Enterprise Unix Roundup: Apple Bites the Wintel Desktop

By Michael Hall (Send Email)
Posted Jan 14, 2005


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Will the release of the Mac mini bring the OS turf wars to the desktop? IBM and Red Hat contribute to the open source community. Are they merely throwing bones? For real-time event monitoring, consider adding watch to your observation toolkit.

Michael Hall
Amy Newman

"For the want of a nail, the shoe was lost; for the want of a shoe the horse was lost; and for the want of a horse the rider was lost, being overtaken and slain by the enemy, all for the want of care about a horseshoe nail."

—Benjamin Franklin

Mr. Franklin gained no glory as an enterprise Unix observer, but he understood large consequences follow from lesser considerations.

Last week we wondered whether 2005 will be a year of change in enterprise computing. Server operating systems received the lion's share of our attention: They're where expertise and expense are centered in enterprise IT.

But enterprises are made up of clients, too, and those clients can exert some influence on server technologies. Linux gained the ground it has in part because the Samba team understood the dominant desktop operating system wasn't fluent in traditional Unix network filesystems like NFS. Windows didn't start as an enterprise-grade network operating system, either. It achieved domination on the desktop well before it challenged Unix on the server.

in the same month Microsoft invited users to download add-ons to battle spyware, remove malicious software, and dredge the insecure swamp its desktop OS has become, Apple delivered an inexpensive but capable system packed with an OS that can run Microsoft's killer app without being a malware freefire zone.

So this week's most interesting news for enterprise computing may have come from MacWorld, where Apple unveiled a budget Macintosh, the headless "Mac mini," aimed at potential switchers who, enamored with their iPods, may be seeking more of the Apple experience.

The mini, good looks aside, is distinctly unimpressive: Its G4 processor could best be described as "doughty," and its graphics card, despite Apple's claims, is really just enough to push OS X's GUI at an acceptable clip. It's a machine meant to be brought home and put to work, assuming "work" is "write mail, surf the Web, take pictures."

The mini's real feature is its base price of $499. No keyboard, no mouse, no monitor included.

So why should anyone in enterprise computing care?

Perhaps because in the same month Microsoft invited users to download add-ons to battle spyware, remove malicious software, and dredge the insecure swamp its desktop OS has become, Apple delivered an inexpensive but capable system packed with an OS that can run Microsoft's killer app (Office) without being a malware freefire zone.

Add to the security argument the relative thrift of the mini and OS X's fluency as a client in Windows (SMB/CIFS) and Unix (NFS) networks, and Apple has earned a second look from IT managers at a time when XP is looking distinctly stale and, as we pointed out last week, Longhorn is a long ways away.

The more we look at 2005, the more battlegrounds we see, and it looks like Apple might be trying to shoe a few horses.

In Other News

» Late last week, Red Hat announced plans to open source Netscape's Directory Server in the next nine to 12 months. It sees this move as a step toward improving the scalability of current open source LDAP offerings.

» Speaking of open source, IBM released 500 patents to the open source community Tuesday in the hopes it would spark a "patent commons," that other IP owners would join. Responses from the open source community have been mixed, from advocate Eric Raymond's gratitude to one Internet wag on a group blog we frequent: "IBM's patent license is the equivalent of a steel mill giving picks and shovels to volunteers who dig their coal for free."

» HP has certified Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 to run on the entire Itanium-based Integrity line, including Superdome. Previously, SLES 8 was available for the Integrity line, but support was limited to the 2-way rx1600 and rx2600, and the 4-way rx4640 and rx5670 machines. Red Hat's Enterprise Server 3 AS edition is also certified across the entire Integrity server line.

» Beijing-based Red Flag Software joined the Open Source Development Lab (OSDL) Monday. It plans to participate in the research organization's desktop Linux, carrier grade Linux, and data center Linux working groups. Linux vendors from the Asia-Pacific region currently account for about one-third of the OSDL's membership.

» Sun completed its acquisition of management services provider SevenSpace two months ahead of schedule.

» Linux Weekly News' annual update to the the Linux time line is up for 2004.

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