Enterprise Linux Log

July 30, 2007  10:10 AM

Novell sites encourage continued adoption of (Novell) Linux in the enterprise


Novell SUSE Enterprise LinuxNovell today launched a few video/blog intensive sites billed as way to further promote Linux in the enterprise — so long as when you say “Linux” you’re actually talking about SUSE Enterprise Linux 10 (SLES 10). Entitled, “Your Linux Is Ready,” the site is Web 2.0 friendly and calms your eyes and frayed GPL nerves with a soothing SUSE gecko green.

I checked out the site this morning, and it’s a fairly slick collection of stuff that’s existed for a while (Dr. Jeff Jaffe’s CTO blog; press releases masquerading as case studies crying Novell’s Linux-savvy solutions from the rooftops), alongside brand new video “interviews” with folks like Nat Friedman, chief technology officer, open source; and Crispin Cowan, director of engineering, SUSE Enterprise Linux. These gentleman provide several multi-chapter looks at the technologies Novell is working on today. It’s interesting to note that Microsoft isn’t mentioned anywhere — at least in the few I viewed this morning.

The topics fall into the four main categories that Novell has pushed for the better part of the last year and a half: Desktop, Server, Xen in the enterprise, and AppArmor security. The Xen and AppArmor stuff is fairly interesting, and I imagine both will be getting their fair share of coverage at LinuxWorld next week (both technologies have sessions devoted to them).

There’s also a second site that tackles Unix to Linux migrations entitled “Your Linux is Ready,” that hosts a series of whitepapers, podcasts, blog posts and corporate announcements. There’s also a man in a suit riding a bike. No word yet on whether he’s chasing Red Hat or not (I kid the gecko, honestly).

July 27, 2007  8:30 AM

Linux: 2.4.35 Released


As the headline says, Linux kernel 2.4.35 is now ready for your viewing and poking pleasure, whatever that means…


After 6 months of careful integration and testing, I’m happy to announce availability of Linux 2.4.35.This one contains the same fixes as, plus a small set of add-ons, among which some new PCI IDs, more usb-storage unusual devs, support for high-speed USB HID, updated e1000 driver, a few watchdog updates, support for systems with no keyboard controller (mainly blades), backport of the skge and sky2 drivers from 2.6, support for the “notsc” boot option for some broken dual-core x86_64 systems with no HPET, and a the latest fixes from the LVM package.

Note that I’m very conscious that 2.4 has mostly left desktop PCs and notebooks, but it’s still commonly found on servers, route reflectors or firewalls. For this reason, I’m open to merge the small updates required to maintain such systems running (eg: PCI IDs and such), but I will generally refuse all patches which add support for new desktop or notebook-specific hardware, unless the people present very convincing arguments. Those people generally would better upgrade their systems to 2.6.

The 2.4.34.X stable branch is now closed and a new 2.4.35.X branch will open with the first next fixes. This model has proven very efficient to provide riskless fixes, especially in a situation where several weeks may pass before a patch gets tested on a production environment.

This version has been tested on x86 SMP, sparc64 SMP and alpha.


July 25, 2007  7:24 PM

The last Linux adoption barrier is marketing


There are many barriers for adoption to Linux. Some are training, documentation, service, applications, games, and so on. These same barriers have been touted for several years. While these reasons have been held on to, Linux has matured and evolved far swifter than Windows and Mac OS. Commercial ventures that sell and support Linux solutions have become as robust and professional as the “big boys”.

The barriers to adoption cited in 1999 and in 2004 are still used today. These barriers are perception as opposed to the fact in many instances but there is one area in which Linux lacks creativity, energy, and innovation. This area, if addressed at all, is done in pale imitation of others and poorly executed. That area? Marketing.

IBM gave us the “Linux boy” ads. Like all IBM ads, they are convoluted and make little sense. Frankly, those ads would have been better suited for Wikipedia. A little boy swiftly absorbing the wisdom, advice, and information of the ages? Yeah, Wikipedia ad, but at the end of the ad, I would have no idea what Linux is.

Novell gave us the cute “I’m a Mac and I’m a PC” farce that gets a few hits on Youtube. However, whereas Apple clearly tells us there are benefits to using a Mac in a cute manner that is easy to digest, the Novell ad is full of cute little inside jokes that make me giggle, but is lost on the general population. Worse is that we have a pale imitation as opposed to innovation. Novell could have easily created posters that say, “Think REALLY Different” and shown the same level of originality and said just as little about Linux.

My final video example is the new Dell Linux video floating around today. A poorly acted “news” spoof chock full of inside jokes about Linux delivered through tired puns and double meanings. It’s for us and not for the world and they seem to think our standard is low.

One of my favorite examples of bad marketing was an in-store GQ PC sold at Fry’s with Linspire pre-installed. Here we had a computer for under $250 that not only came with an OS, but it had games, an office suite, and many other things. Was that featured? No, but there was a handwritten sign that told me that this was not a Windows PC, it was not compatible with Windows software, and ISP’s did not support it. It was written in such a way that one would think it did not work on the Internet. Oddly, there was no such handwritten sign by the Apple computers. They may as well have written a sign that read, “Beware of the Leopard” and covered the Linspire GQ computer in barbed wire.

On a more positive note, I’ve also seen some decent magazine ads (pre-Novell SUSE), a clever web page or two (TAFUSION), and some slick brochures (Red Hat, Linspire and SCO–when they had Linux). These efforts have not been bad but when you are describing a disruptive technology these are not quite what we need to get the message out. Even on the rare occasion that they are well done they are not sustained long or introduced well enough to create real market penetration.

Dude, tell me what I am getting! I want to think different! And y’know what, I wanna tell you where I wanna go today! Linux has so many benefits that are being completely missed. I can understand and even excuse the hacker culture for not knowing how to come up with a clever slogan and execute it. Much of this rebel code is seeped in an idealistic counter culture that is sometime anti-corporate or just not marketing minded. There is nothing wrong with this. I would not want a sales rep to compile my kernel and I do not expect a programmer to deliver a sales pitch. However, companies like Novell and IBM have been in this game for decades. They have seen Microsoft market their way to #1 with an inferior product.

Now what about these smaller companies like Linspire, Tafusion, and others? Do we give them a pass for having smaller pockets or do we ask them to take on a more focused approach? Not sure there.

My local chiropractor uses simple guerrilla marketing tactics to get in the face of the community and the consumer. Proactive has turned zit prevention into a membership plan. Staples Inc. has us convinced there is a big red button that can make life easy.

Look, I am glad companies are trying to market and support Linux. But market adoption will not happen without good advertising. Every day we are surrounded by clever and quality marketing. Without thinking about it, many of our purchases are driven by marketing. Marketing is not closing the deal. Marketing is not clever Super Bowl ads in which people talk about the horses that play ball, but no on can quite remember the product. At the end of the day marketing is making people aware of your product and informing them why they need it. I believe that if the marketing is ever as solid as the Linux OS, all those other barriers to adoption cited for almost a decade will melt away.

Why? Because I will want it the same way I want two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, on a sesame seed bun.

Patrick Green is a Linux consultant living in the Chicago area.

July 25, 2007  7:55 AM

Extremely cheap Linux mod


Cheap Linux

Honestly, I don’t know what to say. You saved some major money however. The beauty of Linux, no?

July 23, 2007  5:51 PM

Replacing Microsoft Small Business Server: IT pro asks for open source software alternatives


David Crook, a consultant and 20-year IT veteran, has issued a challenge — via SearchEnterpriseLinux.com — to the open source community.

He tells me he has a shiny new IBM xSeries server “sitting idle waiting for something to make its life a little less boring.” His first thought was to install Microsoft Small Business Server (SBS), but then he asked himself: Is there something less costly and less memory-hogging than SBS?

Got any suggestions? He wants an open source or low-cost, Linux-friendly alternative that matches features with SBS. Here’s the hitch: He wants an alternative that has these features integrated in one package.

“What I want to avoid is the hassle of downloading a load of different packages, with there inherent dependencies, to achieve the equivalent. Does such a beast exist in open source land or do Microsoft still have a stranglehold in this area?”

Other than cost and memory requirements, Crook can find little wrong with SBS.

“Microsoft has managed to produce an excellent package in SBS 2003, and when compared to other Microsoft products it does stack up value-wise. I have found SBS 2003 bulletproof, and its performance is more than acceptable.”

On the other hand, Crook sees great value in Linux and open source and wants to use and recommend it more often. Ease of use issues keep getting in his way, though. He wants more Linux-supporting commercial and/or open source application packages that are simple to install and maintain.

“For all Microsoft’s faults they have been successful in making software installation and configuration reasonably straightforward. I cannot sacrifice usability!”

Is there hope for David? Can he find an alternative to SBS that has compable integrated features and ease on installation and configuration? Let him know via comments to this post or an email to me at jstafford@techtarget.com

July 23, 2007  9:41 AM

BIND releases get version number facelift


According to the BIND mailing list, the Internet Systems Consortium (ISC) is making a minor change to the way it numbers BIND releases as a way to simplify the upgrade process for our users. More information from that mailing list email follows.

The current BIND version numbering scheme consists of three part numbers.

Current Release 9.4.1:

  • 9 – an architecture number,
  • .4 – a major release number, and
  • .1 – a minor release number.

Within the BIND 9 architecture series, major releases can and usually do include “feature” changes (new functionality, new named.conf syntax, etc). Minor releases do not include feature changes, only bugfixes.

Minor releases fall into 2 categories: Security releases and roll-up bugfix releases.

1) Security releases generally consist of the absolute minimum necessary change from the previous release making it easier for users to upgrade quickly, as security releases are usually time critical.

2) Roll-up bugfix releases include whatever bugfixes have accumulated since the last release, and can include a large number of changes. Most of these changes are usually relatively small but the volume of new code in a roll-up bugfix release is generally much larger than in a security release.

Many organizations that use BIND code have rules of one kind or another about how often they can upgrade to new releases from vendors, so unscheduled releases are problematic. The current version numbering scheme also makes it hard for users who have not been following closely to tell the difference between security releases and roll-up bugfix releases.

To facilitate the upgrade process, the ISC and BIND community will begin calling security releases “patch” versions. Version numbers for patched releases will include the same three part version number with an appended patch number (Thus, the first patch to BIND 9.4.1 would be numbered BIND 9.4.1p1).

Security patches will be released both as patches and also as tarballs. Security patches will generally be the minimal change necessary to fix the security problem, so that users whose code vetting process requires them to read every new or changed line of code will be able to incorporate security-related bugfixes quickly.

Roll-up bugfix releases will continue as before as minor releases under the old version numbering scheme. Additionally, roll-up bugfix releases will include any security patches since the previous full release. For example, BIND 9.4.2 would include whatever patches were in BIND 9.4.1p1.

“We realize that any change to the version numbering of an existing product creates a certain amount of angst and confusion, but we think and hope that this revised version numbering scheme will be better for our users in the long run. Thank you for your patience and continued support,” the mailing said.

July 22, 2007  10:30 PM

Alfresco study: Enterprises evaluate on Windows, deploy on (Red Hat) Linux


Open source content management company Alfresco Software, Inc., today announced the immediate availability of its first-ever global survey of trends in the use of open source software in the enterprise.

The “Alfresco open source barometer survey,” conducted April through June 2007 using opt-in data provided by 10,000 of the 15,000 Alfresco community members, showed that Windows is increasingly a popular evaluation platform for open source software but most enterprises use Linux when they go into production.

The survey also asked users about their preferences in operating systems, application servers, databases, browsers, and portals to capture the latest information in how companies today evaluate and deploy open source and legacy proprietary software stacks in the enterprise.

“The survey found that the U.S. is leading open source adoption globally,” Dr. Ian Howells, Alfresco chief marketing officer, said. “We believe the Global 2000 is seeking innovation and better value for their technology investments whereas in Europe open source adoption is often driven by governments seeking better value for their citizens. The research also showed that the U.K. lags behind in the adoption of open source suggesting less government emphasis compared with other European countries such as France, Germany, Spain and Italy.”

We’ve blogged about that before. In “The world can live without Microsoft,” I took a look at some of the countries outside the United States that had either dumped Windows entirely or — in the case of brick and mortar governments — started with Linux from the very beginning. It seems that Alfresco — a U.K. company — proved just as much in their survey about open source.

There was some Linux news to be had too, however. According to the survey, deployments of Red Hat have grown at a rate twice as fast as Novell SUSE since that company’s controversial November 2006 patents and interoperability agreement with Microsoft. Alfresco’s Howells suggested that this finding means “that customers may not like the terms of the deal as more information became public,” but I’d argue Red Hat is simply the (*much*) more popular commercial distro right now, in addition to having not signed on Redmond’s dotted line. Believe it or not, there are some IT managers out there who are still interested in what Novell and Microsoft can bring to the table in the name of Linux-Windows interoperability. I think the crowd at BrainShare 2007 was a good indicator of that belief.

The survey studied how enterprises evaluate, test and deploy both open source and proprietary software around Alfresco’s enterprise content management system. For all that, I suggest you high-tail it over to their open source barometer web site and get your fix. The executive summary and complete survey results are available online at www.opensourcebarometer.org

July 20, 2007  1:58 PM

Linux, Tux, and the lottery


Some light Friday Linux fun:

Tux and Linux lotto

I hear the buyer didn’t win.  Original TUX on the right, ticket on the left.

July 19, 2007  10:01 AM

Zenoss introduces a new enterprise IT monitoring offering


Zenoss Inc., an open source IT monitoring and management vendor, today announced the release of Zenoss Enterprise Edition.

Zenoss Enterprise is built upon Zenoss Core (launched in June), which is an open source IT management software product available for download on SourceForge.net. Zenoss Core allows IT operators to monitor the inventory, configuration, availability and performance of their IT infrastructures through a single web-based console.

Zenoss Core also has a CMDB (configuration management database), which is a key building block for improving IT management practices and ITIL process improvement programs. According to Zenoss CEO Bill Karpovich, this makes Zenoss Core the first open source IT monitoring to offer CMDB capabilities.

Much like Red Hat Enterprise Linux or Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, Zenoss Enterprise is purchased through an annual subscription agreement. The services included in this agreement include expert support, professional services, training and indemnification.

Zenoss Enterprise also includes several new software extensions including:

End User Experience Monitoring
• Application-level end-user activity simulation
• Scheduled execution of transactions with tracking of availability and performance characteristics
• Applications supported include:

  • – Web Applications (HTML, HTTP)
  • – Databases (Microsoft SQL Server)
  • – Email (SMTP compliant)

• WYSIWYG authoring environment for web application transactions

Certified Application Monitors (ZenPacks)
• Turnkey, best-practices monitoring packages for COTS applications
• Includes pre-defined templates for availability monitoring, performance monitoring, event management and reporting
• New applications supported: Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SQL Server

Global Dashboard
• A single integrated dashboard that integrates information from many distinct Zenoss instances
• Visibility into the health and performance of infrastructure distributed across many locations and management domains

We’ve talked with Bill in the past about the broad topic of IT monitoring, and have some more coverage planned for next month’s LinuxWorld San Francisco as well.

July 18, 2007  3:50 PM

OpenSolaris users group to Ian Murdock, Sun: You’re missing the point


President George W. Bush is for all intents and purposes a “lame duck” president. He’s lost his majority and doesn’t really enjoy what people would call the “good graces” of the republic right now. This isn’t a political blog, though, it’s one about Linux and open source software, right?

But it was precisely the idea of a “lame duck president” that I thought of in the wake of last night’s UNIGROUP of New York (a UNIX users group) meeting in Manhattan. Ian Murdock, the founder of Debian Linux and now of Sun Microsystems fame, was the featured guest. The meeting was a joint venture with the NYC OpenSolaris Users Group, and included a “Sun Microsystems tour.” Things did not go well.

So after I started reading and hearing some of the accounts of what happened there last night I started asking myself a question: Is Project Indiana a lame duck before it’s even released?

Here was the agenda, provided to us by SearchEnterpriseLinux.com site expert Ken Milberg:

Topic: Field Trip to Sun Microsystems:
– Joint Meeting with the NYC OpenSolaris User Group
– OpenSolaris Update, New Additions (Solaris Futures)
– Project Indiana
Speakers: Ian Murdock,
Brian Gupta,
Isaac R.,
Sun Microsystems

Before we begin, can you guess which of the topics above generated the most attention? What’s that? Nexenta? It’s a cool OS, I suppose, but if you guessed Project Indiana, you get the prize.

Some background: In March 2007, Sun announced Project Indiana, whose goal is to create an OpenSolaris binary distribution. The long-term objective is to increase the technology’s user base and cultivate mind share. Similar to Red Hat’s Fedora Core and Novell’s openSUSE projects (perhaps too similar — see below, OpenSolaris is Sun’s open source operating system and includes experimental features that might eventually make their way into its commercial Solaris operating system. Analysts said the project is indicative of Sun’s desire to increase awareness of Solaris among Linux-centric IT managers and developers.

But therein lies the rub. Sun must appease existing (and loyal) Sun Solaris users while trying to win over Linux administrators and developers with “Linux-like” features. Gordon Haff, senior analyst with Illuminata, told me that many Sun developers might start to question why they need “Linux junk” in their software when Solaris runs just fine. He was speaking partly in jest, but I think you’ll understand what he’s getting at.

I also think we saw that debate going on in earnest in New York last night.

Apparently, Ian Murdock did not receive the warm welcome he may have hoped for last night. The room held approximately 50 people and a good number of those were OpenSolaris users there from the NYC user group.

One observer said, “What I saw at the OpenSolaris user group meeting was a shock to me. Ian was on the defensive for most of the entire meeting. And it was their own user base that was fighting back!”

Why the angst? We reported on a possible answer to that question last week in the wake of a Reuters article that said Project Indiana might be officially finalized in the very near future. What SearchEnterpriseLinux.com heard from analysts close to Sun was that the company is running a very fine line with Project Indiana. Haff and Ideas International Inc. analyst Tony Iams were both concerned that Sun could end up alienating its existing Solaris base while it tried to please anyone running Linux.

The user’s group meeting last night all but confirmed this was precisely what was happening – at least with OpenSolaris users in NYC anyway. Ken Milberg, Linux site expert and contributor to this blog, said some audience members started to notice that Murdock’s plans for OpenSolaris were starting to resemble Red Hat’s strategy with Fedora. It didn’t gel. “Sun pretty much admitted that this strategy made sense, and more or less were admitting that is was time they starting talking about an ‘innovation strategy’ too,” Milberg said. Thing is, the Sun users kept saying they were already satisfied with OpenSolaris.

And yet Sun and Murdock continued to lay out the case for Project Indiana, to “mixed results,” Milberg said. One unidentified attendee reportedly blurted out “all this does is help Sun, what does this do for someone using Linux?”

It’s a fair question. In our January feature Sun, the begrudging Linux vendor, we took a good look at how much pre-installed Linux makes it out the door on Sun servers. It was a lot, comparatively speaking.

By the end of 2006, approximately 71% of all AMD Galaxy class servers shipped by Sun had Linux pre-installed (IDC). As our headline suggested, I’m sure Sun would love to switch those numbers around in Solaris favor. OpenSolaris, which serves as an incubator for potential future Solaris upgrades, could help that happen. At the time, Sun’s official line was this, provided by Chris Ratcliffe, the former director of Sun Solaris:

“If you take a look at hardware and AMD-based systems, there are three types of OS’s customers are interested in,” Ratcliffe said. Those operating systems are Windows, which Sun does not ship pre-installed; pre-configured Linux; and Solaris. “We prefer they would use Solaris, but at the end of the day our job is to give the customer a choice,” he said.

Coincidence or not, Ratcliffe (voluntarily) left Sun shortly after he spoke with SearchEnterpriseLinux.com for the article. Ian Murdock joined the ranks soon after in a newly created — albeit slightly mysterious — role.

Now, from what I can understand the problem here is that Sun has continued to competitively position itself with Linux users with features like DTrace and ZFS when perhaps they should take a page from the Linux playbook and start siphoning off some Windows market share. (Editor’s Note: Our sister site, SearchDataCenter.com, has several case studies on both technologies, including the account of Betfair, an Internet gambling site, which claims it processes more than three million betting transactions every day and needs DTrace to make sure no hiccups slow them down.)

But attendees last night were not swayed. One attendee pointed out that Linux is way ahead in Xen and KVM virtualization; package management and usability to name a few, and Project Indiana is akin to an OS that already exists: CentOS.

Milberg said the meeting ended with a mixed vibe. “There certainly wasn’t any dancing in the streets. People didn’t seem to understand why they were doing this. It seems Sun can never seem to figure out what they want to be. Do they want to compete with Red Hat Linux? Do they want to compete high end with Solaris on SPARC with AIX or HPUX? They’re fighting on multiple fronts in multiple wars,” he said.

Another observer said it was obvious that Sun had done research with its customer base, and that this is what they believed everyone wanted. “But it’s starting to appear this is what Sun thinks everyone wants, and they’re missing the entire point,” they said.

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