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LinuxWorld turns it up a notch

February 1, 2000
Web posted at: 9:00 a.m. EST (1400 GMT)

by John Fontana

Network World Fusion

(IDG) -- Looking to pique enterprise customer interest in Linux, major vendors this week will unveil clustering technology, embedded systems software and thin-client options for the open source operating system.

At the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in New York, customers will get their first look at Trillian, a new technology that will let the Linux kernel run on forthcoming 64-bit Intel processors and will help the upstart operating system better compete with the likes of Sun and Microsoft.

In addition to large users, the expo will attract financial titans from nearby Wall Street looking for the "next hot company." Wall Street has been showering Linux vendors with affection since the wildly successful initial public offerings of Red Hat and other Linux vendors in the past few months.

The show will feature the release of the Trillian source code, which was developed by Intel and leading Linux vendors over the past nine months.

The Trillian participants, led by VA Linux Systems, have been very secretive at the insistence of Intel, but the so-called development release of Trillian will finally give Linux hackers a chance to evaluate the code. It also will be the first time Linux creator Linus Torvalds, who will deliver the opening keynote, has seen the code. Torvalds is expected to add Trillian to the base Linux kernel in the near future.

"The 64-bit platform will be very important to Linux in the server market," says one source who requested anonymity. "It is Intel's platform of the future and will help Linux compete against Sun and Microsoft."

With that in mind, some observers are expecting this to be the first LinuxWorld that is clearly aimed at an enterprise customer audience. Clustered Linux will be a hot topic, including software from TurboLinux for creating clusters that can be built with a mixture of operating systems from Sun Solaris to Windows NT.

IBM will release a free set of Linux server specifications that allow for thin-client computing, and Red Hat Software will debut software for embedded systems.

The new 2.4 Linux kernel will not make its anticipated appearance but is likely to create a stir with its promised performance features for large users. Those features include file system journaling that will help speed server reboots, improved symmet-rical multiprocessing support, memory support for 36-bit addressing for IA-32 architectures and plug-and-play support.

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Torvalds is expected to release the kernel on Feb. 17 as a jab at Microsoft's Windows 2000, which hits the shelves the same day. But that might be the only jab taken all week as the Linux community tries to preserve its one-for-all mantra.

"This gathering will be more of a lovefest than a competitive battle. These guys know that if Linux fractures they lose," says Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst with International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass.

And with this year's conference just a short cab ride from Wall Street, the show will likely have a fair amount of suits scattered among the dressed-down Linux faithful.

While Linux stalwarts Caldera Systems and Linux-Care are hunkered down in IPO-mandated quiet periods, Wall Street wizards will be prowling for other gems among the nearly 800 vendor booths.

"This will be the LinuxWorld where Wall Street and Madison Avenue advertisers show up to see if this stuff is real," says Larry Augustin, CEO of VA Linux Systems, a darling on Wall Street after its wildly successful IPO late last year.

What will be real is Trillian. The project began last April to tweak the Linux kernel to support Intel's IA-64 Itanium processor. "I would like to run this chip for obvious reasons - performance," says Rudy Pawul, systems analyst for ISO New England, which manages New England's power grid. "I don't need it for file serving or Web servers, but it would be nice to run an Oracle database on 64-bit." Trillian will add a variety of enterprise features, such as symmetric multiprocessing, clustering, large memory, large file systems and performance monitoring. It also is backward-compatible with IA-32.

But some observers downplay the importance of Trillian, especially because Linux for 64-bit Alpha is already available.

"The large memory of 64-bit will be nice for database applications, but the apps that currently run on Linux don't need 64-bit," says Bill Claybrook, an analyst with Aberdeen Group in Boston.

While Trillian presents the large end of the Linux spectrum, Red Hat and IBM will be thinking small in New York.

"We will provide software to get Internet devices - thin servers, point of sale terminals, digital set-top boxes - up and running with Linux," says Michael Tiemann, chief technology officer of Red Hat. The embedded systems software was developed using Code Fusion IDE tools from Cygnus, which Red Hat acquired last year. The news comes on the heels of Red Hat's announcement last week that it will package Computer Associates management tools with its Linux Enterprise Edition.

IBM will release specifications that define how Linux servers can be modified to serve thin-client applications to the IBM Network Station 2200 and 2800. The free specifications support Red Hat 6.1, but other Linux flavors will be added, according to IBM officials.

In the clustering realm, TurboLinux will unveil enFuzion, which allows different operating systems to be clustered into a supercomputer, similar to a Beowulf architecture. The difference is enFuzion doesn't require dedicated boxes for clustering and allows clusters to be made up of any combination of servers or desktops running Solaris, Windows NT, HP-UX, IBM AIX, SGI Irix, Tru64 and Linux platforms. Users can distribute computing-intensive operations over any number of machines in their enterprise.

"We're targeting the enterprise big boys that need to do some serious computing," says Aaron McKee, product manager for enFuzion.

Organizations such as J.P. Morgan and Argon National Labs are testing the software, which is slated to ship in March.

VA Linux is expected to release Version 2.0 of its client/server VA Cluster Management. The new features let users manage an unlimited number of nodes in a Linux cluster over the Internet, remotely monitor specific server components and upgrade firmware remotely.

Also at the show:

  • LinuxCare is expected to unveil a Web-based technical support program.
  • Progressive Systems will unveil its Phoenix Adaptive Firewall Appliance, a single-function network server.
  • Lantronix will release a no-cost utility called Rtel that allows printers to be networked in a Linux environment.
  • Interstar Technologies will unveil LightningFax 6.1 for Linux, a network fax server.

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