Enterprise Unix Roundup: Success Breeds Change

Enterprise Unix Roundup: Success Breeds Change

April 14, 2005

Main     In Other News     Recent Updates     Tips of the Trade

Michael Hall

Amy Newman

There are worse careers than being a "pundit" or "analyst." If you've got the knack for brevity and pithiness, the world beats a path to your door. But sometimes an angry mob beats a path to your door, too. For any preference people can have, a vocal and irritating group that holds that preference will be demonstrably loony.

So when we heard that Gartner analyst George Weiss had said of Linux penetration into the enterprise, "If there are show stoppers or hurdles it would be more in the process of what's going in the community," we pricked up our ears.

Gartner — though long the target of opprobrium from Linux advocates who think the company's customary conservatism is some sort of smoke-screen to shield Microsoft from competition — has never really bothered to talk about "the Linux community," even as other pundits and analysts have made complaints about online abuse from the loonier Linux advocates.

But it turns out that "what's going on in the community" from the Gartner perspective is the same as what's going on at just about any software house.

Having approved Sun's license, the OSI is on the record in such a way that it's now much easier to be both open source and openly anti-GPL or anti-Linux without any recrimination.
Mr. Weiss' presentation dealt with familiar issues: the potential for fragmentation, high support costs, confusing and contradictory licenses, and last year's hottest topic — potential intellectual property infringement. And, in each case, Weiss provides an answer in one way or the other.

One of those points to which we'll be paying close attention, though, is the one that provides the largest area of intersection between the coders and non-coders in the Linux community: so-called "license proliferation." In a nutshell, there are too many open source licenses with too many conditions and too much in the way of impediments to code reusability, part of the point of the open source model.

As we noted last week, the Open Source Initiative (OSI), which has long been the arbiter of what may be called "open source," is gearing up to winnow the field of potential open source licenses from more than 50 to a small handful of "preferred" licenses, a larger collection of "recommended" ones, and another collection of "deprecated" licenses.

The OSI's page on the topic is mildly self-serving, justifying its seven years of relative permissiveness in this area as a planned experiment that must now be called to a close.

We're inclined to think that the real motivator for the OSI's interest has to do with mounting displeasure from the only real "enforcement arm" it has (since it has no legal control of the phrase "open source"). The enforcers are the open source developers and advocates willing to make a lot of negative, public noise about companies that talk the open source talk without walking the walk. Though enterprise reporters like to think that the decisions companies make aren't influenced by a little bad buzz, we know differently: A few days of abusive e-mail and public humiliation can shape all sorts of decisions.

At the moment, that enforcement arm isn't uniformly happy with the OSI or its procedures, because Sun's arrival in the open source scene with OpenSolaris and its own open source license (the CDDL) has shown that it's entirely possible to be open source in a formal sense while carefully blocking out any potential competitors from code reuse. In Sun's case, that meant using a version of the Mozilla Public License that rendered OpenSolaris code license-incompatible with code used in Linux, or any other project that's licensed under the GPL.

Other companies like that idea, too.

LinuxToday's editor sounded the alarm last week when he pointed out that Sun's CDDL has inspired Computer Associates and possibly even IBM to consider their own take on license proliferation by creating a license template for businesses built around the anti-GPL CDDL.

And that presents one of the open source community's oldest institutional voices with a crisis. The OSI has kept its position as the arbiter of what is and isn't open source for close to a decade, based on the credibility of its founders among the people most likely to protest loudly and publicly if a company runs afoul of community standards. Having approved Sun's license, it's on the record in such a way that it's now much easier to be both open source and openly anti-GPL or anti-Linux without any recrimination.

Just as we discussed last week, open source continues to evolve. We're curious to see how one of its oldest institutions evolves along with it, or whether growing enterprise adoption of "open source" will mean the severing of old ties.

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In Other News

» Queue the cheesey jungle puns, Tiger is ready to roam free. Apple finally set an official date for the release of its Mac OS X v.10.4. Both a desktop and server version of the operating system will begin shipping later. Those who want to ensure shrinkwrap in hand on April 29 can preorder from Apple's Web site.

» Novell released a new Linux-based point of sale solution, Novell Linux Point of Service 9. The distro is based on SLES and Novell Desktop, and is intended for retail store sales terminals, as well as kiosks and self-service systems.

» Is it Sarge vs. The Hoary Hedgehog? A new version of the Debian-based Ubuntu Linux distribution, code-named Hoary Hedgehog, hit the street last week. Debian's Sarge remains on the sidelines. The analysts are weighing on who's No. 1.

» Looking to learn more about BIND 9.3? Check out this week's ServerWatch tutorial "Unravelling BIND 9.3." Last week's tutorial, "Unix Server Admin Basics, What You Need to Know," is also worth a peek.

Recent Updates

Tips of the Trade

DNS admins who need a secure, robust, high-performance authoritative DNS server should take a look at PowerDNS. PowerDNS operates differently from any other DNS server. It uses a database back end, which offers a number of advantages: lightning-fast performance, immediate changes and no restart requirement, and you can take advantage of database tools for replication and data integrity. It also reads plain-text zonefiles and LDAP directories. Ace programmers can make use of the Backend Developers Kit to access nearly any data source. If you have a batch of BIND zonefiles to migrate, use the included Zone2sql migration utility.

Supported databases include MySQL, PostgreSQL, Oracle 8i, Oracle 9i, IBM DB2, and Microsoft SQLServer. PowerDNS runs on FreeBSD, Linux, Mac OS X and Windows 2000/XP. PowerDNS is free, and paid support is available.

PowerDNS is standard-compliant (RFC 1034 and 1035) and supports all DNS record types. It is IPv6-ready and supports server monitoring. It presents no mysteries, you can see exactly where any problems and performance bottlenecks are.

PowerDNS itself is fairly simple to administer, and you don't need to be an elite database whiz to it get up and running, especially if you use MySQL. It includes a caching/recursive nameserver component, but it's rather immature, so a good scheme is to use PowerDNS for your authoritative server, and dnscache for a caching/recursive nameserver. See Powerdns.com for downloads and howtos.

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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