Linux and open source may be reaching a new era as the faithful congregate next week at the LinuxWorld conference in New York.
As the legal battles over Linux and Unix continue to play out, more vendors are offering users legal indemnity, and the 2.6 kernel will soon start finding its way into products.
But according to Sam Greenblatt, senior vice president and chief architect for Computer Associates International Inc.s Linux Technology Group, in Islandia, N.Y., the show will be about much more than that.
“Industry executives will be using their keynotes to make the declaration that we are now into the Linux generation,” Greenblatt said in an interview. “Like the transition toward the PC in the 1980s, Linux has now matured to the point where it will be taking over as the next form of computing. The SCO [Group Inc.] lawsuit and all the issues related to that are yesterdays old news. We are going to be stressing the maturity of Linux and how pervasive it has become.”
Nevertheless, the legal story will be a hot topic. This week, Open Source Development Labs Inc. created a $10 million Linux Legal Defense Fund to defend users against litigation from SCO. Novell Inc., of Provo, Utah, has also set up a Linux Indemnification Program for its SuSE Enterprise Linux customers, under certain conditions, with protection against intellectual property challenges to Linux and to help reduce the barriers to Linux adoption in the enterprise.
The moves will put more pressure on IBM to consider indemnifying its Linux customers, something the Armonk, N.Y., company has not done, although Scott Handy, a Linux vice president at IBM, told eWEEK there is “no change in our policy toward customer indemnification.”
Instead, IBM will use next weeks conference to announce its NT-to-Linux Migration Program, designed to encourage customers still running the Windows NT legacy operating system to move to Linux. IBM will offer free NT-to-Linux migration classes and give education and training to its global base of business partners.
Microsoft Corp. plans to end support for NT by years end, but that could be extended in the same way support for Windows 98, Windows 98 Second Edition and Windows Millennium Edition was extended last week. Paid support for those products, which was to have ended this year, has now been extended to June 30, 2006.
IDC, of Framingham, Mass., reports there are about 2 million NT servers in use globally. “Our target would be that half of those that could move to Linux,” Handy said. “So, I am referring to this program as the million-server march. This is a pretty big team-IBM effort, with IBM Global Services focused on the larger accounts and our 20 business partners focused on the SMB [small-to-midsize] space.”
Customers still using NT tend to be resistant about moving to other Microsoft products, Handy said.
Bob Kusche, general manager at Sytek Services, in Bellingham, Wash., a division of DSG Inc., agreed, saying that many of his NT customers are questioning the challenges and costs associated with moving to Windows Server 2003.
“Not all Windows applications will run on the platform, and existing hardware may not handle the load,” Kusche said. “When customers are forced to make this kind of move, they often take the opportunity to create an open, standards-based infrastructure that will give them investment protection and flexibility. When you take these factors into consideration, Linux is a very attractive option.”
For its part, Microsoft will actively promote its just-released Services for Unix 3.5 product at the show.
“Our team, along with our partners, will have a significant presence in the Microsoft booth at LinuxWorld,” Dennis Oldroyd, a director in Microsofts Windows Server Group, told eWEEK.
Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., has also decided to no longer charge for the product, which is a collection of more than 300 Unix utilities, tools and cross-platform services, as it now views this as “an integral part of the Windows value proposition.”
“The need to deliver that functionality to our customers outweighs having a separate business built around an interoperability product,” he said. But SFU 3.5 will not support Windows NT 4, Oldroyd said.
Microsoft has added support for Windows Server 2003 and the product supports Windows XP Pro, Windows 2000 Server and Windows 2000. “But we have dropped support for NT 4 because of where that release is in its lifecycle,” he said.
SFU has been around since 1999 and has an installed base of several hundred thousand users, Oldroyd said, but he declined to say whether the product will be built directly into the Windows Server platform going forward. “We are looking at the roadmap going forward and are considering many things as we look to the future,” he said.
Oldroyd also declined to comment on whether Microsoft is thinking about using SFU as a way to host Linux on top of Server 2003, given that Microsoft already has SCOs permission to put SFUs Unix functionality into Windows Server.
“The customers the product targets are Windows system administrators who are working to manage a potentially mixed environment,” he said.
One such user is French technical school ISEP, based in Paris, which has Unix workstations but a Windows directory. The school has taken the functionality available in SFU 3.5 and is now using Active Directory to manage 600 user accounts.
While the school is still using the native log-on for the Unix boxes, they are now able to manage the user and group accounts as well as the passwords from Active Directory using SFU, officials said.
(Editors Note: This story has been updated since its original posting to include information about IBMs NT-to-Linux Migration Program and comments from Syteks Bob Kusche.)