Saturday, April 13, 2024

Linux Begins Its Descent Into the Enterprise

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Echoing sentiments from LinuxWorld
last February, hardware and software vendors next week plan to
challenge the notion that Linux is only meant for the lighter tasks of
corporate computing.

New strategic ties with software infrastructure (or so-called middleware)
vendors and key customer wins will serve to build more momentum around the
open source movement in convincing IT decision-makers that Linux is completely enterprise-ready.

“The big theme of LinuxWorld is the momentum it has in the enterprise,”
said Mark de Visser, vice president of marketing at Red Hat . “The momentum
is exemplified by the arrival of corporate customers who are saying ‘we’ve
deployed it.'”

IBM recently announced that nine new customers have jumped aboard the
Linux bandwagon, including 7-Eleven and Air New Zealand — both of whom will
use Linux to run and protect their email systems. And, Hewlett-Packard said
Linux helped L-3 Communications integrate a network of workstations into an
airport security scanning system.

At the same time, the Linux spotlight is turning up in the more
mission-critical areas of corporate computing. And in this area, Linux is
making enormous strides in shoring up confidence in its ability to deliver
applications and huge strings of data in addition to simply web pages.

“It’s been successfully deployed in the enterprise. Linux is more than an OS
used to run a web site,” de Visser explained.

When Linux first arrived in the corporate setting a few years back, it
was more of a novelty. While hobbyists turned to the open source OS for its
security and performance capabilities, network administrators rarely used it
for more serious areas such as database or applications management. Instead,
Linux was relegated to the more menial tasks like e-mail or
serving up Web pages.

But now Linux isn’t merely powering up the Web
server , it’s also being used in mainframes to power up the application
server. In the case of Air New Zealand, IBM has replaced some 150 Compaq
servers with a single
eServer zSeries mainframe that runs Linux and IBM’s Websphere Application
Server software. And BEA Systems , whose WebLogic Enterprise Platform runs
neck-and-neck to IBM’s Websphere as the market-leading app server, is also
supporting Linux OS environments.

Guess Who’s Coming to Exhibit?
To be sure, analysts admit that Linux still has a long way to go before
it has even made a dent in the infrastructure market — an area that has
long been locked up by Unix and Windows. For example, BEA’s WebLogic runs
predominantly on Solaris, Sun Microsystems’ proprietary Unix OS.

“Most of the mission-critical apps run on IBM mainframes, RISC-Unix
platforms or Windows. If you look at the percentage that is
running on Linux, it’s still very small. Linux in the enterprise is still in
its infancy,” said Bill Claybrook, research director for Linux at Aberdeen

Which is exactly why Red Hat’s game plan isn’t so much to compete
head-to-head with the Windows server market as it is to go after the
higher-end Unix systems.

“The UNIX platforms are being replaced by Linux,” de Visser said.

So much so that long-time Unix backers like Sun
and Oracle
have recently announced native support for Linux.

Ironically, both CEOs Scott McNealy and Larry Ellison, as well as Google
Co-founder Sergey Brin, are keynote speakers at LinuxWorld San Francisco.
Earlier this year, Oracle announced Linux support for its 9i while Sun has
taken its involvement one step further by announcing its own OS distribution
for its own line of servers.

In fact, Linux has gathered so much momentum that when attendees descend
upon San Francisco for the biannual event on August 12-15, they will be
greeted by the unusual presence of a familiar foe. Microsoft has even signed
on as an exhibitor of LinuxWorld, as first reported by sister site, Linux Today. The software giant — the
antithesis of open source — plans to demo some of its Windows XP embedded

According to analysts like Claybrook, the reason it took so long for
Linux to be deployed on a wide scale wasn’t so much due to lack of
confidence in its performance and stability but due to procedural hurdles
(like customer certifications) that typically confront all new technologies.
But now support from the entire IT community is beginning to hit critical

“A lot of the delay was due to the fact that [IBM’s] DB2 and Oracle
needed to be ported to and certified on Linux. Of course, the ISV would prefer only to port to one platform. Until there’s sufficient
demand, very few people are going to be porting their applications but
that’s changing. The ISVs now see sufficient demand,” Claybrook explained.

Entertaining the Client
And even though Sun’s proprietary Linux distribution would compete
head-to-head with Red Hat’s enterprise products (de Visser of course
downplayed Sun’s involvement in the open source community), the Red Hat
official conceded that it still demonstrates how Linux has come full circle.
“It creates an ecosystem. The more partners you’ll have…the more
customers you’ll have. The more customers…the more ISV and so on,” he

Yet, despite the inroads that Linux has made in recent years, server-side
deployment business still dwarfs the amount of business that Linux does on
the client side of computing. And as such, Red Hat doesn’t plan much hoopla
at next week’s show for its current Red Hat 7.3 nor its upcoming version 8.0
known as Limbo. The individual software packages are considered to be more
of a retail product.

“We focus Unix customers. Our focus is not to convert Microsoft customers
to Linux customers,” de Visser said.

But, that might be the wisest approach given the tremendous growth
potential on the client side. While the overall Linux market (as measured by
revenue) contracted last year, the number of unit shipments on the client
side still grew faster than the server side, according to a recent IDC

“There is still a huge market for the client side,” forecasted Al Gillen,
research director of system software at IDC.

And the most obvious hurdle with that tactic is Microsoft’s monopoly. But
at an increasingly cost competitive time, Microsoft’s new licensing program just might have opened the door for

“There will be a desktop side of Linux that will be growing when you can
get Linux and productivity software for less than what Microsoft offers,”
Claybrook said.

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