Vendors Are Punch-Drunk with Linux Love

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2005-02-16

Vendors Are Punch-Drunk with Linux Love

BOSTON—You walk the show floor with your eyes around nipple level, and everywhere you espy an unbroken line of blue exhibitor badges, because this is LinuxWorld, and everyone is here to sell, sell, sell. Ironic, no? From scruffy to scaling the stack, all in a few (short?) years.

The big software and hardware vendors were all beating their breasts to proclaim their love for Linux, of course. A random selection of splashes from the big fish:

• Novell Inc. tossed hundreds of thousands of lines of code as if it were so much confetti, launching an open-source collaboration server project, "Hula." Wouldnt you know it, though: Those skeptical open-sourcers thought that Novell had its own welfare in mind.

"They still have objectives of their own: to put [code for Novell software] into their solutions," said Jason D. Runyan, an IT specialist at the USDA, in Kansas City, Miss. "[Messmans] here, and hes doing this presentation, but there are motivations. He mentioned GroupWise: He obviously wants everybody to adopt GroupWise."

Indeed, Hula is just Novells way of "being Red Hat," Runyan said. "They can say oh, look, were open source with this too, we started this project and whatever."

Click here to check out the LinuxWorld slideshow, replete with two types of funny hats on the show floor.

Yeah, but at least they shelled out the code, said Colin Bodell, chief technology officer of VA Software Corp., of Fairmont, Calif. (Theyre the guys responsible for and a mess of other very cool open-source sites.) That passes the "whaddya got for us" litmus test for sure, said Bodell and Jeff Bates, vice president of editorial operations at

• For its part, big fish Oracle Corp. announced key products are certified on the new Red Hat Inc. Enterprise Linux 4 operating system, plus it opened a Linux Test Lab devoted to torturing your applications on Linux, nice and slow, just like in real life, with mind-numbing workloads.

Oracle is creating a test lab dedicated to Linux to ensure "beyond a shadow of a doubt" that the operating system can run mission-critical systems, the company announced on Tuesday.

Oracle will test Red Hat and Novell SuSE Linux operating systems, as well as the mainline Linux kernel, using real-world workloads, the same as it does to its own products. It has pledged to fix operating system issues as theyre found and will provide fixes back to the Linux community and to its operating system partners.

Next Page: Oracles Wim Coekaerts says better Linux diagnostics in the works.

Better Linux Diagnostics

Oracles Director of Linux Engineering, Wim Coekaerts, told me that theyre basically making sure that they simulate the real world instead of just focusing on running Oracle on Linux, which theyve always done.

Also—and this goes back to the Linux Kernel Developers Summit in Ottawa last July, when it came up that there was a need for better diagnostics—Oracle is going to try to add some diagnostics information to see if theres a way to make it easier to detect problems.

As it is, it takes a long time to figure out how to correctly dump debugging info, Coekaerts said. "Given its in the enterprise now, theyre saying, If something goes wrong, we want the data right there to diagnose it," he said.

For resources, Oracle is making sure every product division has one or two people assigned to the lab at all times. As bugs come up and Oracle fixes them, it will file bugs and patches with partners and will provide fixes as part of its Linux support plan.

You wont have to pay to get patches, but to get updates you do. Of course, if its a mainline kernel problem, it goes straight to Linus Torvalds and the usual suspects. This does not mean Linux is full of bugs, Coekaerts hastened to point out. Far from it—theyre actually pretty tough to find, he said.

• Beyond the small fish, theres also, by now, a swarm of open-source supporting players thats grown up to nibble crumbs at the feet of the mighty. This is good, this is an ecosystem. But its tough to eat your grilled chicken sandwich as people are selling databases at you. No offense, Kirix Corp.—by all means, do send info. I was just a bit low-blood-sugary when we chatted.

After you talk to big vendors like Oracle, you get the impression that there are no more questions left about open sources readiness for the enterprise. Impressions from the show floor were that theres still plenty of toe-dipping, though.

I talked to Kenneth Fung, director of Information Services for Zoo New England. He for one is just at the level of trying to figure out whats best for his nonprofit organization, which runs the Franklin Park Zoo and the Stone Zoo and, yikes! is still running on dial-up access and an NT domain. On sites that are 72 acres and 76 acres, respectively, mind you.

"Instead of automatically going to Windows 2003, I want to see whats out there," he said as he waited to catch the attention of a MySQL AB sales guy. "Im thinking ahead as to whats out there, whats best for the company."

Next Page: Ditch the patents, says MySQLs Mickos.

Ditch the Patents

Whats best for your company will be the same as whats best for all companies, MySQL CEO Marten Mickos said in his Wednesday keynote. Namely, ditch all patents on software.

"The world would be a better place without software patents," Mickos said. "Its all too easy to assume that if engineers create the adjustable wrench and engineers write software, they should both be protected by patents." (For more anti-patent philosophizing, Mickos suggested checking out

Its not an issue of small companies vs. big companies, Mickos said. Patents particularly hurt the large companies who have plenty of cash. "The software pirates will likely attack them to get the largest payouts," he said.

In the meantime, the open-source landscape is a maturing industry. Only a "very tiny fraction" of the worlds software needs have been met so far, Mickos said.

My conversation with Bodell and Bates underscored this idea: The two of them pointed out that more and more open-source projects on are sophisticated applications—as opposed to the nuts and bolts stuff that was long its typical project. Were talking customer relationship management and ERP (enterprise resource planning) here.

There are a host of other applications left to be written for open-source, and the model is likely to spread to other industries as well, Mickos said: journalism, law, government, or any industry whose product is abstract.

Or even to an industry with very tangible products. Like, well, zoos.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.

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