Enterprise Linux Log

October 19, 2007  11:50 AM

Is the Ubuntu team stretched too thin?


Ubuntu 7.10, the latest release of one of the most popular Linux desktop distributions, is getting a hero’s welcome as a reliable desktop and as an enterprise server OS for the future. After launching yesterday, Oct. 18, the slew of articles about its desktop chops and server-side aspirations make it pretty clear: this cake was baked extremely well over the past six months and is ready for bigger and better things.

That said, I wouldn’t be a reporter if I didn’t mention that one of the users I contacted for a reaction to 7.10 saw a troubling trend in Ubuntu’s recent history.

Jean-Yves Quentel, a fellow blogger and former venture capitalist, is optimistic that the extensive work done on Ubuntu Server in 7.10 will for the most part strengthen the entire distribution. With every release, Ubuntu becomes more stable and secure, he said, and desktop users like him will again benefit from it. I’m inclined to agree: the addition of AppArmor is a nice feather in the cap of an OS that already had a pretty substantial security reputation.

But then there was that downside that I mentioned earlier. Quentel said the Ubuntu team might be stretched too thin as it focuses on making Ubuntu Server an enticing option for OEMs like Dell so they’ll pre-install it on their commodity servers. “[The developers] may be trying to do too many things at once and I have noticed a slowing-down of the community input in the past few months, which may or may not be a consequence of Canonical working more on their enterprise offering,” he said.

Is he right? Is Canonical’s vision of Ubuntu on the server and as a force in virtualization starting to affect the community? Is community input slowing down? This is the first I’d heard of it, but then again 7.10 arrived less than 24 hours ago. Your thoughts?

October 17, 2007  3:20 PM

Ubuntu’s unplanned delay tally, all-time: One week


Did you know that, if combined, all of the days that Ubuntu was “late” (i.e., didn’t launch exactly six months after the previous release), it would add up to only about a week?

It’s true! Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth told me so during a conference call this week announcing the launch of Ubuntu 7.10 on Oct. 18.

I found this particularly fitting given the delays experienced by some other operating systems of late (pun intended, I think). In addition to being just plain polite, the speedy six-month, clockwork Ubuntu release schedule bodes well for its enterprise aspirations too.

That’s one of the reasons why consultant Conrad Knauer is optimistic about Ubuntu’s chances in the enterprise. The OS’s rapid six-month release cycle could help sway uncertain IT managers, he said, because they can simply skip a release they don’t like and wait to see if the next one is better.

UPDATE from the comments: Conrad K. corrects me on this one. This is “unplanned” delay time. “Dapper (6.06) was intentionally delayed for six weeks to ensure that it was of sufficient quality for a Long Term Support (LTS) release; the time was deducted from the development of Edgy (6.10) which immediately followed it. The Dapper delay was not at Shuttleworth’s whim, however; it was discussed and voted on,” Conrad said.

October 17, 2007  12:10 PM

XenSource, Novell: N_Port ID Virtualization coming ‘ASAP’ in 2008


Novell OES 2 XenI had a great call with First American Title Holding Co. about Novell Open Enterprise Server 2 the other day. Why was it so great? Because it surprised me. I went in expecting one thing and got another. For a reporter, that’s great. It’s an education. It’s like waking up thinking it’s Sunday when it’s really Saturday. Or something like that.

One of the goals I had going in was to get details about First American’s new SUSE Enterprise Linux deployment, as well as some additional bits of file serving goodness from the OES2 they installed on top of it. As it turns out, the creme de la creme was the virtualized NetWare servers they were running using Xen paravirtualizaiton. Many NetWare shops simply cannot migrate off that OS, as the applications are customized and cannot run any other way.

Xen: Ready for OES2’s launch?

With the launch of OES2, Novell is trying really hard to entice those last few NetWare shops to make the leap to Linux. They’re doing this by enticing them with virtual NetWare servers running in Xen. That said, was Xen mature enough for First American’s mission critical NetWare applications? Would it perform as well?

At first glance, things were not looking too good.

Kurt Johnston, a lead engineer on the First American migration, wasn’t optimistic. “I did not have high expectations for Xen,” Johnston told me in a call last week. “With Xen being as young as it is, I was expecting it to be very difficult to install and configure a new domU onto dom0.” Johnston and his boss, IT director Dan McDougall, were also wary of performance issues they had read about in trade magazines and had heard from other users throughout the year.

But they were soon pleasantly surprised, and so was I. Xen wasn’t VMware ESX Server, but it was close enough–at least for First American. That, at least to me, was the surprise. It’s been a 24 hour VMware lovefest for the past two years or so, and I hadn’t been up on the subject enough to see any changes in that dynamic. When I talked with analysts in 2006 and ’07 I had always heard Xen had plenty of potential, but like any new technology it needed work. Illuminata senior analyst Gordon Haff, speaking to me for the same article, told me that much of the work needed to prove that potential had been completed throughout 2007. It was a collection of hard work and bug fies; not any single thing, he said.

“The fact is, [Xen] was rather simple to install. It was the ease of installation and configuration that surprised me. I was expecting to use quite a bit of [a command line interface],” Johnston said. Fortunately for First American, there was very little CLI, if any. No headaches, no problems–save one.

There was one issue worth noting about Xen, according to Johnson. He said one thing he would like to see in Xen is in “the paravirtualization side of things”:

“I’d like to be able to somehow mask certain virtual machines and only allow certain LUNs [logical unit numbers] on the SAN [storage area network] to serve and see certain virtual machines, via Xen.  I’d like to be able to build in a limit to the different servers to see only specific LUNs on the SAN.”

He went on to say that having the ability to visualize the host bus adapter (HBA) and use Xen to manage virtual Fibre Channel ports would allow LUN masking of these ports and give the ability to grant access to only specified LUNs.

This capability is also still an issue in VMware environments as well, but a support update for N_Port ID Virtualization (NPIV) in VMware ESX 3.5 was announced earlier this month.

Fixes from XenSource, Novell

But what about XenSource, the corporate entity behind the Xen hypervisor? Or Novell, which was the first commercial Linux OS vendor to bake Xen into its OS? Was a fix forthcoming for those Novell OES2 customers, like Johnston and McDougall, that wanted the same functionality in their environments? Simon Crosby, CTO of XenSource, responded to that question regarding support for N_Port ID Virtualization (NPIV) via email this morning. He said:

“It’s planned ASAP for XenSource products (Q1 08). The Xen project doesn’t have a storage roadmap – just the hypervisor. Whether any vendor puts a particular storage technology into its product is up to that vendor.”

Novell is working on a multi-vendor fix: “We are working on N_Port Virtualization together with Qlogic and Emulex,” said Holger Dryoff, vice president of management and marketing at Novell. “This will be available in one of the future service packs of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 and therefore to OES 2 customers as well.”

I find all of this interesting because it will mean more choices. More choices means competition, and competition means happier customers. Happier customers are more apt to speak to the press and tell their stories. Whether the technology ultimately makes the customers happy, well, that’s what we’re here to find out.

October 16, 2007  9:06 AM

Noncertified IT pros earn more than those with certified skills, report shows


A new report from industry research firm Foote Partners LLC finds that the average pay for noncertified IT skills topped that for certified professionals while compensation for IT jobs increased again in the third quarter of 2007. David Foote, CEO and chief research officer at Foote Partners, calls this “a significant event” that has not occurred in the industry since 2000.

The survey includes Linux system administrators in the premium-skills category. Last month, the technology jobs site Dice reported a 30% increase in Linux job postings on its site. Along with a healthy surge in jobs, pay for Linux pros was also higher than the national average for all tech professionals, according to Dice.

In May, Foote Partners reported a 9.1% increase in average salary among 149 noncertified IT skills over the last year, according to their IT skills pay survey.

Foote believes that this represents “a key milestone of several events to come that are shaping IT workforce evolution.” Foote Partners has been reporting that pay for noncertified IT professionals has been steadily increasing, while compensation for certified IT skills has been steadily declining for more than a year.

Foote Partners LLC is an independent workforce information consultant and market research firm for the IT industry. The company is based in New Canaan, Conn.

October 15, 2007  4:12 PM

OpenOffice: Take your pick


While OpenOffice.org celebrates its seventh year with a new release, someone put his fork in OpenOffice’s birthday cake.

Go-oo get OpenOffice

The Go-oo version of OpenOffice.org promises new, in-development features and functionality not incorporated into OpenOffice’s releases. According to SearchEnterpriseLinux.com expert Solveig Haugland’s blog, the split is the result of a long-standing disagreement over licensing of a Calc module.

Latest OpenOffice.org a major release

In a recent tip on SearchEnterpriseLinux.com, Haugland has also done a great job reviewing the newest features of OpenOffice.org 2.3. OpenOffice.org 2.3 includes several features and improvements, including security enhancements.

The latest release also includes an expanded extension library. The multiplatform OpenOffice.org is compatible with all major office suites, which means you can work with your existing .doc files easily with the open source Writer application. SearchEnterpriseLinux.com contributor Serdar Yegulalp reminds us that this refers to the Microsoft Word 97 2003 format, “which retains a core set of features which are compatible across the iteration” of the proprietary product.

OpenOffice.org blogosphere

In addition to Haugland’s tips and advice on SearchEnterpriseLinux and her own blog, the OpenOffice.org Web site keeps a list of helpful OpenOffice.org blogs. If you know of any others, let us know.

October 15, 2007  9:14 AM

Michael Dell: Linux server uptake increasing


Dell LinuxAre Linux server sales increasing faster than Windows? Previous research from IDC said no, but Dell’s Michael Dell said otherwise at the Gartner Symposium/IT Expo last week.


Dell said his company has seen Linux uptake for servers increase faster than Windows server products, despite Microsoft’s claims.

He said: “On the server side Linux continues to grow nicely, a bit faster than Windows. We’re seeing a move to Linux in critical applications, and Linux migration has not slowed down.”

However, for those customers who might be concerned about whether Microsoft’s claims of patent violation could result in legal action, Dell added that there were “certainly mechanisms if customers are concerned about patents”.

With the arrival of Ubuntu 7.10 only a few days away, consider the Linux on the server stories to reach a feverish pitch — again. Will Dell start pre-installing Ubuntu on its servers after the Ubuntu Server tweaking that’s gone on for the past six months? Will they continue to watch what happens with the Ubuntu desktops and laptops it started selling earlier this year?

Hopefully, we’ll get the answers to these questions and more during a Q&A with Canonical’s Mark Shuttleworth tomorrow at 12 EST. The rest, as always, is up to Dell. Comments like these are encouraging, however.

October 11, 2007  2:41 PM

Script tracks Perl modules for you


Michael Hurley shares a script that he wrote called modlister. I’ll let him explain:

It’s a script to tell you what Perl modules you have installed and where, to query whether you have a particular module installed, to see associated files, etc. For example:

    1. List all installed modules:
  1. modlister.pl

  2. Only show filenames (strip directories):
  3. modlister.pl -f

  4. See if Compress::Zlib is installed:
  5. modlister.pl -m Zlib

  6. See all the files associated with Zlib:
  7. modlister.pl -m Zlib -a

Thanks for the script, Michael.

Try this one out yourself. Tell us what you think or submit one of your own. If we use your script, you will receive a gift a Starbucks gift certificate. More scripting goodness after the jump… Continued »

October 11, 2007  2:06 PM

Gutsy Gibbon does not mean pre-installed Ubuntu on the server


As is becoming a regular occurrence these days, it seems, a few news outlets out there this week are starting to beat the “Ubuntu pre-installed on the server” drum again as the 7.10 release of that operating system draws near (it’s Oct. 18, fyi).

If I sound unimpressed, it’s not because I don’t think it will happen. On the contrary. I think given the rise of Linux over the past few years and the specific rise of Ubuntu usage among end users and the enterprise (on the network edge, anyway), pre-installed Ubuntu on commodity x86 hardware is pretty much a sure thing. But not yet. Wait for Hardy Heron; that’ll be roughly a year from when Dell made the decision to put pre-installed Ubuntu on a few of its laptops and desktops. In tech, a year is a long time.

The reason for my blasé attitude is that the Ubuntu Server drumbeat has started to resemble the “Year of the Linux desktop” one that’s been played ever since I started covering this wonderful OS in 2003. Just as every December brings a slew of messianic Linux desktop year in review articles, so too has every six-month Ubuntu update brought its share of Ubuntu Server world domination features and commentary. I know because I’ve been guilty of writing both types of articles.

Some of my Ubuntu Server handiwork from 2005-2007:

Ubuntu Feisty Fawn launches with server focus
Ubuntu expert sees expanded role for OS on the server
Could Dapper Drake give Ubuntu the last laugh in the server space
Ubuntu: To the server side and beyond?

Now, they say that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity, so I guess I’m guilty of being a crazy nut for Ubuntu. I’d like to think I’m a well-informed nut, though.

The OS is going to attack the pre-installed server space soon enough, don’t worry, but by Canonical’s own admonition, the process in place to get there is purposefully a slow, steady one. I know this because even as the Internet goes into a tizzy of speculation this month for the launch of Gutsy, back in August the folks at Canonical told me this directly. They also told me about their server plans with Dell; about the ongoing negotiations; and how talks were taking place with hardware vendors other than Dell–who, if you recall from earlier in the post, made a splash by announcing pre-installed Ubuntu on a range of its desktops and laptops earlier this year.

Gerry Carr, Canonical:

“[Pre-installed Ubuntu on the server] is something we would like to do, and we’ve made no secret about it,” Carr said. “Customers have asked for this, and if people want to see Ubuntu pre-installed on Dell servers, then they should go to [Dell] IdeaStorm and continue to ask for it.”

Carr said that while the deal will “hopefully be with Dell,” Canonical is also considering server vendors other than Dell, and at a later date the company will reveal the results of those talks. “This doesn’t mean a deal is imminent, but those who want and require Ubuntu on the server will have something available reasonably soon,” he said.

The VAR guy over at TechIQ says Red Hat and Novell could be rubbing elbows with Ubuntu soon if Gutsy’s new server features are any indication. He also cites IDC, via a Computerworld article that says no deals are in place, but a deal could be imminent (really? I asked the same question in August).

Canonical is set to release Ubuntu 7.10 — code-named Gutsy Gibbon — on Oct. 18. Although Ubuntu’s momentum is strongest on PC desktops and notebooks, Canonical has publicly stated that Ubuntu 7.10 will include several server-focused enhancements. The company has also hinted that it was preparing a small business server suite. Also, Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth has called for Canonical, Red Hat and Novell to synchronize the timing of their major Linux releases by 2010– a proposal that would allow software developers to more easily support all three platforms.

But that’s not all. Canonical is now negotiating for Ubuntu pre-installed on servers, according to IDC — though no major deals are in place yet.

The thing is, as you can see from SearchEnterpriseLinux.com’s reporting over the past two years, the message hasn’t changed all that much. Every update has included “server enhancements” with little short -term traction. Regardless, with every release in Canonical’s six-month development cycle, we press types can be counted on to drag out the server argument for a couple of weeks, and then it starts to fade. One day this won’t happen, sure, but I don’t think it’s going to be this Thursday.
With each new Ubuntu release the server chops of Ubuntu get a little more robust and ready for the enterprise environments the OS so richly deserves to inhabit. I just don’t think 7.10 is going to be the watershed moment everyone says it will be (again). Again, that’s just an opinion.

Pre-installed Ubuntu on the server (Dell, HP or otherwise) will arrive en masse eventually, but it’s all been a slow, purposeful process. Just as Canonical’s leader Mark Shuttleworth planned it all along.

October 10, 2007  3:14 PM

Does Linux kernel 2.6.23 break VMware Server?


First, there was the great iPhone 1.11 update bricking debacle. Today, it’s the great Linux kernel 2.6.23 conspiracy?

Admittedly, that doesn’t quite roll off the tongue as well as an iPhone story. That said, I think the implications for today’s revelations about 2.6.23 are far more important to the tech community than some gadget-of-the-moment touch screen phone could ever hope to be.

Andrew Kutz, blogging for our sister site SearchServerVirtualization.com, claimed today that the 2.6.23 release of the Linux kernel breaks VMware Server while at the same time boosts the street cred of Xen and KVM, or Kernel-based Virtual Machine.

[T]he new Linux Kernel, 2.6.23 was released on 2007/10/09. The latest product of the world’s greatest hackers includes a bevy of new features, including increased support for Xen and KVM, two open-source virtualization solutions. Users of those products are probably very happy today, eagerly awaiting the adoption of the new kernel by their favorite distribution in order to take advantage of the increased guest support that comes with it. VMware Server users on the other hand are getting the proverbial shaft. Kernel 2.6.23 has one MAJOR change and one minor change that completely break VMware Server.

I’m not as up to speed on VMware and its relation to the Linux kernel as I ought to be, but Kurtz’s post brought me up to speed pretty quickly. Apparently, fixes for the two problems are not easily executed, which kind of leaves this whole issue flapping in the wind.

Then again, maybe that was the idea, Kurtz waxes hypothetically: “perhaps most interesting of all is the timing. The same Kernel that provides extended support for Xen and KVM also breaks VMware Server. Coincidence? Like I said, I try to air on the side of optimism. How about you?”

I’m a cynical optimist, and I know how important Xen and KVM are in the open source community. I guess that leaves me “undecided” on this issue. What say you?

October 10, 2007  10:20 AM

Exploits of a mom


xkcd comic

I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the webcomic xkcd, but this one was a gem that I just had to post today. Enjoy.

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