year and the year before," says Pierre Fricke, executive vice president at consulting firm D.H. Brown Associates. "You've got more mainstream business users putting this stuff into play at that level."

Pushing that trend are products and services from major vendors that view Linux as an increasingly important and viable data center platform. The show will feature more than 150 vendors unveiling and demonstrating products, about the same number that had booths at the LinuxWorld in New York in January.

In addition, the show will feature its first Hands-On Lab, which will offer show-goers computer training on a variety of Linux applications, from managing a mixed Windows and Linux environment to network security issues for Linux and Java. The show will feature a financial summit to highlight the growing use of Linux in the financial community, and a CIO Agenda, which is aimed at helping CIOs make sense of the Linux platform and where it's headed.

Attendance at the show is expected to be on par with last year, when about 20,000 people showed up, according to show organizer IDG World Expo, a sister company of Network World. While the show will include the expected number of "geeks [and] techies, we're seeing larger numbers of attendees from manufacturing, finance/ banking, government and education," an IDG World Expo spokeswoman says.

One of the reasons for the interest in the show is the cost-savings customers have realized by running Linux on standard platforms vs. more-expensive proprietary machines, analysts say.

Petroleum firm Amerada Hess, for example, traded in IBM Unix systems for Linux on Intel-based boxes. Jeff Davis, technical lead at the firm in Houston, says the company is saving "several million dollars" by running its supercomputing applications for seismic analysis and reservoir simulation on Red Hat Linux.

At next week's show, Davis expects to hear about more widespread vendor support for Linux and more advanced enterprise solutions. He says he's also interested in hearing about Linux Kernel 2.6, which expands the symmetric multiprocessing capabilities of Linux to support up to 16 processors. Linux 2.6 is now in beta and is expected to be generally available next year.

"The big news to me is what's going on technically," says Joe Clabby of Clabby Analytics a research company in Yarmouth, Maine. "Linux had shortcomings, particularly in the area of scalability. Most Linux implementations scaled well to six and sometimes eight processors so that limited where they could be deployed. Now [with Linux 2.6] you're looking at 16-way and 32-way (capability). So Intel-based Linux servers can indeed finally come into the enterprise and scale up and compete head-on with midrange servers from Sun and IBM."

Weather.com used to be a Sun Solaris shop but now runs 100 percent of its systems on Linux on Intel. Dan Agronow, vice president of technology at the firm in Atlanta, says he moved his Oracle database to Linux in 2001 and saved thousands of dollars in the process.

He hopes to see better performance from Linux, but says the multiprocessor support is secondary. "We've had a lot of success with the horizontal scalability of two CPU boxes."

Agronow says he's looking forward to testing the new Opteron-based eServer 325 from IBM. "We're not looking for a larger number of CPUs per server. Performance is the biggest benefit we'd like to see in the future from Linux," he says.

Ice.com, an online jewelry retail site in Montreal has used strictly Linux and open source for years. "We chose Linux for one reason, and that was cost," says CIO Steve Bramson.

Bramson says he would like to see more tools for configuring and managing Linux and open source environments. "There's a big difference between installing a Windows 2000 package and a Linux package on a server," Bramson says. Products that make Linux set up more point-and-click features would be a plus, he adds.

IBM is focusing on that idea with its eServer Integrated Platform for e-business, which includes hardware, application server, database software and tools that small and midsize businesses need to get up and running on Linux. It also is extending Linux support for Tivoli. HP will announce that its ProLiant Essentials Rapid Deployment pack for Linux will now run on a Linux server, enabling it to be used in a Linux-only environment.

Several other vendors are expected to make management-related announcements at the show. Among them is Candle, which will introduce software for managing and fine-tuning the performance of IBM WebSphere on Linux. Linuxcare will unveil software for managing thousands of Linux virtual servers deployed on IBM's mainframe hardware platform.

IBM is extending Linux support for Lotus, including the first Web-based Linux client for its forthcoming Domino 6.5 messaging and collaboration server, which also will run on IBM eServer zSeries mainframes. The Domino Web Access client, formerly called iNotes, now supports the Mozilla 1.3 browser, which runs on a Linux desktop. Show-goers can expect to hear more about Linux's move to desktop environments as businesses find the same kinds of savings for client environments as they have for servers.

- Senior editor John Fontana contributed to this report.

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