LINUXWORLD SF: LinuxWorld to highlight enterprise role

If there was any doubt about whether Linux is gaining ground in enterprise data centers, next week’s LinuxWorld in San Francisco should put that to rest. Consider this: Microsoft is leading a session.

That session, titled, “Managing Linux in a Mixed Environment . . . at Microsoft?” and to be led by Bill Hilf, director of Microsoft’s platform technology strategy organization, is just one of several sessions and workshops that will look at how Linux fits into an overall data center architecture.

Microsoft’s role at the show highlights the growing maturity of Linux, analysts say. Rather than helping IT managers decide if Linux fits in their environments, the show now is more geared to where the operating system fits and what open source products best fit on top of it. Talk also will centre on beefing up security for Linux, running Linux in virtualized and grid environments, and enhancing management tools for Linux.

Show organizer IDG World Expo, a sister company of Network World, says it expects more than 11,000 people to attend. Last year, 11,400 showed up, while 8,300 people came to LinuxWorld in Boston in February. The number of exhibitors at next week’s show has increased from about 180 last year to 200, organizers say.

The growing interest from vendors and customers illustrates the evolution of Linux into a mainstream operating system, analysts say. According to a Forrester Research study, Linux ranks third, behind Windows Server 2000/2003 and IBM z/OS, as an operating system that respondents consider strategic. And 26 of the 56 respondents in the May survey said they are using Linux in their data centers.

“At this point, Linux is a done deal,” says Michael Goulde, an analyst at Forrester. IT managers “are going to see what they can do with Linux and open source and how to expand their use of it, rather than just looking at how they can initially adopt it.”

IT managers attending the show also will get a look at how the Linux community is hoping to grow. Novell, for example, plans to announce that it will open up a version of its SuSE Linux to users and developers. The goal of the OpenSuSE project is to expand the adoption of Linux by making it more easily accessible, says Greg Mancusi-Ungaro, director of marketing for Linux and open source at Novell.

“The reason we launched the project is that we’re trying to help drive Linux adoption everywhere. We’re trying to raise the needle of Linux usage worldwide,” he says. “We talked to Linux users and Linux developers and we’re hearing that it’s still very hard to get Linux unless you’re a technical user. We want to change the dynamic and make it much easier to get Linux.”

Similar to Red Hat’s Fedora project, OpenSuSE will give users and developers access to operating system code to create a transparent and open development environment, Novell says. Novell will make a beta release of SuSE Linux 10.0 available at the show.

The OpenSuSE project will give IT managers earlier access to new features in the operating system for building internal applications. “Then the jump from SuSE Linux to SuSE Enterprise Linux is a small one,” Mancusi-Ungaro says.

Al Tobey, senior Unix engineer at Priority Health in Grand Rapids, Mich., says he plans to attend LinuxWorld to hear more about how vendors such as HP are providing support for Linux and open source deployments.

“Finding support has been an issue since open source started falling on people’s radars,” he says. “It will be interesting to hear what HP is offering.”

HP is set to make several announcements at the show, including expanded support for open source applications such as Zope content management software, which Priority Health runs and supports in-house.

“We have an existing relationship with HP, and it will be nice just to add on to that rather than having to go somewhere else for support,” Tobey says.

The desire to centralize support for Linux also will be highlighted by the release of products aimed at making it easier to manage Linux and other operating systems.

Opsware, for example, plans to unveil a feature in its Server Automation System (SAS) 5.1 that the company says will help systems administrators manage multiple machines running various server operating systems from one command-line interface.

Called Global Shell, the feature provides secure access to Linux, Unix and Windows servers through one shell and provides access to Windows registries. It also uses the command-line interface and scripts that systems administrators are more comfortable using with servers, Opsware says.

“Systems administrators can adapt their Unix scripts to work within the Opsware data model and securely connect to multiple machines,” says Tim Howes, CTO at Opsware. “The feature shuts the back doors that might be open to server access and cuts the grunt work out of managing multiple machines running different platforms.”

Opsware Global Shell is available now in SAS 5.1, which costs about $1,200 per managed server.

Open source management software maker GroundWork also will be showcasing a new open source project designed to make the open source monitoring software, Nagios, easier to navigate. GroundWork earlier this year unveiled its commercial software, GroundWork Monitor, which is built upon Nagios’ IT monitoring technology. Nagios has had more than 660,000 downloads since 2001, the company says.

LinuxWorld will give attendees a broad look at the role Linux and open source can play in enterprise data centers. Much of the news will be similar to what end users would find at other mainstream shows, analysts say.

“Linux really is maturing, so you’re not seeing the kind of radical month-to-month, LinuxWorld-to-LinuxWorld changes that you had a couple of years ago,” says Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata. “LinuxWorld really is becoming a broader show.”

“It started out being specifically about Linux. But now Linux and open source have become so pervasive that even Microsoft is there,” he says. “It has evolved into this much less exclusive sort of show.”

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