Enterprise Linux Log

April 25, 2008  10:34 AM

Boston’s Ubuntu Hardy Herons party with London bigwigs

Don Rosenburg Profile: Dkr

Ubuntu fans may be passionate geeks when it comes to free software, but last night’s happy love fest at the Globe Bar & Grill in Copley Place was more about enjoying the moment and being together than serial computer installs. Nearly two dozen members of the Massachusetts Ubuntu LoCo (Local Community) cozied into the mezzanine of the downtown Boston night spot to celebrate the launch of Ubuntu 8.04 LTS (Long-Term Support) for desktops and servers.

“I’m here for the cake,” joked Craig Andrews, a software engineer with girlfriend in tow. “I want to see who’s here. This is a social opportunity.”

And Andrews got his wish.

A highlight of the event was the arrival of Jono Bacon and his London entourage midway through the event. Bacon, the Ubuntu community leader worldwide, made his way from the office in Lexington, Mass., which he had been visiting on business, and stopped in to mingle with the crowd and cheer the troops. No doubt, Bacon’s appearance was due in part to the hard work by the active, certified local chapter, which generally meets across the river, in Cambridge at MIT.

Although there were a few laptops running Ubuntu 8.04 on tables about the room, the kickoff event was more about clusters of Ubuntu fans, mostly longtime users but also a smattering of newbies, talking up the new release and sharing the excitement of Ubuntu’s growing popularity and added features.

“There’s more people than I thought,” said Martin Owens, a programmer and one of the leaders of the group. “I see a lot of new faces.”

Owens, who prides himself on “not working for anybody who doesn’t use Linux,” added that he particularly appreciates that the new release includes a Likewise Open plug-in to Microsoft’s Active Directory.

Michael Rushton, leader of the group, said the event was one of many worldwide all celebrating the new Ubuntu software release.

Rushton explained his love for Linux in just a few words. “You install it,” he said. “And it just works.”

The refreshments may have been a mite on the skimpy side, but the “Hardy Heron” cake was a feast, indeed.

April 23, 2008  5:03 PM

Red Hat out-marathons the pack in financial services

Don Rosenburg Profile: Dkr

You have to run pretty fast to keep up with Red Hat these days.

The leading open source vendor just broke two speed records for the financial industry. First, it broke the gold standard for real-time status by processing updates in less than one millisecond, completing a single transaction in .9 of a millisecond. Typically, the fastest processing rates are 10 milliseconds to 20 milliseconds per transaction.

Second, Red Hat had the lowest standard deviation ever recorded or less than .5 milliseconds, which in layman’s terms translates into greater consistency. And third, a single server with a stacked Reuters Market Data System (RMDS) completed a very high ‑- but not record-breaking ­­­­­- volume of transactions, 5.8 million updates per second.

The Securities Technology Analysis Center, which provides performance measurement services to the financial service industry, performed the tests, running Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.1, the latest version, with RDMS 6.0 on IBM BladeCenter H and 10 gigabit Ethernet.

“In financial services, speed is the difference between making money and losing money,” said Scott Crenshaw, vice president of Red Hat’s platform business unit. “The result is clear: more data, faster data, means better trades and better decisions.”

As if that weren’t enough, Crenshaw struck a blow to proprietary software. “We were 2.4 times faster than Sun Microsystems,” he crowed, comparing Red Hat’s 5.8 million updates with Sun Solaris’ record of 2.4 million updates.

Go, open source! Guess you should have been here for the Boston Marathon!

April 18, 2008  3:46 PM

Sun kisses and makes up

Don Rosenburg Profile: Dkr

Sun Microsystems Inc. just did a smart about-face.
According to well-known open source analyst and blogger Bill Weinberg, a few years ago Sun quit the Open Source Development Lab (OSDL) Carrier- Grade Linux working group when OSDL declined to grant Solaris equal status with Linux for Carrier-Grade networking applications. (For those of you who don’t eat and sleep networking trivia, Carrier Grade is a networking classification that signifies high availability and fast recovery.)

Well, it seems that the passage of time and the knock of opportunity have overcome any hard feelings, judging from Sun’s deal with Wind River Systems Inc., which was announced recently at the MySQL trade show.

Here’s the deal: Wind River, whose technology helps embedded devices run faster, has agreed to port its Carrier Grade systems to Sun’s latest and greatest UltraSparc T2 chip multithreading (CMT) processor, which runs much faster than a conventional single-core processor.

The deal is good for Sun, giving it an entrée into embedded networking applications, and good for the networking industry, which would benefit from Sun’s newest and most powerful CMT processors. This could in turn benefit data center managers who already use Sparc processors and are thinking about beefing up their telecom networks, Weinberg said.

Whether they’ll think to ask for Sun processors is anyone’s guess, Weinberg cautioned, since the processor brand isn’t highlighted in the hardware packages.”This is a bet on both sides,” Weinberg said. “It’s not a sure thing.”

But forgiveness is good medicine for the soul — and for business too. Sounds like a good move.

April 17, 2008  10:48 AM

Microsoft Vista vs. Linux desktops: An IT pro sounds off

Suzanne Wheeler Suzanne Wheeler Profile: Suzanne Wheeler

The thought of moving to Microsoft Vista has put many Windows users into a panic, writes Ubuntu Linux user and IT pro Fred Marsico, the chief technology officer of Quantum Mechanics R&D in Corvallis, Ore., in this guest blog post.

In trade mags and blogs, I have read about the Vista-versus-Linux issue, and it’s now my turn to say something.

Since December, I have used Ubuntu Desktop. Aside from the fact that I have no virus warnings, no malware and no bots downloading themselves, it has been business as usual. I use Open Office and have no problems with reading and writing MS Office documents. My old Windows Me PC would not let me do that with a new version of MS Office, and of course that meant upgrading to XP as a prerequisite before installing Office. Total cost would have been about $300.

My wife has an older HP notebook running Windows XP Media Center. I chuckle as she reboots each time she gets an update or adds and removes programs. I have been running nonstop with only one required restart for a patch to the Linux kernel.

I read all of these horror stories about Vista on the blogs and comments on many sites about the same. I also see many intentionally derogatory messages posted by Windows users on the open source sites. According to them, Linux is for geeks; “normal” people don’t need to constantly tweak settings and such, as Windows is “automated.” This means that all of Windows software installs without much intervention.

In an honest comparison, it is true that Linux would greatly benefit from an Install Shield application that would make software installs and removal ubiquitous, but I also remember when Windows users complained about the same things.

Another point to ponder is that most of the back-end computers handling banking and ATMs are running Linux. And regarding security, if the banks trust Linux, we should have no problem doing so too.

With faster and multiple-core processors used today, I would have thought that Vista would have been written from the ground up with optimization in mind. With the hefty hardware requirements, it seems Vista is now the most bloated version Microsoft has rolled out to date. Just because I have 2 GB DDR RAM and a 100 GB HDD does not mean that I want my OS to hog most of them. I thought it would make having several applications running concurrently faster, and cause less hangs and crashes.

With the end of the software’s service life rapidly approaching, Windows XP users are panicked. They dread the thought of moving to Vista . Many are starting to look at the Mac OS or Linux as an alternative. Perhaps Bill Gates stepped down because he could foretell the future, and it begins to look like Microsoft is faltering.

With the state of affairs as it is, software developers should move to open source in droves. They can still write proprietary code, and can still sell it at retailers and online.

They just won’t have to pay homage to Microsoft. Monopoly software is dead; long live open source!

April 17, 2008  10:27 AM

VIPs’ drop-ins delight MySQL dinner guests

Don Rosenburg Profile: Dkr

At the MySQL conference in Santa Clara, Calif., Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz and Rich Green, Sun’s senior vice president of software, dropped in unexpectedly in an informal dinner organized by the open source community and spent several hours chatting up the crowd.

Beyond the photo op and blogging opportunity, the visit was encouraging to the group, according to Zack Urlocker, Sun’s vice president of MySQL products. “It was a very nice touch, showing that they are actively listening to the community and understand its importance in the open source world,” he said.

April 17, 2008  8:47 AM

Red Hat blog: Caffeine needed

Don Rosenburg Profile: Dkr

Don’t read Red Hat’s latest blog on its desktop policy unless you’ve just chugged a few bottles of Red Bull. In a blog update on its desktop product direction, it says, ” We have no plans to create a traditional desktop product for the consumer market in the foreseeable future.” I’ll bet I’m not the only caffeine-deprived reader who skipped — or might skip — right over that word, consumer. Then I scan down to the bold print which reads: ” our desktop product plans for 2008 and 2009 include …” and thinking, “Huh?” OK, so this is a reader error. Still …

Red Hat then lists three initiatives, including Red Hat Enterprise Linux Desktop, which, contrary to its name, is a niche product for specialzed uses in manufacturing and other verticals. Not what the term “enterprise” brings to mind at all. The other two are Fedora, the free, community-based desktop version, and, finally, we’re getting to the news here, the Red Hat Global Desktop (RHGD), a desktop project currently in development targeted to countries in Eastern Europe and Latin America that are severely undersupplied with computers.

Announced last June and stalled by marketing and assorted other issues, this project, which is still not a done deal. Companies often fall behind in their projects so that’s hardly a crime. But couldn’t Red Hat have simply blogged about the news: it’s late with the Global Desktop project, and be done with it instead of making readers embark on a verbal treasure hunt? And, by the way, mum’s the word on when this initiative is going to happen. It would be nice to know, after all that time wasted.

April 9, 2008  3:17 PM

Construction firm turns to open source for systems management

Megan Santosus Profile: Msant

When Sam Lamonica first joined Rudolph and Sletten as CIO in 2003, one of his first orders of business was to stabilize the IT infrastructure at the construction firm. “There were all sorts of IS problems affecting the network and the applications,” Lamonica recalled. And with no uniform systems management tools in place, the IT group was essentially flying blind. “We knew we had a problem when one of two things happened,” Lamonica said. “We’d get calls from end users telling us an application was down, or we’d look at the servers and see that the lights were not blinking.”

A 600-employee commercial construction firm with four offices in California, Rudolph and Sletten relies heavily on its IT infrastructure to conduct business. At any given time, the company operates 50 or 60 construction projects at job sites that last anywhere from one to five years; each job site essentially operates as a temporary regional office that requires all the connectivity and applications as a permanent office. So keeping tabs on applications and the network from the company’s data center in Redwood City, Calif., is critical to keeping remote operations running smoothly.

In a previous job, Lamonica got to know Bob Fanini and Dave Lilly, the two entrepreneurs who went on to start GroundWork Open Source Inc., a provider of open source IT and network monitoring software. “The previous company I worked for – Phoenix Technologies – was actually GroundWork’s first customer,” Lamonica said.

In addition to GroundWork, Lamonica was also familiar with HP OpenView, another monitoring and systems management tool. “We really needed something we could implement quickly, so we went with GroundWork,” Lamonica says.

Within six weeks, Rudolph and Sletten had its first set of diagnostics and assessments, courtesy of the GroundWork Monitor Professional tool. Today Lamonica uses the tool to monitor the entire infrastructure, from enterprise business applications and email to servers and network devices. Reliability and stability have improved markedly, from about 80% when Lamonica arrived to 99.99%.

Gone are the days when IT was the last to know when a problem occurred. “We set thresholds, so that we know well before issues arise,” Lamonica said.

Lamonica said that GroundWork has changed some minds regarding the use of open source at the primarily Windows-based Rudolph and Sletten. “We don’t really care if something is open source anymore,” he said. “We just want a solution that fits our needs.”

April 9, 2008  2:54 PM

Perens: The co-optation of patents, standards threaten IT innovation

Suzanne Wheeler Suzanne Wheeler Profile: Suzanne Wheeler

The success of open source software (OSS) has software giants like Microsoft running scared, OSS pioneer Bruce Perens says. Although most IT shops today use OSS such as Nagios, Samba, Apache and other programs, the open source community is still in a vulnerable spot, as software vendors use their patents to gain unfair market advantage and even take control of OSS products and standards.

I talked with Perens recently, and our topic was what IT managers need to know and do about the state of open source software. Perens says that IT managers are in the best position to lobby proprietary software vendors to protect and not attack the OSS community. IT shops are those vendors’ customers, after all, and have some clout; whereas, the large majority of open source developers — mostly self-employed or volunteers — are poorly equipped to stand up to major corporations that are trying to grab ownership of OSS.

Proprietary software vendors are both co-opting open source and, as stealthily as possible, trying to destroy OSS with software patent threats. If proprietary software vendors succeed in stymieing OSS development, technology innovation will slow down, and interoperability in heterogeneous environments will be difficult, if not impossible, to attain.

Protecting OSS will help IT organizations retain the ability “to purchase software without becoming tied to that [software vendor] for other software” to manage or complement it, Perens told me.

The protection of open standards should also be on IT pros’ agenda. Once a proprietary software vendor gets hold of rights to software standards, there are few obstacles to that vendor expanding those rights. Perens urges IT organizations to support the International Standards Organization (ISO). Established to govern the process of patent distribution, ISO working to adapt standards to the reality of the current marketplace. Most companies need interoperable software for many functions, from exchanging Microsoft Office documents to sharing databases across systems. The ISO needs the support of IT leaders in order to support the development of software interoperability amid pressure applied by proprietary vendors.

“Software patents are a problem especially for open standards, because they may prevent a standard from being usable by everyone,” Perens told me. ” If there’s a royalty or discriminatory licensing to the patent, that usually rules out open source implementations.”

With ISO/IEC 26300, Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument) v1.0., the ISO did address business software interoperability in 2006. This requires all office documents to be able to be sent from one software system to a competing software system without having to be re-formatted.
In the U.S., it has been hard to stop software vendors from filing or expanding software patents that lack integrity and bankrupting OSS startups with lawsuits. U.S. “lawmakers are so in thrall to big-media lobbyists that they do not even realize that counterarguments to copyright extensions exist,” said Professor at Stanford Law School and founder of the Center for Internet and Society Lawrence Lessig.

U.S. antitrust suits have gotten few results; but, in 2007, the European Commission filed the largest antitrust suit against Microsoft yet, for withholding information that would let rival vendors defend themselves from product integration, rolling out a penalty of $1.3 billion.

But, Perens pointed out, this was merely one step forward in a larger struggle.

April 7, 2008  2:18 PM

Users praise, pan Linux at Wall Street trade show

Don Rosenburg Profile: Dkr

This blog post was written by Pam Derringer, news writer for SearchEnterpriseLinux.com.

Last week, lots of IT guys from New York’s biggest banks and stock brokerages took a day off to attend the sixth annual Linux/Open Source on Wall Street conference at the Roosevelt Hotel in the heart of Manhattan.

All ears they were, but suddenly attendees turned shy when the lectures ended and they were asked to share their own views on Linux. Surely, the firms’ PR police or legal watchdogs would find them out and ruin their prospects for career advancement. Promised a mask of anonymity, however, a few attendees opined on the show, and here are their thoughts.

Lack of management tools cited. “I’m a strong Linux advocate,” said one enthusiastic IT manager. “It’s free, open and secure. And if we find issues, we’re able to fix them.”

Five or six years ago, his firm was one of the first in financial services to introduce Linux servers to data centers. Now about 30% or 40% of its machines run on Linux, with most of the remainder running Windows. The firm’s direction, he said, is definitely off Unix and Solaris and onto Linux.

And he couldn’t be more pleased that Red Hat Inc., in turn, incorporated his team’s enhancements, such as changing storage allocations without a reboot into future versions of the operating system. This way, all Red Hat customers benefit and his staff doesn’t have to maintain the improvement separately with every future fix or upgrade.

He is also concerned about improving data center energy efficiency and has explored various options, to reduce energy consumption, including CPUs, memory and lower wattage.

He has also researched the stateless, single-image data center that can be booted up all at once. “Management would be much better,” he said. “We’d only have one operating system image to manage.”

What is Linux’ most telling shortcoming? “Enterprise-class management tools,” he answered, not unpredictably. “But the good news is: Linux is getting there.”

Rising support costs lamented. Another anonymous big-gun attendee said that for about six years his firm has used Linux — mainly Red Hat — on everything from mainframes to blades and servers.

“Linux is getting a faster, better infrastructure,” he said. “But if these vendors want to remain a viable solution, they need to remain competitive with other data center providers. They’re getting like everyone else, adding more middleware and getting more expensive. It’s getting so that the support and maintenance are costing more than the servers themselves. We need to drive competitiveness back.”

More third-party software urged. A third attendee said the main problem with Linux is the lack of third-party software and inadequate vendor support. For five or six years, he has used Linux to run Web applications and noted that the third-party software shortage is less severe for Web apps than for migrations off AIX or Solaris, for example, simply because of higher volume.

The good news is, he said, that vendor support is on the upswing, citing the presence of Oracle and IBM at the trade show.

“The demand for Linux is there but the growth of third-party software products is slower,” he said. “But we will start to see this [third-party software] materialize more and more.”

April 3, 2008  1:39 PM

Open source pioneer Levanta goes out of business?

Keith Harrell Profile: SAS70ExPERT

Rumor has it that Linux and virtualization provider Levanta, whose recent release of Levanta 6.0 earned it a SearchEnterpriseLinux.com Product of the Year award, may have gone belly up.

At Levanta’s offices, no one is answering the phones, and a press release has yet to be issued; but on the Mikes Thoughts blog former Levanta Senior Director of Services Michael Perry said that the writing is on the wall. He shared a teary-eyed reminiscence of his time at the 9-year old Linux venture:

Levanta is gone dear reader. I will miss it and what it might have been; but I’ll never miss a whole subset of the cast of characters who thought they were above the laws of space and time. No you were not as it turns out. You made the failure as much as if you drove the car. You simply cannot run the company like its your personal kingdom. Sorry. So, it will be gone and people will wonder whether it was good or bad.

This came as a shock to outspoken user and Levanta advocate Arty Ecock, manager of VM enterprise systems at the City University of New York (CUNY), Computing and Information Systems (CIS). “If the news is true, then it will be a great loss to our organization,” Ecock said, adding that Levanta’s product was “a perfect fit” for his organization and that they were just months away from making a new Intrepid X purchase. “We were very big fans.”

According to Ecock, the Levanta product was superior; if anyone is to blame, it is an inferior sales and marketing team. “They had a winning product but they didn’t know how to market it.” Ecock added that the sales team was “garbage.” As one of the first open source commercial startups, Levanta always faced an uphill battle. There was virtually no market for enterprise Linux when Levanta started. But after companies discovered Linux, several players moved in, and apparently Levanta couldn’t get its act together. “There’s nothing that I know of on the market that will easily replace what we have. Now we’ll have to go back to square one,” Ecock said.

But Levanta users may not have to worry. If some analysts are correct, the company may be in the process of being acquired. Should this be the case, users like Ecock would expect Levanta to rise from the ashes and dominate the market under the direction of a better marketing strategy.

So is Levanta really dead, or is it in the process of being bought? If you have information on the company’s status, please let us know. But it appears that this is no belated April Fool’s joke.

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