Notebook: What Dazzled and What Didnt at LinuxWorld

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2004-08-05

Notebook: What Dazzled and What Didnt at LinuxWorld

Off the cuff, Novell chairman and CEO Jack Messman dismissed Sun Microsystems president Jonathan Schwartzs floating of the idea that Sun might buy Novell. Messman suggested that people simply read what Schwartz has written, and what others have written about his suggestion.

In case you havent been following it, the consensus among both analysts and IT professionals is that the idea of Sun Microsystems Inc. buying Novell Inc. is an asinine one. One Fortune 500 company technology buyer said he hadnt heard such a silly idea "in a month of Sundays."

As one senior Novell official put it, "If someone is serious about buying something, would you announce it to the world in a blog and by leaking it to the press?" Another upper-level Novell executive added, "Sun didnt have anything real to announce this week, so I guess they had to say something to get press."

But what about Suns announcement of Linux compatibility for Solaris 10 on the x86 platform? Many of the people on the show floor didnt think it was that big a deal. An integrator who works on Sun and IBM midrange systems said similar functionality has long been available on IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co.s AIX 5L and HP-UX systems. "Now, if they had said you could run Linux on their SPARC systems alongside Solaris, Id be interested," the integrator added.

Returning to the subject of the media, IBM officials werent too happy with their media coverage at LinuxWorld, either. It wasnt that IBM was getting bad press; it was more that no one was paying it much attention.

Carol Stafford, vice president of Linux at IBM, said that while "IBM is still Linuxs biggest booster, were just not getting mentioned that much." Look for IBM to start working harder on getting its Linux message out.

What did surprise this reporter, though, and doubtlessly helped brighten IBMs day, was that many developers were pleased to hear that the company had open-sourced Cloudscape under the Apache Software Foundation.

It seems that while the Java-based Cloudscape may not have many customers, many database and Java programmers find it an attractive, full-featured database system. It will be interesting to see if this initial burst of interest turns into a thriving open-source development community.

Next Page: IBM says it wont enforce its patents covering Linux kernel technologies.

Linux Kernel Patents

IBM also made friends and influenced others in the Linux community when Nick Donofrio, the companys senior vice president of technology and manufacturing, announced Wednesday that it would not enforce its patents covering Linux kernel technologies.

Still, as open-source leader Bruce Perens said, many at the show expressed that theyd "like a signed document to that effect, because managements change and corporate goals change."

Because of IP (intellectual property) claims, Doug Levin, CEO and president of Black Duck Software Inc., said he thinks IP insurance is going to become a hot area. But he thinks it might not pan out in quite the way that OSRM (Open Source Risk Management), an open-source IP analysis and insurance group, thinks it might.

"We believe that large enterprises already have significant insurance policies in place, and in those policies, clauses such as errors and omissions and director and officers liability insurance may already offer some coverage—and in any case could be augmented to cover open-source IP risks with their current carriers," Levin said. "The difficulty for OSRM is if they prove theres a market, and many people are concerned about these issues, they may quickly face competition from other insurance carriers."

Most of the established companies at LinuxWorld wont be facing new competition. The showroom floor was filled with familiar Linux names such as Penguin Computing Inc. and Scyld Software among the smaller players, plus Dell Inc., IBM, Sun and HP, to mention a few of the big boys.

But you also could find companies that the enterprise space knows well finally throwing their hat into the Linux ring. Perhaps the most surprising of these was Unisys Corp., long a strong Microsoft partner, which announced Linux support for its Intel-powered ES7000 server line.

Click here to read more about Unisys bringing Linux to high-end systems.

If you looked closely, however, you could find newcomers such as Specifix Inc. Specifix CEO Kim Knuttila and I sat down briefly, and he explained more to me about his companys business plan.

Specifix designs specialized Linux distributions for customers with particular needs. So far, that sounds like a system integrator or companies such as Progeny Linux Systems Inc. that offer advanced system integration. Specifix offers more than that just that, though.

The company offers more development and deployment control with Conary. This is a distributed software management system for building, deploying and managing a single Linux code base across multiple configurations and hardware platforms. It is also a replacement technology for Linux package management solutions such as Red Hats RPM and Debians dpkg.

Conarys net result, according to Knuttila, is that it gives customers finer control of the Linux development process all the way from the design stage to the delivery stage. This in turn makes it easier to deliver extremely customized Linuxes for any given system, Knuttila said. "This lets us give the real power of open source—being able to modify code to your needs—into the hands of users," he said.

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