Enterprise Unix Roundup: The Post-revolution Rookery

By Michael Hall (Send Email)
Posted Feb 17, 2005

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This week's Linux World was full of product announcements and well-timed grandstanding for grass roots users. For sys admins who document copiously, Tuxcards offers an easy-to-use notebook and organizer for tracking large quantities of small bits of data.

Amy Newman
Michael Hall

At press time, Linux World Expo (LWE) East continues in Boston. Like the expos that have preceded it, the show struck a balance between actual product announcements and some well-timed grandstanding aimed less at the suits, who are presumably cloistered away in meeting rooms, and more at the grassroots users.

In terms of the immediate enterprise Linux landscape, two announcements stood out that we believe will shape the competition within the Linux market for some time to come:

As expected, Red Hat released Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 (RHEL), its first major release since 2003, and the first release since Novell purchased SUSE and established itself as a Linux contender.

RHEL's feature list is impressive enough: It introduces SELinux, a National Security Agency-sponsored set of enhancements to the Linux kernel that have been in the works for more than four years, and it updated the Linux kernel shipping with RHEL to the more-current 2.6-series.

RHEL 4 is being released into a market significantly different from that of its predecessor's: Novell's acquisition of SUSE poses a credible threat to Red Hat's dominance of North American markets, as Dell's recent embrace demonstrates.

And that brings us to the second major announcement: Novell's upcoming March release of its Open Enterprise Server (OES) product. OES represents a fusion of NetWare's management tools and the Linux kernel designed to deliver NetWare holdouts and organizations still using NT 4 to the Linux fold with as little disruption as possible. OES also brings Red Hat into collision with a company that's been building network operating systems for a long time, and has competitive (if not better) management offerings.

Novell has also been busying itself with partnerships to support its entry into the Linux market. AMD, Dell, HP, IBM, Intel, McAfee, and Veritas now support OES, which give it no small amount of leverage as it takes on Red Hat, which has been all about partnerships over the years.

Outside of the Linux market, but within the broader enterprise Unix sphere, is Sun. Sun has invested much in Solaris 10 to make it competitive with Red Hat, which the company clearly identifies as its biggest problem and, thus, the best candidate to cut from the Linux herd in its competitive efforts.

If it seems like we're leaving out Microsoft in all this, it's because the show attendees seemed less interested in Linux world's original bête noir. From LinuxToday editor Brian Proffitt, who's been hanging out on the floor this week, we learned that most of the conversation centered around interoperability and coping with heterogeneity ... not world conquest. When companies like Red Hat and Novell talked about competitive focus, they talked about Sun, which they seem to be sizing up with predatory interest.

Thus, question "Is Linux ready for the enterprise?" appears finally to be answered, and is evidenced by the mere fact that the question is no longer being asked. Linux is now assumed to be enterprise-ready, as it is already there. This crossing of the Rubicon has changed the tone of the show.

When Linux was up and coming and edgy it needed to rally the troops, and Linux World Expo was a clear and easy barometer to read. Now that Linux is on par with other Unix operating systems and Windows, the actual reading is less important. What is important, however, is that those on the Linux bandwagon, both the suits and the grassroots community, continue to mature and grow the operating system as well as recognize it is not going to be all things for all enterprises.

The Linux-as-a-silver-bullet revolution that pulsed through attendees' veins at the early Linux shows has given way to evolution and the exploitation of Linux's strong points. And that is indicative of a true enterprise operating system.

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