Wednesday, June 19, 2024

LinuxWorld: It’s All About Customers

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NEW YORK — In 2003, distributions and the kernel no longer take center
stage at the LinuxWorld Expo New York. These days, as Linux continues to gain traction in the
enterprise, the show is more about how vendors can help customers leverage
the platform to streamline infrastructure requirements and lower total cost
of ownership.

Perhaps nothing illustrates that point better than the show’s upper-tier
sponsors. Red Hat was the sole distribution vendor to
take a “platinum” level sponsorship (and while Red Hat introduced
of its Linux distribution in September, it’s the Advanced
Server enterprise platform
, not its distribution, that helped bring the
company to profitability). The show’s “cornerstone” sponsor was
Hewlett-Packard , with AMD , IBM , Intel , Sun Microsystems ,
and Veritas rounding out the “platinum” sponsorships.
The only other distribution on the marquee was UnitedLinux, with a “silver”

That was more or less the case last year as
well, a sign of how the tide has changed since IBM made ripples with its $1 billion
bet on Linux
in 2001. But while last year’s show was mostly about
companies showing off their new products to corporate decision-makers
interested in testing the Linux waters, 2003 had more to do with vendors
showing off the results of actual engagements.

“The economic rationale behind using Linux at the server level makes
sense,” Deutsche Bank Securities analysts Brian Skiba and Christopher Chun
said Friday. “The hardware running the operating system is dramatically
cheaper based on the Intel architecture, and the plethora of enterprise
applications running on UNIX are now capable of running on Linux. So rather
than spend $200,000 on a UNIX solution, the customer is likely to spend
$25,000-$50,000 for a Linux solution. It’s not the free operating system
that saves the money, it is the shift to commoditized hardware. And the
appeal is that many of the UNIX enterprise applications that are tried and
tested and running today can be brought over to the Linux box. And large
hardware vendors like IBM, HP, Dell and others are in the game in a big
way. And above that “free” layer of operating system software will be
“add-on” pieces that customers will pay for — like 8-way clustering
capability or high security. Companies such as HP will be more than happy
to sell these add-on enterprise parts and make incremental money. And there
are a host of support services, maintenance contracts, and other “soft”
items that can be sold to the account.”

Commodity-based computing is the key to the model. By commoditizing the
hardware and operating system, the big players have lowered the barriers
for customers while shifting the playing field to applications and

Dell CIO Randy Mott illustrated the point more concretely during his
keynote speech at the show Thursday. Mott explained that Dell reorganized
its internal infrastructure — which was running on 14 different
proprietary systems mostly based on Sun Solaris — to Linux boxes running
Red Hat and Oracle9i. By reducing duplication of common systems (a result
of Dell’s hypergrowth mode of previous years), Mott said Dell was able to
realize cost savings of 41 percent thanks to Linux.

“UNIX is dead,” Mott read from one of his slides.

Mott also noted that the savings resulting from the migration to Linux
allowed it pump up its research and development budget — despite overall
shrinking of IT budgets — by diverting 55 percent of its IT spending to
that line item.

IBM, in turn, used the show to trot out more than a few of its Linux
customers, including new wins like Unilever and the PGA

Unilever — whose brands include Dove, Ragu, Lipton tea, Ben & Jerry’s,
Snuggle, Lawry’s and Hellmann’s mayonnaise — is a convert to Linux’s
message of lower TCO, and plans to fully adopt Linux across its
infrastructure with an eye to eventual transition to a grid computing
environment founded on that Linux infrastructure within eight to 10 years.
Initially, like most new Linux converts, the company is deploying the
platform at the edge of its network to run its firewalls, domain name
servers and Web servers. It then plans to utilize the platform for its
system management servers and hopes that it will eventually evolve into a
global enterprise operating environment and support environment that will
allow it the flexibility to buy hardware and software from a multitude of
vendors to fit its needs.

The PGA Tour, meanwhile, is relying on IBM’s Virtual Linux Services to
provide on-demand computing capacity for its new TOURCast service. TOURCast
will allow golf fans to follow tournaments in real time or replay through
rich graphic statistical presentations. IBM’s Virtual Linux Services will
allow the PGA Tour to buy only the capacity it needs, when it needs it.

Still, while customer case studies were front and center at this year’s
LinuxWorld, there were new technologies to be found.

As evidence of Linux’s increasing drive into embedded systems, embedded
Linux specialist MontaVista Software used the show as an opportunity to
unveil MontaVista Linux Carrier Grade Edition 3.0, a Linux operating system
and development environment geared to the needs of telecommunications
equipment manufacturers. Customers like Force, Intel, Motorola, IBM and
RadiSys have already announced support for CGE 3.0, which they will utilize
to build products like wireless to wireline communication gateways for Rail
systems, switches for mobile infrastructure, location registers and base
station controllers for GSM operators, Internet security products like VPN
and secure routers, media gateways and Softswitch-Voice over IP network
solutions, media gateway controllers and managed infrastructure equipment
like DSLAMs and routers.

While UnitedLinux unveiled a version of its UnitedLinux 1.0 distribution
with support for the OSDL Carrier Grade Linux 1.1 specification last
, that offering is in the form of a service pack addition to its
distribution. Meanwhile, MontaVista’s Linux CGE 3.0 was built from the
ground up as a carrier-grade platform, according to Glenn Seiler, director
of product marketing for MontaVista Software.

“We have worked very closely with these ISVs to validate and certify that
their solutions work with our carrier grade edition,” Seiler said.

He added, “CGE is available today and delivers a true, OSDL-compliant
carrier-grade product. Unlike distributions that just provide patches to a
generic server product, MontaVista Linux Carrier Grade Edition 3.0 was
designed and comprehensively tested, from the ground up, to address telecom
availability needs and OSDL feature requirements. MontaVista has made
significant contributions to Open Source in the area of high availability
including the OpenIPMI project and our CompactPCI Hot Swap subsystem. CGE
also includes technologies that are only available from MontaVista, such as
online debugging and patching of deployed applications.”

CGE expands MontaVista’s embedded portfolio, which also includes its
Consumer Electronics Edition 3.0, introduced
earlier this month
at the 2003 International Consumer Electronics Show

AMD and partner Metrowerks, a Motorola company, also took a turn in the
embedded Linux space, using the show as a vehicle to demo a pre-release
version of OpenPDA, a Linux technology-based software platform for
developing PDAs, Web pads and smart phones running on the AMD Alchemy
Solutions Mobile Client Reference Design Kit (RDK).

The software platform consists of an embedded Linux kernel, Trolltech’s
Qtopia multi-language user interface, Insignia’s integrated Java Virtual
Machine (JVM), and a full-featured Opera Web browser. It also includes
extended capabilities that will allow devices to utilize desktop
synchronization utilities and mobile networking.

One of the more anticipated debuts was JBoss’ delivery of its JBoss 3.0 application server, which may give BEA Systems a run for its money. JBoss, a J2EE-friendly app server with a
very attractive price point (it’s free), is surging in popularity, with
more than 2 million downloads in 2002. webMethods partnered
with the JBoss group late last year in order to add the app server to
its integration platform.

Cluster computing solutions also showed they were gaining ground at the
show. Dell Wednesday announced it
has added high-performance computing cluster (HPCC) capabilities to its
PowerEdge 1655MC blade servers — the company’s first blades that support
the Linux environment. Dell, which only uses the Red Hat Linux distribution
on its hardware, said its HPCC program offers configurations of 6 to 132
server-nodes, with up to 84 servers in a standard rack. However, Dell
remains a late-comer to the game, with both Sun Microsystems and Platform
Computing unveiling Linux-bas
ed clusters
at the LinuxWorld Expo San Francisco last summer.

AMD is also working with Scyld Computing to develop a
64-bit version of Scyld Beowulf, the cluster operating system, for systems
based on its Opteron processors. The companies plan to support both 32-bit
and 64-bit application development and simplified migration of existing
32-bit applications.

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