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LAS VEGAS—There are unlikely to be any new applications developed solely for Unix after 2009, George Weiss, a Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst, told attendees at Gartners annual Open Source Summit here Sept. 20.
“I expect that, around 2009, we will have seen the last application developed specifically for Unix, after which no applications will be developed just for that operating system, though updates to existing applications will continue for some time to come,” Weiss said in an address titled “Planning a Third-Generation Linux Enterprise.”
There will also be a gradual decline in the use and market share of the Unix operating system, but that decline could well have a long tail, he said, pointing to the fact that while IBM has its own Unix-based operating system, AIX, it is still active in the open-source community.
“IBM is involved in Linux development and working on improving that operating system. Why would they be doing that if Unix was their bread and butter?” he questioned.
Also, as the gap between Linux and Unix narrows, hardware can make the difference, he said, adding that Linux is now “good enough” for some 80 percent of the applications and environments that exist today.
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Linux adoption and usage has evolved over three generations: from the first generation at the network edge to the Web server and compute cluster generation; to the second generation of application and departmental servers; to the third generation of enterprise, mission-critical roles, which is expected to account for 20 percent of server revenue in 2009 versus 15 percent in 2006-2007, Weiss said.
Third-generation Linux enhancements targeted over the next 24 months include an optimizing scheduler, real-time pre-emption and interrupt handling, a high-performance file system, large block size support, full kernel virtualization, and hypervisor kernel integration, he said.
Also targeted are containers and aggregated virtualization; dynamic trace and debugging; security and integrity measurement and management with TPM; power consumption; savings and management; common virtualization management APIs; and device driver development, management and maintenance, he said.
With regard to Sun Microsystems strategy of transforming Solaris into a look-alike, but better, Linux, Weiss said that move brings with it corporate expertise, binary compatibility, innovations like DTrace and ZFS (Zettabyte File System) as well as a subscription supported, multi-operating-system environment.
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But there are a number of caveats to that, including the defection of Solaris loyalists and getting ISV and developer turnaround, he said.
Regarding the competitive landscape, Weiss noted that Windows remains a factor in the market, as does Solaris as it tries to become more like Linux.
While Red Hat has market leadership, traction with ISVs and OEMs, and is improving its support offerings, on the downside is the impact on its revenue from virtualization, its need to transcend the operating system business model and the depth of its resources, he said.
Novell now has improved management; its deal with Microsoft is positive for the company given that Microsoft has effectively become a channel for its SUSE Linux Enterprise Server in mixed environments; and it is strong on the enterprise identity management, security management and system management fronts, Weiss said.
But does face challenges, including the transition away from NetWare and its laggard image, he said.
For its part, Oracles strengths includes its Linux experience and worldwide coverage, while its challenges remain gaining share in the Linux operating system market, differentiating its services and managing to convert Red Hat accounts.
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Upstart Ubuntu, which had been successful on the desktop, allows a free and flexible download and has open-source software purity, but faces getting enterprise acceptance of its offerings in the commercial data center market and the need for new packaging and better system management, Weiss said.
Others, including Fedora, Gentoo, Debian, Mandriva and Asianux are often the source of leading-edge feature enhancements and have no subscription fees, but are often regional distributions, unstable and offer only Web support.
In his address, Weiss also discussed Microsofts three-pronged open-source strategy, which he said consists of applications, interoperability and licenses.
Microsofts open-source initiatives, he said, have had a number of positive effects—for both the software maker and the open-source community—including loosening the tight grip of Linux to open source, giving Windows users more exposure to open source, and making Microsoft appear kinder and gentler, reducing the efforts to discredit it.
“It is also helping to speed up Windows and Linux growth through interoperability and integration, while spurring separate parts of IT organizations into greater collaboration and reduced silos,” he said.
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The negatives for Microsoft include making Windows organizations more trusting of Linux, increasing the challenges to Microsoft ISVs about how software is licensed and delivered, and, perhaps, increasing the complexity of Windows Server platform certification and administration, he said.
Weiss made a number of recommendations for customers looking to go the third-generation route of deploying mission-critical enterprise Linux, cautioning them to be careful of the high-risk factors before moving ahead with deployments.
High-risk factors include complex and integrated applications; having no prior experience in developing, staging or deploying the applications on Linux; the fact that management and availability have to be extensively rearchitected; and that certification and support by ISVs are uncertain.
“You should choose a lower-risk approach if you are unable to overcome these high-risk factors at this time. Some applications can be deployed on Linux outside a monolithic framework and, architecturally, it lends itself to a horizontal scale-out approach,” he said.
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Many open-source solutions are also known and have been tested and approved, while the back-end database is largely unaffected by changes to the applications, Weiss concluded.
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