Linux continues to gather momentum with enterprise technology vendors such as Houston-based Compaq. But analysts say the operating system still isn't at the point where vendors are choosing it to supplant existing Unix offerings.
Compaq expanded its commitment to Linux this week by announcing a joint development agreement with North Carolina-based Red Hat Software. The accord is aimed at improving compatibility and integration between Compaq's Tru64 Unix operating system and Red Hat's Linux offering.
According to Compaq officials, a key goal of the partnership is to make it possible for users to create programs in a single source-code implementation -- compiled on either Tru64 or Red Hat Linux -- and then share the binary programs across the two operating systems on the Alpha architecture.
"This will allow users to mix and match [Tru64 and Linux],'' said Joel Berman, Linux evangelist at Compaq. "Basically, we're putting some of Linux on Tru64 and some of the Tru64 environment on Linux. We want to make it very simple for anyone using, developing or managing Linux to have the same experience with Tru64.'' Analysts said the announcement is important because it gives Linux additional credibility as a "standard'' platform. But, they said, it continues in the prevailing vein of positioning Linux as one more alternative in an existing arsenal, rather than as a new tactical direction for a major vendor.
"Compaq is making [Linux] a stronger part of its portfolio,'' said Dan Kuznetsky, an analyst at International Data Corporation (IDC) in Framingham. "But like Dell and IBM, Compaq hasn't made a move to lessen support for other operating systems in favour of Linux.'' Kuznetsky said before Linux becomes a commercial operating system poised to replace existing platforms such as Tru64, it needs more enterprise applications ported to it, better middleware and high-availability software for clustering and system fail-over (automatic switching in the event of one server failure). In the meantime, Linux is largely limited to small-to-medium businesses and technical sectors such as engineering, academic research and content creation.
In addition to the joint development agreement, Compaq also announced that some Compaq Deskpro EP and EN Series PCs and AP, SP and XP Professional Workstation models have been certified to run Red Hat Linux 6.0. Those desktop and workstation offerings complement Compaq's previously announced Linux support on the AlphaServer 800, DS10, DS20 and ES40 systems; the ProLiant 400, 1600 and 1850R servers; the Prosignia 720 server; and the Compaq Professional Workstation XP1000.
"The issue for Linux on the desktop is applications,'' said Carl Howe, an analyst at Forrester Research. "Already there are two or three suites that run on Linux and read [Microsoft] Office file formats. But there aren't the thousands of titles available on Windows.'' He said the picture should get rosier for Linux as more enterprises become increasingly Web-centric. "If it's browsers that you need, Linux has browsers. And you can't beat the price,'' Howe said.