Enterprise Unix Roundup: Open Source, Redefined

Enterprise Unix Roundup: Open Source, Redefined


April 8, 2005

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Amy Newman
Michael Hall

Historically, Linux and the GPL have been two of the most public faces of the open source/free software movement. The general acceptance of Linux in the enterprise space and the release of Sun's OpenSolaris indicate change may be afoot.

Nowhere is this more evident than at this week's second annual Open Source Business Conference (OSBC). The bevy of announcements caught the Roundup staff off guard. After all, when we think of open source, we think T-shirts and Birkenstocks and the occasional stuffed penguin. Although we know the suits are a growing presence, we certainly don't think of Microsoft and Sun and Wall Street types as being in the driver's seat — even if the phrase "open source" was coined to lure suits thought to be shy of "free software" and its implied ideology.

But at this IDG-sponsored show the suits were at the wheel. Sun was the "Cornerstone Sponsor," while Microsoft, Novell, and Oracle went platinum. Sun Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Schwartz spoke about, "Building Billion Dollar Businesses with Open Source and Open Communities," and sessions had titles like, "Meet the Community: Who They Are, How to Work with Them." We can't help but think of it as, "Your Open Source Safari, Please Don't feed the Animals."

Linux may have been the poster child of the open source movement, but with OpenSolaris out, the scene is changing. OpenSolaris is not about community building; it's about Sun making money.

Linux may have been the poster child of the open source movement, but with OpenSolaris out, the scene is changing. OpenSolaris is not about community building; it's about Sun making money.

Sun's pick of charter OpenSolaris Community Advisory Board (CAB) bears this out. The CAB will provide in-the-trenches voices for Sun. But members Casper Dik, Roy Fielding, Al Hopper, Simon Phipps, and Rich Teer are free from the controversy and drama often times associated with the Linux community. Sun has proven to be strictly business in this endeavor. This is not a PR attempt to assuage "the community" or pay lip service to the revolutionary rhetoric that fuels the more vociferous Linux spokespeople.

It's all about providing a compelling business advantage to the suits, a strategy that meshes well with the idea behind OSBC. The conference represents a departure from the idea that open source is the sole province of Linux, and has us wondering if next year will see IDG's LinuxWorld Expos focus on free software, while the moneymaking side of open source is left to the OSBC.

Whether you look at this faction as corporatizing or a byproduct of the maturation of technology, open source changes the dynamics and may well spark a whole new "free vs. open" debate.

Make no mistake, open source has evolved beyond its conception. Although it was originated as a way to de-ideologize free software and make things safe for the suits, from the get-go the people pushing "open source" the hardest were really from the Linux camp and simply could not imagine a company in the operating systems business might "go open source" and still want to bury Linux. Now they've been called on that, and they have to deal with the notion that not everyone in their "community" is as like-minded and as ideology-bound as they might wish.

Enterprises generally adopt technology based on technological strengths and costs, and, occasionally, ideology. Here, Windows often comes up short. With the corporatization of Linux and open source in general, the ideology part of the argument is splitting. Only the proprietary software vendors stand to benefit, and Red Hat, without the Linux idealism and surrounding buzz, becomes just another competitor to Microsoft and Sun.

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In Other News

» Microsoft has entered a new phase in its "Get the facts" campaign, in which the company compares itself with Red Hat in terms of reliability and ease of use. Unsurprisingly, Redmond is doing very well in the studies, earning a fine return on its investment in them.

Of perhaps more practical concern to people watching Microsoft as it relates to the Unix world is news that Windows Server 2003 HPC Edition, meant to push Microsoft into high-performance computing, has slipped from a 2005 release to first-half 2006 launch.

» Linux kernel developer Andrew Morton reports that Linux kernel 2.6 is stable and well-featured enough for enterprise users that there's not much point in looking ahead to Linux 2.7.

Morton's optimism will come in handy for Linux developers, who will probably be facing some pain in the short term. The project is moving from Bitkeeper, which has been used to manage the Linux kernel source tree. The company producing Bitkeeper recently announced it's pulling support from the no-cost version of its product because it said Linux developers have been attempting to reverse-engineer the software to provide a free software clone. Worse, one of the developers in question was an employee of the OSDL, which has come to be the institutional face of Linux development over the past few years.

Bitkeeper was a controversial choice for the Linux project from its beginning. After some turmoil over how well Linus Torvalds was keeping up with integrating patches to the Linux source tree, he adopted Bitkeeper on its technical, not ideological merits: The product wasn't open source or free (in the licensing sense). That earned a rebuke from Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation and others, who argued that the use of a proprietary product was both philosophically inappropriate and potentially problematic down the road should the product cease to be available at no cost.

Torvalds has taken a week to consider the available options for source control moving forward, leaving everyone else hanging out on Slashdot and pointing fingers.

Kernel cat fight!

» It's been a year since Microsoft and Sun buried the hatchet and pledged to work together. Internetnews.com reports that the result has been slow progress in a few areas, with J2EE/.NET integration holding too much potential benefit for competitors to both companies to warrant exploration.

» SCO finally got around to filing amended 10-Qs with the SEC, which should, in turn get it out from under the NASDAQ delisting axe we mentioned two weeks ago. Expert discovery in SCO vs. IBM is set to end in two weeks. The trial is scheduled to begin in November.

» Having merged companies, Mandrakesoft and Conectiva have announced a merged name: Mandriva. (And, no, that is not a joke.)

» The sheer volume of open source licenses is a common source of complaint from developers and enterprises. We touched on the matter last December, when Sun unveiled its CDDL.

The Open Source Initiative, which handles the work of certifying licenses as in compliance with the Open Source Definition, has approved more than 50 licenses, some with only minor variations designed to satisfy some corporate attorneys's native caution. Fortunately, the OSI this week decided to rein the process in, paring back the number of licenses it approves.

At the moment, it appears this entails introducing some barriers to licenses that aren't simple, reusable, or unrepetitive of previous licenses. It also involves giving a small number of licenses "preferred status."

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Recent Updates

  • MTA Postfix was updated to version 2.2.2. The new release includes a collection of bugfixes and a change in the Berkeley DB API from version 2.5 to 2.6.

  • Updater 5 for application server JRun was released. The changelog reports bugfixes and enhancements, including support for more current versions of JavaMail, Sun JDK, and SunONE.

  • SGI released Advanced Linux Environment 3 Security Update #32, which tracks recent errata announced by Red Hat, including fixes to ImageMagick, ipsec-tools, and a Mozilla security update. The release includes updated SGI ProPack 3 Service Pack 4 RPMs for SGI Altix systems.

  • Gentoo joined the list of distributions patching the MIT Kerberos telnet vulnerability.

Tips of the Trade

Network printing is one of those basic administration chores that can be done many different ways: share user's printers, use a workgroup printer with built-in networking, or use a hardware printer server. The first option is the worst — the last thing someone wants is hordes of people trooping into her cubicle to mess with the printer. Workgroup printers are great. They are sturdy and suited to high-demand usage, and they plug directly into the network. But they can also be expensive and difficult to administer.

A stand-alone printer server offers the most flexibility; then you can share any printer you like and not have to pay a premium for built-in networking. A Linux printer server using CUPS and Samba makes a great cross-platform printer server. It gives the most power and flexibility, as well as rock-solid stability. The hardware can be almost anything: an old PC, a new sleek mini-ITX, or a Soekris-type box. Keeping old PCs out of landfills is always a noble goal, and it saves money.

But what if you don't want to sacrifice reliability just to keep some grotty old hardware in service?

Using ordinary PC hardware gives the most flexibility. You can add PCI-parallel adapters, USB ports, and even a wireless adapter for wireless clients or to save running cables. The only cost is the hardware — CUPS and Samba are the software that make this all go.

CUPS all by itself makes a great printer server, but it lacks one thing — the ability to install Windows drivers over the network. Adding Samba not only allows automatic installation of Windows printers, it also enables access controls to be set up.

A commercial version of CUPS that may better suit your needs is also available. It comes with support, more and better-quality printer drivers, and nice management utilities.

For a good introduction to CUPS, see Chapter 14 of the Linux Cookbook, and check out the related article Network Installation of Windows Printers from Samba.

Carla Schroder writes the Tips of the Trade section of Enterprise Unix Roundup. She also appears on Enterprise Networking Planet and Linux Planet, covering Linux from the desktop to the server room.

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