LAS VEGAS—A panel of Linux luminaries here predicted the demise of Unix over time, saying it would inevitably be replaced by Linux.
At the Linux Solution Day here at Computer Associates International Inc.s panelists from Linux creator Linus Torvalds to SuSE Linux CTO Juergen Geck and Larry Augustin, the chairman of VA Software, all expressed their views on the future of Unix.
Torvalds said he was “slightly biased” on the matter, garnering a laugh, adding that the issue was not so much Linux versus Unix, but rather around computer infrastructure in general. Software is following the same path that hardware has taken over the past 20 years and is trying to add value at a higher level.
“Linux and open source in general are all about this same phenomena where you start to standardize on infrastructure and no longer care about the low-level stuff because the exciting things are happening above that,” Torvalds said.
“If you take it for granted, there is no value-add. The real value-add is not in the operating system or the compilers, but in the integration. My belief is that the operating system will take over all the infrastructure stuff, and specialization will be done above that. The integration, specialization and support are the added value for companys like CA.”
SuSEs Geck said Unix will eventually fade away to be replaced by Linux, while VA Softwares Augustin said Linux to him is the next generation of Unix. He too said Unix will be replaced by Linux over time as it simply does not make economic sense for many businesses to be developing on an old proprietary operating system anymore.
John “Maddog” Hall, a director with Linux International, agreed, saying that many companies are realizing that as Linux gains functionality it will no longer make sense to continue with their proprietary Unix systems.
For his part, Murray Berkowitz, CAs chief Linux strategist, said the vendors are already providing for the co-existence of Unix and Linux and offering porting assistance to Linux as well.
Carrie Burchard, a director at PeopleSoft, said that while the company supports its Unix customers, the long-term replacement of that and the relocation of that expenditure elsewhere are attractive and something PeopleSoft looks forward to.
Torvalds also told the audience that he released on Sunday the first beta for the upcoming Linux 2.6 kernel, which will be followed by a few months of beta testing, and that customers need to test the beta.
“They need to test it under their individual and specific loads. If you want to avoid nasty surprises, test it. Im sure youll be happy, but if there are any issues, well fix them,” he said.
For the enterprise, huge increases in scalability will be evident as there are 64-CPU machines running Linux. “But I care more about the desktop experience than scalability, and I am trying to make the whole desktop experience more smooth and graceful, so it could do a lot of things at the same time without the user actually even noticing that,” Torvalds said.
Geck said the changeover to the 2.6 kernel will be minor as SuSE is already halfway down that road, while PeopleSofts Burchard told the audience that the company is porting PeopleTools to Linux, which is well under way, and will ultimately have some 170 applications running on the platform.
As always, the issue of was discussed, with VA Softwares Augustin saying it is “filled with sound and signifying nothing. The potential for any real impact on Linux and any Linux industry is virtually none,” he said.
“Were looking at a company that is trying to work out what to do with its business. This lawsuit is not about intellectual property, its about specific contractual issues with IBM. When you explain that to customers, they understand it and move on, since Linux offers them compelling value,” he said.
During a question and answer session, the panel was asked if the current large number of Linux distributions was helping or hurting the open-source operating system. Torvalds said he is a big fan of competition, to loud applause. Also, many of the more than 100 distributions are used by a small number of people, he said.
“Clearly, 100 distributions is not practical for a middleware vendor, so they tend to test just a few and can find it confusing. Think of it as politics: Yes, choice is confusing, but it is better than no choice,” he said to strong applause again.
Asked about single-sign on and Active Directory integration in the 2.6 kernel, Augustin said there is good support for AD above the kernel in the open-source world in terms of applications available.
Turning to the issue of the Linux desktop, SuSEs Geck said there are pieces missing for Linux on the desktop, but that these will show up in time. “This will come in time, and you need ISVs to trust the platform and customer software needs to be supported. But you need the hardware support before you can have the applications supported, and when you have the middleware, you can have the application support. This all comes in time,” he said.
Asked about digital rights management and intellectual property rights in the 2.6 kernel and beyond, Torvalds said Version 2.6 will not support Microsoft Corp.s Palladium initiative “and those digital rights management kind of things. You can do a lot of DRM things on top of Linux, and this is not something we are seeing a huge push from the open-source community.”
In a Microsoft world, the default approach is to build things into the kernel, Augustin said, while Linux development takes a layered approach where things are built above the core system, leading to a very different approach as to how these matters should be dealt with.