Enterprise Unix Roundup: OSBC Open Source Hot Spots

Enterprise Unix Roundup: OSBC Open Source Hot Spots


February 17, 2006

Main     In Other News     Elsewhere in the Corral     Tips of the Trade

Brian Proffitt
Amy Newman

We (or, at least, half of we) attended the Open Source Business Conference in San Francisco this week. So, while one of us was slammed under several feet of snow, the other was basking in 70-degree weather.

Needless to say, one of us is a happier camper than the other.

The forecast inside the Argent Hotel, where this year's West Coast conference was held, was positive with any chance for buzz. How buzz-filled, you ask? During one conversation, we actually caught ourselves using the word synergy in a sentence. That's not good for us cynical pundit types.

But it was hard not to get caught up in the energy this show exuded, as vendors from all sorts of open source companies got together and met to discuss where open source as a viable business model is and where that model is going.

There was some redundancy during many the sessions and impromptu meetings that filled the two-day conference. Attendees said they'd seen some of the tracks before, particularly at OSBC East in Boston last fall.

And several of the visitors to the conference quietly let us know that there weren't a lot of customer contacts getting made here; mostly it was partnership talks with peers. These latter comments weren't exactly complaints, but there was a wistfulness in the air that there could be more customers. As it was, one vendor in the show told us that about 40 percent of its foot traffic was customers, so it wasn't too sparse.

Numbers for the conference were lighter than expected. Show organizers were shooting for 750 visitors, but the actual number was closer to 625, according to a source close to the show.

If we seem down on the show, trust us, we're not. This type of show, even if it seems self-perpetuating, is something that the open source community needs, if only to get some behind the scenes deals made. If you think this show is a mini-LinuxWorld, though, think again.

The overall theme of the conference content was community. Specifically, how to get it and how to sustain it for any open source play. A lot of it was common sense stuff that was summed up quite well in a conversation we had with Tim Bray of Sun Microsystems.

Sun's approach to building community has been to first provide actually useful software, making project governance models stable and transparent, and most importantly, setting the project completely free. Without releasing code from your direct oversight, the sense of community around a project will never be strong, Bray said.

This made sense to us. And while we have sometimes had our concerns about Sun, you can't take away from the fact that it started OpenOffice.org and now OpenSolaris as pretty strong communities.

There were, of course, the inevitable announcements about products from the conference, not the least of which was Sun's announcement that it is ready to open the code for the UltraSPARC T1 chip. This move, announced by Jonathan Schwartz in his Tuesday keynote, is part of Sun's strategy to make the SPARC chip a more welcome home for other operating systems, such as BSD and Linux. Make no mistake, however, at the end of the day Sun still wants people to ultimately migrate to Solaris, because that's where its sweet spot is.

A curious statement in Schwartz's keynote was the mention of why Sun didn't initially license OpenSolaris under GPL (v2). This was an aside to sort of explain why it GPLed the SPARC chip. What struck us as weird was Schwartz's statement that it didn't license OpenSolaris under the GPL because Sun does not own all of the intellectual property in the Solaris code.

So far so good; we understand that.

So how come Schwartz himself blogged recently that Sun might dual-license OpenSolaris under CDDL and GPLv3? We checked with a Sun representative, and the company still doesn't own 100 percent of that pesky IP. The same rep emphasized that there were other reasons why Sun opted not to go with GPLv2, such as the lack of a patent clause. Again, that makes sense. But if Sun doesn't own the IP for Solaris, will it now put the effort into getting permission to release all of the Solaris code under GPLv3? Or will it have closed binaries in the code if Solaris is GPLed? Because no matter how the draft of the GPLv3 works out, the IP issue will have to be resolved.

We're going to follow up on this one, to be sure.

Another odd statement from our favorite pony-tailed president was the one about there were more downloads of OpenSolaris in the first couple of months than there were of HP-UX licenses ... ever. Actually, that was not the odd statement, it was when he then indicated it would be nice if HP-UX and Solaris were to merge their development road maps. The end of HP-UX? Sun seems to have some big plans under way.

Main     In Other News     Elsewhere in the Corral     Tips of the Trade

In Other News

» With OSBC in full swing, we weren't surprised to find rumors of potential acquisitions in filling our news aggregators on Monday. The most prominent: Oracle would buy JBoss, Sleepycat, and Zend.

We doubted the trifecta from the get-go, but wondered if there was some truth to it.

Indeed there was. On Tuesday, the database vendor revealed plans to acquire Sleepycat. The acquisition will add Sleepycat's line of open source Berkeley DB databases to Oracle's embedded database product line. Sleepycat develops three versions of Berkeley DB: Berkeley DB, Java Edition, and XML.

» The Linux vs. Windows total cost of ownership (TCO) war saw another battle this week when a new study from Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) made the claim that Linux is now less expensive to manage than Windows. The survey was commissioned as a counterpoint to Microsoft's much-derided "Get the Facts" campaign.

Two chinks in the armor: The study was sponsored by the OSDL and Levanta, and, even more significant, the survey does not specifically compare the TCO of Linux to the TCO of Windows.

Rather, the report focuses on whether server management on Linux is a barrier to cost-effective operations. Among its findings:

  • 88 percent of survey respondents spend less effort managing Linux than Windows.
  • 97 percent noted that, at worst, systems management effort is the same whether it's Windows or Linux.
  • 88 percent of respondents indicated they spend less than 10 minutes per week per server managing malware and spyware.
  • Linux acquisition costs may be nearly $60,000 less per server than Windows.
  • Linux was found to be more productive, since Linux system administrators typically handle more systems than Windows administrators.

» Now that dual-core processors and virtualized systems are in the mainstream, OEMs and ISVs are working out the kinks. This week, HP inked a bundling deal with Novell. The new HP bundle, the Enterprise Linux 8-License Value Pack, contains Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 (SLES) and Novell's AppArmor Linux security application.

The bundle also provides a subscription to SUSE for a total of eight HP ProLiant and BladeSystem servers. What is unique about the deal, however, is that customers can combine different server types in this subscription (be they tower, rack, or blade) in any combination, an HP spokesperson said.

Enterprises planning a virtualized infrastructure are better served by this agreement, rather than a similar one HP inked with Red Hat last year.

» We will cop to initially thinking this is bigger news than it will likely turn out to be, but it's interesting all the same. Access, the parent company of PalmSource, Monday unveiled to attendees at the 3GSM show in Barcelona, Spain the ACCESS Linux Platform (ALP), the latest evolution of Palm OS for Linux. The ACCESS Linux Platform is designed to be an integrated, open, and flexible Linux-based platform tailored for smartphones and mobile devices. ACCESS has lofty aspirations for the ALP and is priming it to be the platform of choice for the development of high-volume, feature-rich smartphones and mobile devices for high-performance networks, including 2.5G and 3G, worldwide.

This is not Access' first foray into the world of Linux operating systems, as an article in El Reg meticulously documents.

» Apple released yet another Tiger update Wednesday following the Russian hacker "Maxxuss'" claim that version 10.4.4 for Intel possessors had been cracked. Version 10.4.5, the fifth major update to OS since its April 2005, fixes a bug in the Safari Web browser that had caused it to suddenly crash on AOL Web mail users when they were deleting AOL mail messages as well as a number of other issues. The update is available for both PowerPC and Intel-based Macs (which began shipping this week).

Elsewhere in the Corral

Recent relevant articles about enterprise Unix

Tips of the Trade

Want to turn a 3.5" diskette into a file server? It's easy with NASLite. NASLite is a customized Linux-on-diskette that can turn your old 386 into a Linux, Windows, Mac OS X, Unix, or OS/2 file server. Load the box with however many hard drives you want, boot up the diskette, configure the server, and you're done.

NASLite runs completely from the diskette. The hard drive is 100 percent devoted to storage. A nice benefit is old BIOSes that do not recognize large hard drives do not get in the way because NASLite runs the show.

NASLite comes in several flavors: SMB, NFS, and FTP. NASLite+ is a bootable CD-ROM that supports SMB, NFS, FTP, and HTTP. It runs entirely in 8 MB of memory, supports any type of bootable CD (USB, Firewire, IDE, and SCSI) and supports Gigabit Ethernet.

NASLite+ USB runs from a USB flash drive. All versions support reporting from SMART- (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) enabled hard drives.

NASLite does have its limitations, however. It has no built-in security, encryption, or user management. It does not include a logical volume manager or any kind of RAID. It stores data only on IDE hard drives, and supports a maximum file size of 4 GB. It makes a great home or business fileserver for storing non-sensitive files, or a good backup server, but don't plan on using it when you need any sort of security or access controls.

NASLite costs $24.95, a nice price point for something that sets up easily and works well on old hardware.

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. She is the author of the Linux Cookbook and the upcoming "Linux Networking Cookbook."

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