Enterprise Unix Roundup: Is Redmond Freezing Over?

Enterprise Unix Roundup: Is Redmond Freezing Over?


April 21, 2005

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Amy Newman
Michael Hall

Dual core may be the buzz of the week, but Microsoft had some big announcements of its own. At this week's Microsoft management summit in Las Vegas, CEO Steve Ballmer unveiled the beta version of Virtual Server 2005 Service Pack 1 (SP1). The production version of SP1 is expected to be ready by the end of the year.

Although SP1's 64-bit compatibility and support for Windows Server 2003 x64 editions is getting much of the press, of key significance to those outside of the Windows community is that the wall may be coming down: Ballmer announced its Virtual Server 2005 software will run non-Windows virtual machines.

In some ways, we are clinging to the hope that Microsoft now recognizes the heterogeneous server room is here to stay and that it is in its best interest to play nice. Perhaps Redmond recognized that it's well-funded "Get the Facts" campaign isn't wooing over Linux and Unix shops in droves. The voice on our other shoulder is wondering whether this is Bill's way of holding his enemies close as he plots how to best take a sledgehammer to Red Hat's market share or perhaps take advantage of the openness of open source.

Our voice of reason, however, believes Microsoft has sized up the virtual server arena and identified VMware, the current market leader, as the one to beat. VMware's virtualization software supports a variety of Windows and Linux operating systems: Windows 2000 and 2003, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, Mandrake, and Turbolinux. In simplest terms, if Microsoft wishes to capture some of VMware's nearly unanimous share in this amorphic, but rapidly growing, market, it must offer more, not less. Recognizing that its Windows operating system is not the only game in town is beneficial to both its survival and success.

Say what you will about Microsoft (and we've said plenty in the past), but most would agree that a nod of approval from the vendor (in this case for "other operating systems," read: Linux) is akin to the gold standard in the enterprise world. Microsoft is No. 1 because it figured out how to give users what they want — or what they think they want — and sets things up so they "just work" and do everything that is needed for all but the most savvy of users.

Obviously, as Linux moves out of the depths of the data center and into the outskirts of the enterprise, this need to "just work" will become critical. Being invited to a playdate with Microsoft is a giant step in that direction.

In Other News

» Version 9.3 of Novell's SUSE Linux Professional product is now available. If that sounds familiar to you, it's because we first reported "availability" on March 10. Here's a rundown of what's shipping in the newest release, which seems to perform its function of maintaining the SUSE brand in the enthusiast and retail space with flying colors.

» We said it two weeks ago and IBM apparently agrees: There's more to open source than Linux. And even if there weren't, the fun is in what you're doing with the operating system, not the operating system itself. Maybe the fact that the message is coming from IBM will fend off outraged squawking from the advocate set.

» Sun's OpenSolaris and its license (the CDDL) have stirred up plenty of unease among Linux devotees as well. From fearsconcerns about compatibility with the GPL to uncertaintyconfusion about how the license will deal with the prickly software patent issue to doubtdisbelief that Sun really means well from an open-sourcer's perspective, many column inches and message board space have gone to explaining what the controversial CDDL means.

Sun's Claire Giordano, who headed the team that created the CDDL, has some things to say about those issues in her Weblog. The comment section features an appearance from Samba co-author Jeremy Allison and some patently ridiculous "(Open)Solaris has no features Linux is missing" commentary.

Like we've said in the past, for the real dirt, skip the execublogs and look to the trenches.

» On the less ideological side of things, Sun announced that Solaris 10 supports the new dual-core AMD Opteron chip. The company's new Sun Fire V40z is dual-core Opteron based.

» A little too late to make last week's edition, we feel compelled to chronicle the latest low point in SCO v. World: The "unmasking" of Pamela "PJ" Jones. Jones is the editor and founder of Groklaw, which will go down, when the book is written, as the most persistent and irritating thorn in SCO's side during its entire legal assault on IBM.

SCO has long hinted that PJ is something other than a paralegal with an intense interest in Linux. Given the context of explaining its ongoing dismal financials, SCO's CEO chose instead to hint that the company has some dirt on her. "You'll find that everyone is being misled as to who she says she is, and that the identity of Pamela Jones is much different than is advertised."

We're holding out for "actually Luke's father," but we'll settle for "shot J.R."

SCO, by the way, is back to trading as SCOX.

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Recent Updates

  • Web server Apache was updated to version 2.0.54. The new version includes a series of bugfixes and a build script for the creation of Solaris packages.

  • Apple's OS X operating system was updated to version 10.3.9. The new version includes several improvements to network file system support, bugfixes, and an upgrade of Apple's Safari browser to incorporate changes expected when OS X 10.4 (Tiger) is released next week. Apple also released security update 2005-004, which includes a fix to iSync.

  • The Kerio mail server was updated to version 6.0.9. The new version includes support for Blackberry devices, enhanced logging, stability fixes for versions running under Red Hat Linux, and improved SpamAssassin rules to avoid false positives from AOL and Yahoo!.

  • Vulnerabilities in the Web scripting language PHP have caused several distributors to release patches, including Mandriva, Fedora Core 3, Gentoo, SUSE, Debian, and Ubuntu.

  • The Debian project released Debian GNU/Linux 3.0r5 on Saturday. The new release is largely comprised of security fixes, plus enhancements to serious bugs. As with all updates of this kind, the release is an incremental change to the base 3.0 distribution. Thus, it requires only an update of existing packages, not a completely new set of installation media.

Tips of the Trade

Last week's Tip of the Trade covered PowerDNS, a high-demand secure DNS server suitable for the enterprise. Today we'll look at MaraDNS, a lighter-weight secure DNS server designed for DNS admins with simpler needs.

MaraDNS is designed to use a minimum of system resources, to be as simple as possible, and to be secure. It runs on Unix and Linux, as well as Windows under Cygwin. MaraDNS includes both an authoritative server and a recursive resolver. They are completely separate, so you can set up one or the other, or both. The most secure way to run MaraDNS is as an unprivileged user in a chroot jail. It is resistant to buffer overflows, cache poisoning, and spoofing, and has built-in access controls. Old unused records are periodically purged from the cache.

Configuration is simple. To set up an authoritative DNS server, there are two files: mararc, and a domain zone file. You need a separate zone file for each domain. A migration tool, getzone, is also included. It assists with migrations from other DNS servers. To set up a recursive resolver, only the mararc file is needed. To set up a secondary nameserver, simply set up a simple cron job to run getzone periodically, rather than fussing with silly serial numbers.

While MaraDNS is designed for smaller, simpler needs, it scales up nicely to serve a large number of domains.

MaraDNS is a good DNS server for a newbie DNS admin. It comes with a basic DNS tutorial and excellent documentation. See maradns.org 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, and is the author of the Linux Cookbook.

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