Enterprise Unix Roundup: Of Blogs and Bottom Lines

Enterprise Unix Roundup: Of Blogs and Bottom Lines


May 19, 2005

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Amy Newman
Michael Hall

Unless you're measuring corporate success by total pages blogged, it's been a rough week for Sun.

First, as we were going to press last week, the systems vendor said in an online chat that its much-anticipated 128-bit ZFS and Janus — Sun's highly touted Linux software tool designed to enable users to run both Linux and Solaris applications on the same server — will not be available for Solaris 10 until 2006. Its corporate blogging initiative, however, is in great shape.

In the words of Glenn Weinberg, vice president, Operating Platforms Group, "These features are not scheduled for specific updates at this time. Our intent is that they will be released in CY06."

Later in the chat, someone posed this question: "When will ZFS will be released officially?" Chris Ratcliffe, director of operating system marketing, took that one: "ZFS is currently in beta, feedback is very positive and we expect to deliver it in Solaris Express by the end of the year. We will deliver the final ZFS functionality in a future update to Solaris 10."

A third participant voiced the same question and was simply told it was in beta.

Clearly, the user community is waiting. While the lack of these two major components may not be slowing down Solaris downloads (as of May 4, 1.4 million and counting), it may not be translating into deployments, and that's what everyone is looking at. As we've noted in the past, John Doe downloading Solaris to build a server in his basement shouldn't count the same as Jane Smith downloading Solaris to power her Fortune 500 data center. In any matrix.

Sun's sweeping the missed targets under the rug did not go unnoticed by the competition. IBM, possibly coincidentally or more likely intentionally, took advantage of the situation by announcing a "Solaris to Linux Migration Factory" program on Tuesday.

Sun's sweeping the missed targets under the rug did not go unnoticed by the competition.

With this service comes a free, presales migration assessment from the IBM Systems and Technology Group. The assessment is designed to answer questions and provide guidance on how to best migrate to Linux, and, presumably, POWER5. Then, when an enterprise decides to migrate, a broad set of support tools and services, known as the Migration Factory is deployed.

So it's a typical migration program.

On Wednesday, Sun responded with some name calling, describing the migration initiatives as an "act of desperation" in response to the momentum behind Solaris 10.

Oookaaay.

Momentum? Two major, sought-after features delayed does not bode well for momentum. We've been following this industry long enough to know that blown deadlines, missing features, and bugs are part of the the game. But, then, so are migration programs.

We realize we're quibbling on what is essentially a communication matter, not a technical issue. And we would have probably looked the other way, but for another PR-blitzing e-mail. Sun wanted to let us know that it beat IBM to the corporate blogging punch.

While the lack of these two major components may not be slowing down Solaris downloads, it may not be translating into deployments, and that's what everyone is looking at.

IBM opened the blogosphere to its more than 300,000 employees this week, a full year after Sun. Sun currently claims 1,500 bloggers, including oft-quoted Sun President and COO Jonathan Schwartz. His blog, which was started in June 2004, currently receives approximately 175,000 readers per month.

That's nice, we say, but so what? Call corporate blogs what you will, but at their core they are just another marketing vehicle. The COO doesn't (or at least shouldn't) spend time doing something that isn't related to bringing in revenue somewhere in the food chain. We have no doubt that Schwartz would like to turn the majority of those 175,000 readers into new or expanded customers at some point.

Blogs may be the latest and greatest, and they are gathering momentum in the marketing space, but IBM and Sun are in the business of selling systems, not marketing services. Being the first to take advantage of a marketing vehicle has a certain degree of coolness attached to it, but the more important question is, is it effective.

Does it sell systems? Maybe, down the road. But even without seeing the stats, we suspect migration programs and delivering promised features sets on time are more effective.

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In Other News

» Open source pundit Doc Searls has floated the idea that it might not be outlandish for Microsoft to be sizing up Red Hat for acquisition. Bong-hit conspiracy theories abound along with token snark from the "Red Hat is no better than Microsoft anyhow" contingent. Our take? If it were to happen, we'd be quick to glue some glitter on a shark and mail it to Redmond as the first annual Enterprise Unix Roundup "Stunt Acquisition of the Year" award. Then we'd sit back and watch the beard-and-suspenders set exodus to Novell and SUSE.

» Montavista released Carrier Grade Linux Edition 4.0. The company says it's the only carrier-grade Linux distribution that meets the OSDL's Carrier Grade Linux 2.0 requirements. As well it should, considering Montavista is an OSDL participant and contributed several members of the group that wrote the specification.

» SCO announced a whitebox partnership with DTR Business Systems and Terian. The two will fill orders for SCO OpenServer, UnixWare, SCOoffice Server, Microlite Backup, and VSI/Fax Server systems, placed by resellers on the SCO Web site. SCO also filed a prospectus with the SEC yesterday, duly noted and dissected by Groklaw. Upshot: The company is plagued by short-sellers and a dead-in-the-water licensing program. Its remaining eggs are all rattling around in a litigation basket.

» Linux clustering vendor Scali on Monday released the latest version of its Manage and MPI Connect Suites. New features in version 4.4 center around storage management functionality and allow multiple operating systems to coexist in a managed cluster. The new version integrates storage management with overall cluster management and includes additional cluster availability and reliability features.

» Fujitsu gave five of its 64-bit SPARC-based PrimePower servers a speedbump this week. The 650, 850, 900, 1500, and 2500 now contain 2-GHz, SPARC64 processors that bump clock speed as much as 14 percent and Level Two cache by 33 percent. Enterprises looking to upgrade on the cheap can swap out the chip set, Richard McCormack, senior VP of Fujitsu Computer Services told ServerWatch. He also noted that enterprises can mix and match processors within a CPU. This release, McCormack, said, "keeps us [Fujitsu] a very strong choice, right there on the short list with IBM and HP."

Recent Updates

  • OpenBSD version 3.7 was announced today. The project has provided a handy change log that details numerous bugfixes, improvements, and additions to its supported hardware. OpenBSD is distinguished for its rigorous security testing: "We remain proud of OpenBSD's record of eight years with only a single remote hole in the default install," said project founder Theo de Raadt.

  • Apple released OS X 10.4.1. The point release, out mere weeks after the general release of OS X 10.4 (Tiger) provides much in the way of client-side enhancements and fixes, and it addresses the minor furor regarding widgets of mass destruction, a potential exploit Tiger's new Dashboard feature introduced through its modification of Safari's behavior.

  • List server Lyris was updated to version 8.5b. The update includes minor tweaks.

  • Mail server CommuniGate Pro was updated to version 4.3.1, providing bugfixes for version 4.3, which arrived two weeks ago.

  • Mail server Postfix was updated to version 2.2.3. The changelog lists two bugfixes.

  • Kerio Mail Server was updated to version 6.0.10, providing 10 bugfixes.

  • FTP server CrushFTP was updated to version 3.9.1.

  • The Squid Web caching proxy was found to contain an error in the way it handles DNS validation, which leaves it open to potential DNS spoofing attacks. Patches have been released by Ubuntu, Red Hat, TurboLinux, and Trustix.

Tips of the Trade

Logical volume management is one key to sys admin happiness, particularly for sys admins faced with rapidly growing and changing data storage needs. The Enterprise Volume Management System provides a single unified system for managing all locally-connected hard disks on a Linux or Unix system. With EVMS, you can easily scale up data storage needs as you go and not be hobbled by old partitioning schemes or physical drive capacities. Just add new drives and create virtual volumes that span disks, painlessly adding and changing storage space as needed. EVMS can easily be added to systems; it's not something that must be built in to the network from the very beginning.

EVMS supports clustering and recognizes most filesystem types, including Windows, Macintosh, S/390, RAID arrays, and most partition types. It includes some very useful features, such as:

  • Snapshotting, for creating images of volumes. This is useful for backing up data because the snapshot is backed up so the original volume need not be taken offline. Database admins should especially appreciate this feature. Snapshots can also be used to restore a system to an earlier state.
  • Drive linking, for combining EVMS objects to create a larger contiguous volume. Drive links can be shrunk or expanded as needed.
  • Filesystem management utilities, such as creating and checking filesystems on volumes.
  • Bad block relocation.

All of this adds up to high availability at low cost: EVMS is cost free, so the only items to purchase are hardware and time. Learn more about EVMS at the EVMS home page.

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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