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LinuxWorld preview: New 2.6 kernel bringing new level of competition from Linux

Experts headed to LinuxWorld this week offer their Linux predictions for the next six months, and gauge the operating system's growth during the past half year.

Now that the 2.6 version of the Linux kernel is in beta, enterprise Linux users are anxious to see how the next six months will play out with regard to the core of the operating system and how it expands enterprise adoption.

Several Linux experts heading for LinuxWorld in San Francisco this week and contacted by identified the release of the next version of the kernel as the most anticipated Linux development for the next six months.

The new kernel, according to author Linus Torvalds, who spoke recently with, features "more robust [virtual machine] behavior (in particular, better latency control), better thread handling, improved scalability in a lot of areas, notably file systems, and a lot better block device layer infrastructure." All of the above are crucial to enterprises wishing to enjoy the cost savings and control that Linux and open-source software bring.

"The next six months will determine how well Linux is going to scale up. The upcoming 2.6 kernel has some major enhancements that enterprise data centers will need," said Ali Jenab, president and CEO, VA Software Corp. "If the 2.6 kernel is released in a timely manner and really delivers on its scalability promise, then Sun and other 'heavier iron' providers are going to be looking at a whole new level of competition from Linux."

Jay Cicardo, an architect with BMC Software Inc., said the cost savings enterprises may realize from virtual machine enhancements would be substantial for those firms wishing to bring Linux further into the data center.

"A big part of the savings comes from centralizing server images on one physical machine, which makes management of those images easier to do with fewer people and resources," Cicardo said.

ISV support and managing Linux key

Running parallel with the rate of enterprise adoption and increased support from independent software vendors is the growing need to manage Linux. Several experts said management improvements are paramount in the coming months to ease adoption and continued growth of Linux use.

"Everyone is talking about how management needs to catch up to the applications that are becoming available. The most important thing for the Linux community coming forward is having fairly broad affordable management solutions that will allow a more rapid adoption of the platform and applications running on that platform," said Poul Nielsen, vice president of marketing with Altiris Inc.

Others say the next step in Linux's maturation is acceptance by leading certification and standards bodies.

"The most important Linux technology development will be major steps forward in standards compliance and certification, like Common Criteria, DII-COE and Linux Standards Base," said Dan Frye, director of IBM's Linux Technology Center. "These developments are in fact the next step in Linux maturation and the adoption of Linux by governments and companies around the world for mission-critical environments."

LSB certification, which was announced at LinuxWorld 2002 in San Francisco, gave Linux the equivalent of the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, said Scott McNeil, executive director of the Free Standards Group.

"With LSB certification having been adopted by every major Linux distribution (and supported by the leaders of the IT industry, such as AMD, Dell, HP, IBM, Intel and Sun), Linux as a technology and a market have truly matured," McNeil said. "Linux is quickly growing from an edge-of-network technology to an enterprise platform."

LSB certification, other upgrades big news for early 2003

McNeil said LSB certification stands as the most significant Linux development of the past six months because it standardizes application development for the operating system.

"Prior to the LSB, there was no definition of what Linux was," McNeil said. "Variations were so abundant that ISVs wrote to one version of one Linux distribution. Then ISVs would hope that their customers would not only use that one Linux distribution, but not upgrade to a newer version of the same Linux distribution. Variations even between the versions of a single Linux distribution would cause problems."

IBM's Frye said carrier grade Linux improvements and upgrades to SMP scalability were big news during the past six months for the 2.4 kernel currently available from distributors.

Marc Carpenter, another architect with BMC Software, said developments with Next Generation Posix Threads (NGPT) addressed serious performance and scalability issues in the existing Linux kernels.

Ken Milberg, a site expert, said that more companies trusted Linux to be the backbone of their database needs during the past six months. He also pointed to IBM's inclusion of mainframe capabilities in its Linux offerings as a huge step forward.

"With the support of IBM and Oracle, the major players now have strong versions running on Linux environments," Milberg said. "A huge development was IBM's support for installing Linux on the Regatta platform. The Regatta platform can work with either AIX (5.x) or Linux. The Regatta is the IBM platform supporting logical partitions (LPARs), which is based on their mainframe technology. Supporting Linux on the partitioning environment was a major move by IBM, throwing its Big Blue weight behind Linux."

Other notable developments, according to the experts: Torvalds and Andrew Morton joining the Open Source Development Lab; enhancements to the Gnome2 desktop; gains in high performance computing circles; multitasking within multiprocessing embedded systems.

Other predictions include: movement of Linux into mobile agents, security enhancements, a major enterprise's moving onto Linux on the desktop.

"Linux today is successfully deploying for workloads that it wasn't ready for even 12 months ago (like telco, midrange application servers)," said IBM's Frye. "Linux continues to mature faster than any operating system in history while retaining and improving its already high standards for quality and security. That's never happened before."

FOR MORE INFORMATION: news exclusive: Torvalds talks 2.6.0 and SCO" news exclusive: "Kernel maintainer offers insight into 2.6" Ask the Experts news exclusive: "New OSDL CEO: Lab focusing more on Linux for data center"

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