LinuxWorld 2005

LinuxWorld 2005 -- Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems, announced today that Solaris 9 would continue to be supported on SPARC despite Sun's recent announcement that Sun Linux 4.0 would be the core operating system on all of its hardware lines.


LinuxWorld 2005 – Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems, announced today that Solaris 9 would continue to be supported on SPARC despite Sun’s recent announcement that Sun Linux 4.0 would be the core operating system on all of its hardware lines.

In related news, Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina assured legacy system owners that HP would continue to support HP-UX, OpenVMS, and Tru64 Unix even though Linux would now be HP’s flagship operating system across the Alpha, Pentium V, and Itanium III lines.

However, the real story of LinuxWorld 2005 continues to be the war of words between the recently formed Red Hat/ Oracle/Dell (ROD) and HP/UnitedLinux/IBM (HUI) consortiums, as both sides continue to accuse the other of forking the Linux kernel. But, as Linus Torvalds pointed out in his keynote address, the kernel itself remains the one, true kernel, and the extensions that ROD and HUI have added are purely optional.

Ransom Love, president of IBM and former leader of Caldera (which changed its name to The SCO Group in 2002) and UnitedLinux, bragged that UnitedLinux will never fork the kernel. He added, of course, “We will add extensions to Linux to get the most from DB3 and WebSphere.” But, he continued, Red Hat and Oracle began doing that with Red Hat Advanced Server (RHAS) back in 2002.

While those close to Linux fret over the ROD/HUI battle, the business market doesn’t care. As Dan Kusnetzky, the newly appointed president of IDC, pointed out, “With 60% of the server market, customers just want Linux.”

Independent software vendors agreed. “Sure, we could keep writing to half-a-dozen different platforms,” said one ISV president, “but when you write to Linux, your program will work natively on AIX, HP-UX, OpenServer, Solaris, you name it.” “Really,” he said, “as soon as all of the operating system vendors started adopting Linux application programming interfaces (APIs) and application binary interfaces (ABIs) back in 2001, the writing was on the wall. Given a choice between writing the same application four times, for say HP Tru64, SCO UnixWare, IBM AIX, and Linux, and writing once for Linux and knowing that it would run on everyone’s Unix, too, what you do?”

Alas, only fanatics are running Linux desktops. Despite the great improvements in KDE 6 and Gnome 6.0, only true Linux believers are running it on the desktop. Well, as a native desktop that is. Windows XP and Windows 2000 applications, thanks to NeTraverse Win4Lin 6.0, are what most “Linux” desktop users are running. (Win4Lin on Linux now represents about 8% of the PC market.)

Of course, most of these Linux users don’t even know they’re running Linux. If they do notice anything, it’s just that they’re not re-booting as often as they once were. And that, as everyone knows, is no small thing.

And it’s certainly not small business. Almost all hardware vendors now offer Linux as the core server operating system. Ironically, some Linux hardware companies, like remarkably resilient Penguin Computing and PSSC Labs, figured out a long time ago that making money from Linux meant focusing on high-end servers and workstations, and not mass market PCs.

Truth or Fiction?

Does this rosy story of Linux’s future sound like fantasy? It’s not. I’ve been around the computing block enough times to read trends. If anything, I may be underestimating the impact that Linux will have on the server world.

The simple truth is that Linux is going to rule the server world and .NET won’t be able to stop it. Oh, there will still be a place for the ilk of AIX and HP-UX at the very high end, but for bread-and-butter file and print serving up to the lower limits of enterprise servers, Linux will rule.

Companies that get that — and given the UnitedLinux movement and Red Hat’s recent moves to buddy up with Oracle, I think it’s clear that most of the major Linux companies have gotten it — will do very well in the future.

At the same time, the idea of Linux as being some kind of rebel software is dying. Linux is becoming the corporate operating system of choice.

You can see it already. Software Research Associates, Inc. (SRA) picked Turbolinux up this summer, not because SRA is a Linux fan, but because the company wanted a major Japanese-language server operating system.

Yeah, it won’t surprise me at all when Oracle buys out Red Hat. Oracle buying Dell? Well, OK, that’s pushing it.

Oh, and one final tidbit from 2005: Bill Gates announces .NET Linux Server.

Remember, you read it here first!

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is a long-time Unix guru and technology writer. He can be reached at sjvn@vna1.com.

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