LinuxWorld parades open source momentum

New kernel, new hardware, new app server

The Linux nation will gather at its annual conference in San Francisco this week to show off a range of software based on the v2.6 kernel, new 64-bit server hardware, and a brand-new Java application server.

Novell will use the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo to display what it claims to be its newfound strength in the Linux market by announcing a bundling deal with Dell. According to sources familiar with the plans of both companies, the deal will result in Dell offering a non-Red Hat version of Linux with its line of servers for the first time. Novell will also unveil its SuSE Linux Enterprise 9.0 server, the sources said.

"I think we are now seeing the advantages of SuSE's close association with Novell. That is helping push deals through like this one with Dell. I don't think they could have done it on their own," said Al Gillen, research director of software at IDC.

Jumping on board to offer support for SuSE Linux Enterprise 9.0 is Computer Associates, which will announce it is making more products available on the SuSE 9.0 platform that exploit the full capabilities of the v2.6 kernel.

CA will use the show to state that the Ingres database will be available on SuSE 9.0. CA will also be adding support to the v2.6 kernel into its BrightStor storage products and its eTrust Access Control security software, according to Sam Greenblatt, senior vice president and chief architect of CA's Linux development group.

Red Hat, meanwhile, will unveil its first Java application server. Red Hat Application Server will be sold on a subscription basis, including services and support, in a pricing model similar to what Red Hat uses for its Linux OS, according to industry sources.

The software is based on JOnAS (Java Open Application Server), an open source application server developed by the nonprofit middleware consortium Objectweb. It incorporates the Apache Software Foundation's Tomcat Java servlet engine and Struts, a software framework for building Java web applications, the sources said.

On the hardware front, a handful of the industry's top-tier players will detail plans for Linux-based 64-bit computing. Most notably, IBM and Dell will each unwrap a number of low-end server offerings.

IBM will show off eight servers based on Intel's Nocona chip with 64-bit extensions. The servers will use technologies borrowed from IBM's mainframes, such as Calibrated Vector Cooling, which requires 65% less power. The systems also have twice the number of memory slots as their predecessors, making them capable of holding as much as 16GB of memory in a one-processor system.

"These new capabilities allow us to turn a 1U server into a legitimate application server, where a lot of [our competitors] need two. It allows you to double the number of drives a 1U can have to four plus a hot spare," said Alex Yost, director of marketing for the xSeries at IBM.

Dell will counterpunch with its own series of 64-bit Nocona-based dual-processor servers that sport the Extended Memory 64 Technology, PCI Express I/O technology, and Intel's 7520 chip set. Bundled with the systems is an improved version of OpenManage Systems Management software that makes it easier to update and fix hardware- and software-related problems from remote locations.

"We don't see this as a speed-bump launch. We have put some significant technology advancements in this platform via some major improvements to the memory subsystem and the DDR memory, which is much faster but consumes less power," said Tim Golden, Dell's director of marketing for PowerEdge.

The beefed-up servers from each company are a response to the demands of corporate users who increasingly are dependent on lower cost Intel-based platforms to host mission-critical applications.

"Late last year, we surveyed 450 IT professionals. More than 70% of them told us they use either 1U or 2U servers to run mission-critical applications. It really surprised us. But they not only want speed but reliability and manageability in these things," IBM's Yost said.

Not to be outdone, Sun Microsystems will attempt to plant its thin-client computing strategy in the Linux soil, offering a "technical preview" of Version 3.0 of its Sun Ray Server Software for both Linux and Solaris environments. The move will mark the first time Sun will make the product available on Linux.

"Version 3.0 is a native port of the product to these Linux x86 environments, which basically helps bring the application portfolio and user interface over to a thin-client environment," said Benjamin Baer, group product manager for desktop software products at Sun.

The company will also roll out its Sun Studio 9 IDE, which allows developers to use C and C++ to create applications that work with the Java Desktop System.

Hoping to give open source collabouration software a boost, Netline internet Service will announce plans to contribute its Open-Xchange Server under the GNU GPL (General Public License), which will permit users and developers to download the code for free and to make technical contributions to the project. The Open-Xchange Server, which fuels Novell's SuSE Linux Openexchange Server, includes email, calendaring, a contact list, and document storage.

"Enterprises and ISVs are looking at achieving cost-efficiencies through open-sourced components, and groupware code is a logical step for them to evaluate as they build applications and business processes that can share common services,'' said Dana Gardner, senior analyst at The Yankee Group.

James Niccolai, IDG News Service, contributed to this article.

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