By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2005-08-01 Print this article Print

Sporting an updated kernel, The SCO Group Inc.s OpenServer 6 offers significant scalability upgrades, along with new UnixWare application and driver compatibility. These improvements, along with a set of new and updated open-source software components, make OpenServer 6 a compelling upgrade for sites already running this venerable operating system.

For new installations, however, OpenServer 6 will have a tough time competing with Linux, Windows and Solaris, each of which runs on the same x86 hardware for which OpenServer is designed. These rivals match or beat OpenServer in terms of cost and capability, and each enjoys more momentum in the market than does OpenServer.

Whats more, although the products broadened embrace of free software components can mean more flexibility and better interoperability for OpenServer 6 sites, some of SCOs well-publicized courtroom activities lead us to question SCOs suitability as a provider of these applications. For instance, the company contends that the GNU GPL (General Public License)—under which MySQL, Samba, KDE and other open-source packages that ship with OpenServer are distributed—is unconstitutional and unenforceable.

What does Jason Brooks think about SCOs intellectual-property argument?Click here to read more. Confusing litigiousness aside, eWEEK Labs found that OpenServer 6, which began shipping in June, merits consideration at shops that run legacy OpenServer, UnixWare and Xenix applications.

OpenServer 6 comes in two editions: a $599 two-user Starter release, which supports one processor and 1GB of RAM, and a $1,399 Enterprise edition, which supports four users, four processors and 4GB of RAM.

The biggest change in OpenServer 6 is a new kernel based on the Unix System 5 Release 5 code, which also forms the foundation of SCOs UnixWare 7.1.4.

In addition to making OpenServer 6 compatible with applications and some hardware drivers compiled for UnixWare, the kernel change brings a raft of scalability improvements to OpenServer.

For example, OpenServer 6 can support 32 processors, up from four in OpenServer 5.0.7, and supports 16GB of general-purpose RAM, up from 4GB in the previous release. Applications modified for OpenServer 6 can boost its RAM limit to 64GB. Also significantly increased in Version 6 is the maximum file size supported by OpenServer—as much as 1TB, compared with the diminutive 2GB ceiling of previous versions.

Working with large files was somewhat confusing, however. To work in OpenServer 6 with files larger than 2GB, we had to use a separate set of Unix applications modified by SCO to work with large files. These utilities, which include standbys such as ls and cat, are stored in /u95/bin—we could add this location to our path to default to the large-file-aware utilities.

For applications compiled for OpenServer 5x, the support for larger files in Version 6 may require a recompile or an entirely new version of the application.

OpenServer 6 includes support for kernel threads, which are particularly important for getting the best performance out of Java. Version 6 ships with Java Version 1.4.2.

OpenServer 6 supports multipath I/O; NIC failover; and CPU, memory and PCIx device hot-plugging—all of which can help keep services available in the event of hardware failure.

OpenServer administrators will be pleased to see that Version 6 supports dynamically loading kernel modules. Previously, basic operations in OpenServer, such as changing the IP address of an Ethernet device, required kernel relinking and a reboot—an inconvenience thats no longer required.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.

As Editor in Chief of eWEEK Labs, Jason Brooks manages the Labs team and is responsible for eWEEK's print edition. Brooks joined eWEEK in 1999, and has covered wireless networking, office productivity suites, mobile devices, Windows, virtualization, and desktops and notebooks. JasonÔÇÖs coverage is currently focused on Linux and Unix operating systems, open-source software and licensing, cloud computing and Software as a Service. Follow Jason on Twitter at jasonbrooks, or reach him by email at jbrooks@eweek.com.

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