Every vendor and his dog (or should that be penguin?) may have voiced support for Linux, but who is for real and who is paying lip service?
US-based Linux advocate Nicholas Petreley has no doubts about who is the most committed. IBM’s recent pledge of $US1 billion dollars to promote Linux has propelled it to the top of the list.
“It’s extremely significant,” says Petreley, who is founding editor of LinuxWorld, “because IBM understands the strength of Linux in levelling the market. They’re porting it to everything they have which makes it easier to sell hardware because any software written in Linux is instantly available for any machine.”
Petreley, who will speak at next month's LinuxWorld conference in Auckland, organised by Computerworld publisher IDG Communications, says Linux is close to being suitable for enterprise applications, something which IBM is working towards with the Linux kernel community. “IBM want things like a different kind of kernel schedule and threads to operate a little differently. They have an army of programmers working on these issues with the kernel development community.”
He says IBM is not the only one with such requests but it is doing the most about it.
“Oracle says they take Linux seriously but if you talk to them privately they say we’ll take it seriously when XYZ are fixed. The difference is IBM is dedicating a whole army of programmers to getting these things solved. They’re going through the channel and they’re not trying to force anything on the community.”
When it comes to choosing the hardware vendor least committed to Linux Petreley says, “If I had to guess I would say that Compaq is sitting on the fence. Dell is fairly committed, which is surprising. Michael Dell always seemed to be in the pocket of Bill Gates.”
One of the major issues facing the Linux world is a scramble by the distribution vendors to differentiate their products. A Linux distribution is a collection of Linux programs including a kernel, base libraries, base programs and extra programs such as word processing or email gateways, which can operate as a complete system when installed. Major distributions include Caldera, Red Hat, SuSE, Corel and Debian.
“The differentiation between the different distributions is getting them into trouble. They’re all differentiating on trivial features that don’t make any difference to the customer but which make it difficult to run packages for one distribution on another distribution.”
Petreley believes distribution vendors should be standardising on the software and creating a different type of added value. For example Red Hat is focusing on services for the network. And Debian has the ability to automatically download fixes and upgrades from one version to the next.
LinuxWorld is on in conjunction with Computerworld Expo, from May 8 to 10.