From today, Linux devotees will gather in New York for this week's LinuxWorld Expo. Companies both large and small will unwrap products and strategies spanning the breadth of the computing industry. Everyone there will have a steady focus on establishing a loftier presence in the enterprise.
With Version 2.6 of the Linux kernel now in the hands of developers, many top-tier suppliers are expected to outline their upcoming plans to ship exploitive versions of Linux and Linux-compatible applications later this year aimed at the upper echelons of corporate computing.
Version 2.6 offers significantly improved support for systems with multiple processors, making it a more intimidating competitor to both Windows- and Unix-based mid-range servers.
"We are looking at this as a major release that will go a long way towards helping us determine how much investment we should be looking to make over the next year or two in mission-critical servers. We have a lot of older Unix- and Windows-based systems we will be needing to replace over that time," said Don Frechette, a purchasing agent at a large bank based in New York City.
Oracle executives will stress the increasing importance of Linux as a development platform, and the open source environment will soon become the company's primary development environment for future versions of its suite of applications as well as for its Oracle 10g database.
"Linux is moving to be our base development platform. It has already become our base development platform for our apps suite and it will be our base platform once 10g goes out the door," said Dave Dargo, vice president at Oracle's Linux Program Office.
The company will also offer updates on its Developer's Release of Oracle 10g. The product, which is laced with a number of grid capabilities, is causing some corporate developers to think more seriously about accelerating proposed grid projects in their shops.
"Some users are getting a little more aggressive with grid implementations based around 10g. We are seeing more of that among larger IT companies and we expect the smaller ones to follow. Their acceptance of grid is tracking the way Linux did when it first came out," Dargo said.
Dargo added that Linux is better enabling the company to standardise all of the key building blocks needed to create grids, most notably perhaps, is grid management software that will be part and parcel of Oracle 10g. he believed this increased standardisation can only serve to reduce costs.
"The grid management software we can standardise around Linux allows users to retain their existing Unix skill set but now apply that to the Intel instruction set in their family of processors," Dargo said.
Next week, Oracle will throw its support behind IBM's Power line of chip, which fuels IBM's pSeries and iSeries servers, which both run Linux. The company already supports the chips used in IBM's zSeries of mainframes as well as the company's Intel-based xSeries.
Computer Associates International, which has had an increasingly strong presence at LinuxWorld the past few years, will show an even stronger strategic commitment by declaring the industry is now in the midst of the "Linux generation". One company executive even went so far to say that Linux is now in its evolution where the IBM PC was circa 1984.
"We believe are now at the point where the PC was after Acorn was introduced when it then exploded into a revolution. We will show how Linux is now expanding the entire interaction market," said Sam Greenblatt, senior vice president and chief architect of CA's Linux Technology Group.
In his LinuxWorld keynote, Greenblatt will announce strategic support of Looking Glass, a next-generation graphical interface for Linux first introduced by Sun Microsystems last year. The Java-based interface, which shares some graphical similarities with Apple's graphical interface, allows users to view objects transparently as well as in three dimensions.
Greenblatt believes the widespread adoption of Looking Glass by the Linux development community is mandatory if Linux is to be more competitive with Windows XP, adding that the interface will be at the centere of all its Linux-based desktop products.
"It is a multi-dimensional, multi-modal interface that enables users to interact with objects that is not possible with the current paradigm. This is what is absolutely required in order to take us into the next generation," Greenblatt said.
Both IBM and Microsoft will roll out software and technical support programs at the show this week in the hope of luring corporate and third-party developers either towards or away from Linux.
IBM's offering, appropriately called the Microsoft NT-to-Linux-Migration Program, will be available largely through its business partners. It will offer developers tools and training classes to help wean developers off NT and over to Linux. IBM executives believe the program's introduction is well-timed given that Microsoft has announced it will discontinue the availability of NT by the end of the year.
"There are millions of users still using NT but technical fixes go away at the end of this year. If they are going to get off NT they will need help figuring out the hard decisions about what new hardware and applications to buy. We also see this as a major opportunity for our business partners," said Adam Jollans, Linux strategy manager in IBM's Software Group.
Meanwhile Microsoft will debut Version 3.5 of its Windows Services for Unix. The new release has added support for multithreading Unix applications as well as for clustering. As an added incentive Microsoft, for the first time, will make the software free of charge. Previously the company charged $99.
Other features include a series of enhanced cross-platform tools for better blending Windows and Unix-based environments, an improved Unix command line administration capabilities, and the ability to extend Unix applications out to work more smoothly with Microsoft's .net Web Services-oriented environment.
"For Unix users who like what they see in the Windows applications portfolio, this might be a good way to preserve existing [Unix] apps where they need to. It is not like someone will rip out a Unix environment just because Unix Services for Windows is available. In most shops that have either Windows or Unix, the other environments are there side by side," said Al Gillen, research director for System Software at IDC.
Tadpole Computer will take the wraps off Talin, a line of higher-performance notebooks. The series of Linux-based systems is addressing demands among existing customers for an enterprise-class mobile system to replace older Windows-based desktop systems. The system will ship bundled with Sun's Java Desktop System.
MySQL AB, a producer of an open-source database, and Zend Technologies, a strong supporter of the PHP scripting engine, will announce a strategic relationship aimed at enhancing the integration of their respective products. Both companies believe this integration will make it easier for users and developers to integrate a range of different database functions into their web infrastructure.
The companies each estimate there have been some 10 million websites built using open source LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP).
Lindows.com will do its part to help Linux take root on corporate desktops, introducing a business version of its flagship product, called LindowsOS Professional. One goal of the product is to make it easier for those users who exchange data have multiple computers at work and home.
Linux World Expo runs 21-23 January.
Ed Scannell writes for InfoWorld
This was first published in January 2004