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LinuxWorld Expo

Round-Up Boston

The Birkenstocks and beards where mothballed this year as the new guard entered LinuxWorld Expo in button-down shirts and ties and the occasional Brooks Brothers suit. This year's LinuxWorld was all about business or at least that's the message IDG, the conference producer, tried to convey when it promoted the event held for the first time in Boston's Hynes Convention Center. The main hall was filled, with booths from Red Hat and Novell butting up against a pavilion staffed by IBMers in their familiar blue. The .Org pavilion was relegated to the back of a side hall behind a monstrous Intel booth. Though the corporate presence was somewhat overwhelming community projects unseated powerhouses for best-in-show honors and Open Source projects like the Linux Terminal Server Project (www.ltsp.org) and newcomers like Virtual Iron (www.virtualiron.com) sparked interest.

The Award Winners

The "Best of Show" award, which recognizes the best total industry solution, went to Mambo 4.5.1, not some corporate goliath like IBM or Intel but a community project Mambo CMS (www.mamboserver.com/), which gained accolades for its innovative use of the open source LAMP technologies (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP). The powerful but easy-to-use Mambo is a content management system. Its small 10-by-10 booth was manned by a couple of volunteers, no marketing guys or salesmen, and no one was doing a hard sell. Mambo's selling point is that it's simply enthusiastic about the product, which has been deployed worldwide by thousands of businesses.

The LinuxWorld awards were divided into 14 product categories; the LinuxWorld Product Excellence Awards represent major areas of innovation in Linux and Open Source.

  • Best Data Backup or Storage Solution: BakBone Software for NetVault
  • Best Integration Solution: Alacos for Linux Migration Agent Network Server Edition
  • Best Database Solution: Versora for Progression DB
  • Best Security Solution: Novell for Novell Nsure
  • Best Desktop/Productivity/Business Application: Kirix Corporation for Kirix Strata
  • Best Utility/Grid Computing Solution: Virtual Iron Software for Virtual Iron VFe
  • Best Server: Rackable Systems for C4002 four-way Opteron solution
  • Best Messaging Solution: Scalix for Scalix 9.2
  • Most Innovative Hardware Solution: Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) for Opteron Model x52 processors
  • Best Clustering Solution: HP for HP Virtual Server Environment
  • Best Open Source Solution: Mambo for Mambo 4.5.1a
  • Best Embedded Solution: Tall Maple Systems for Samara
  • Best Systems Management Tools: Novell foe ZENworks 6.5 Linux Management
  • Best Application Development Platform or Tool: Activestate for Komodo 3.1 X2
There were new faces among the winners including two Windows-to-Linux migration specialists, Versora (www.versora.com) and Alacos (www.alacos.com). It seems like demand in Open Source these days is for migration. Those that have jumped on the Linux/Open Source bandwagon are looking for vendors and products that help transition from one platform to the other.

LinuxWorld Speakers

I had a chance to speak with two of the LinuxWorld's keynote speakers, John Swainson, the new CEO of Computer Associates, and Martin Fink, HP's top Linux exec. They share thoughts on Linux. Both were matter-of-fact about the value of Linux in the enterprise and Swainson called Linux the logical choice for the Web infrastructure. Gone is the rhetoric about Linux being "good enough" that I'd heard at the last few shows. Swainson started his keynote by mentioning the January 31 issue of BusinessWeek with Linus Torvalds on the cover. He said that LinuxWorld underscored the fact that the Open Source community as a critical component of the IT industry was axiomatic. He also pointed out that Linux was making its way into everything from Motorola cell phones, Mitsubishi robots, and eBay servers to NASA space shuttle simulations and was the platform the hit movie "Shark Tales" was rendered on.

Martin Fink - VP of Linux, HP

Martin Fink's position was that Linux on its own is no longer the center of attention, that it's no longer a matter of when it will be "ready," it's already here all over the enterprise. He said the next step is to focus on Open Source applications. He cited mySQL and JBOSS as examples of leveraging Open Source in business. Fink went on to say, "We did Linux, we did the Internet, and the edge of the network as proof-of-concept. It's no longer about the OS, it's about moving up, and penetrating the stack." He used the analogy of how the airlines have been reinventing their business model with low-cost carriers and customer service initiatives. He figures that enterprise software needs to start reinventing itself by focusing on value-added services, not proprietary technology.

On the subject of new trends and important topics, Fink claimed that Linux is defining the new blade server architecture. He's seeing high-volume use of Linux on blades, which leads to his interest in virtualization, where the old focus on processing power has been giving way to maximizing utilization. That's why HP is interested in Xen (www.cl.cam.ac.uk/Research/SRG/netos/xen/). It's no longer a matter of adding more processors but utilizing computer processing. Mr. Fink said, "What we don't want to see is the VM layer being controlled by any one company. It's important that Xen make it into the kernel so companies like Red Hat and Novell can both take advantage of it easily."

He also said that the patents are part of the real world and compared them to paying taxes - it's okay to hate them but their part of the way the world works. He said he was afraid the Open Source license glut might cause a "compatibility matrix from hell." He wants to call attention to the problem. He personally prefers BSD and the GPL and wants to see the number of Open Sources licenses shrink.

John Swainson - CEO, Computer Associates

John Swainson noted that Linux had made itself from the fringes of the technology world to the main stage in a short 14 years. He referenced the fact that Open Source had tapped into a powerful set of global social, political and economic drivers. He highlighted the success of Mexico where 140,000 elementary and middle schools deferred a $124 million investment in proprietary software for a $50 for a pair of installation CDs and a manual. Swainson said Open Source was a viable and cost-effective alternative to proprietary solutions and to prove it noted that 1,200 branches of the Chinese post office recently picked Linux as the basis of their automation system. Mr. Swainson mentioned two German Linux migrations, the city of Munich and the German National Railway. The first is possibly the most notorious Linux desktop migration in the world and the second the largest. He said one thing that Munich did was quantify the barriers to Linux migration while German National Railway was an example of how 55,000 users had moved to Linux for Lotus Notes.

He talked about today's buying climate where customers are very conservative and want a return on every dollar invested in IT infrastructure. At the same time, IT innovation is exploding. Computer Associates wants to support and ultimately manage these new technologies.

One statement that Swainson made rang particularly clear. "Open Source," he said, "is no longer a philosophical or religious choice. We believe it can become a viable part of the IT infrastructure." What he said might have been the theme of this February's LinuxWorld.

Linux Appliances Are Hot

One traditional criticism of Linux has been ease-of-use, along with the need for a new set of IT skills to administer Linux systems. But the new trend is in embedded Linux devices that have been pre-configured and comes with a Web interface to administer them. Their low learning curve and limited development costs make them attractive.

Astaro (www.astaro.com) announced a line of Astaro Security Gateway Appliances for small and medium enterprises. These devices host six key security applications - firewall, VPN gateway, intrusion protection, gateway anti-virus, and URL content filtering. CEO Jan Hichert says that while Astaro is a small company it's increasing its distribution for the devices. Novell has signed on to OEM its Security Manager (www.novell.com/products/securitymanager/).

David Ting, CTO of Imprivata (www.imprivata.com), exhibited as a Novell partner hawking his single sign-on device, which, likes Astaro, leverages Linux at its core to provide a single authentication point for enterprise users. The device offers a single checkpoint for controlling user authentication data. Data security has taken on a higher profile lately since HIPAA and Sarbanes Oxley has legislated due diligence with data.

Linux is being used to solve business problems that are independent of the operating system. If companies use Linux as a development platform, they can spend their resources developing their core products rather than licensing operating systems or developing them from scratch. For the end user, this leveraged product development helps provide high-quality products at lower cost.

Round-Up

LinuxWorld is now a place to go and find business solutions that are coincidentally based on Linux. Attendees were there to find out how they could leverage Linux. The program has turned to the practical uses of Linux. There was still the odd bit of fun like the Sun gaming challenge co-sponsored by AMD. Sun and AMD execs and Linux pundits and Linux community leaders squared off on Opteron-based Java workstations. Overall I believe this LinuxWorld opened a new chapter in the semi-annual convention where the IT users from all levels of enterprises will find more efficient and cost-effective solutions for their needs.

More Stories By Mark R. Hinkle

Mark Hinkle is the Vice President of Community at Cloud.com. the maker of the open source cloud computing management software, CloudStack He also is along-time open source expert and advocate. He is a co-founder of both the Open Source Management Consortium and the Desktop Linux Consortium. He has served as Editor-in-Chief for both LinuxWorld Magazine and Enterprise Open Source Magazine. Hinkle is also the author of the book, "Windows to Linux Business Desktop Migration" (Thomson, 2006). His blog on open source, technology, and new media can be found at http://www.socializedsoftware.com.

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