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Gartner Takes Linux Down a Few Pegs

Gartner Takes Linux Down a Few Pegs

Gartner, the highly influential research house, has abandoned its one-size-fits-all analysis of Linux for a more granular appraisal of the upstart operating system. Bottom line, it says, Linux is not a universally satisfying solution just yet.

Gartner analyst George Weiss says he has come to realize that Linux is "a set of technologies with varying degrees of maturity and various applications" - not, as the popular view has it, a "single pervasive technology" - "major fallacy" that, he says - and the fact that it's good in one application is no guarantee that it'll work as well elsewhere.

In fact, Linux, which started out to be a mere desktop system when Linus Torvalds first conceived it, may be five years or more away from being the answer in a number of enterprise situations, Weiss says, and it may take another seven to 10 years for it to evolve from an infrastructure server and "achieve the high confidence levels required by IS management for deployment in large, critical corporate applications."

This epiphany is doubtless shared by IBM, which has staked its future on Linux, and probably explains why it's throwing its folks at Linux development.

Anyway, Weiss is warning clients that "If an enterprise launches its [Linux] effort too soon, it will suffer unnecessarily through the painful and expensive lessons associated with deploying an immature technology." He says users have got to hit the timing just right to avoid being left behind by competitors or leaving themselves open to "vulnerabilities the new technology addresses."

To help, Weiss has re-charted Linux on Gartner's famous and oh-so-true Hype Cycle model, which plots technology from its trigger point across the Peak of Inflated Expectations through the Trough of Disillusionment and up the Slope of Enlightenment to the Plateau of Productivity.

Using that yardstick, only Linux for simple things such as file, print, cache, and firewall is approaching any kind of nirvana. Linux on technical clusters is still a ways off. Linux four-ways (but only with dedicated apps and small 50GB-100GB of storage) are only emerging from the Trough of Disillusionment, which has Linux on the mainframe firmly in its grip along with Linux in three-tier applications. Linux on eight-ways and on the Itanium chip are slipping off the Peak of Inflated Expectations, where Linux on the desktop is firmly embedded right now along with Linux in modular computing. Running up the Inflated Expectations curve are Linux system and storage management, Linux on RISC and Linux in complex, mission-critical workloads.

Weiss figures it'll take Linux in complex mission-critical workloads, modular computing and on the desktop more than five years to approach the Plateau of Productivity. RISC, storage and systems management, Linux eight-ways, Linux on Itanium, complex apps on Linux-based mainframes and three-tier Linux applications are all two-five years off. The rest are less than two years away from it.

Issues with storage, volume management, backup and recovery are slowing the adoption of four-way Linux SMP servers, Weiss observes. The Linux applications IBM's got running on mainframes are usually simple stuff like file, print, web pages, e-mail, news and intranets.

Linux needs third-party apps to run on the IA-64. Tests have to be run to ensure eight-way Linux boxes can scale and support heavier workloads. Linux system and storage management provisioning, disaster recovery, performance analysis, reliability, availability, and serviceability are all still immature.

Weiss warns against thinking the answer boils down to a simple port of existing Unix or Windows widgetry to Linux. He says it ain't.

"Much of the work is in system integration and testing with the Linux kernel," he says. "For example, some tools may operate well as layered products and others might demand changes/additions to application programming interfaces. In addition, success will be predicated on continuing life cycle improvements in maintenance and support."

Weiss doesn't get into the issue of whether the Linux kernel hackers can cut it. See http://www.clientservernews.com/charts/csn485/gartner.bmp

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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