Vendors salivate at penguin-led party

Big announcements and large attendance signalled to the world that Linux may have come of age at the fourth LinuxWorld Conference & Expo recently.

The show, which saw 200 vendors and 20,000 visitors, featured high-profile announcements from big systems stalwarts IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Dell Computer and Sun Microsystems, and start-ups, such as Linux NetworX, all bent on making the Linux operating system as bulletproof as possible for the enterprise customer.

A little more than two years ago, Linux existed mainly as a research project, but according to market researchers at IDC, Linux was the second-most popular server operating system last year, behind Windows NT, taking almost one-quarter of the market with 1.3 million distributions shipped.

"Linux is starting to evolve as a complete system," says Bill Gleason, a systems manager who uses Linux for Rampt.com, a Los Angeles search engine company. Gleason says he was at the show looking specifically for Linux clustering products. "It's nice to see the big [technology vendors] getting involved more with its development," he adds, citing recent Linux strategies announced by Dell, Intel, IBM and Compaq.

"The more those guys get into [Linux], adding their own proprietary clustering software to the operating system", the more stable it will become, he says.

Hewlett-Packard displayed a version of its MC/ServiceGuard product for Linux at the show. Previously available for HP's Unix servers, MC/ServiceGuard can proactively monitor the operating system and hardware health of individual nodes in a Linux cluster. It can also be configured to trigger alerts to management staff before server crashes occur.

Linux NetworX announced what it claims is one of the first vertically mounted cluster of Linux servers. The Evolocity product mounts up to 25 Intel or Alpha-based Linux nodes together, improving airflow around the individual nodes and letting them run up to 10 degrees cooler, the company claims. The cluster is managed by the company's ClusterWorX software, which orchestrates the cluster nodes to act as a single server image on a network and includes failover support.

IBM announced a Linux cluster hardware and software package for high-availability Linux systems. IBM's Solution Series for Linux Clusters includes Netfinity servers running IBM's Linux Utility for Clusters, software that controls multiple servers as one logical node. The cluster package includes high-speed server interfaces from Myricom and Ethernet switches from Extreme Networks for connecting the cluster to a LAN. The package scales up to 64 nodes and supports Caldera, Red Hat, SuSE and TurboLinux distributions. The IBM clusters are available now and start at $115,000.

Also making Linux clustering announcements were Silicon Graphics, which announced its Iris FailSave failover clustering software for Linux; Mission Critical Linux, which debuted its Convolo Cluster, a two-node failover product for Linux on the IA64; and SuSE, which introduced SuSE Linux Professional Edition 7.0.

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