Microsoft, Sun Finally Climb Into Linux Ring

The last of the major holdouts debut open-source technologies at California show

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The presence of the two biggest Linux holdouts at LinuxWorld Conference and Expo this week,Sun Microsystems and Microsoft,signals a significant maturing of the operating system.

The spotlight will be focused on Sun's first Linux server and distribution during CEO Scott McNealy's LinuxWorld launch keynote on Aug. 13 in San Francisco. Sun's single- and dual-processor Intel Pentium II Linux servers will run a homegrown Sun Linux distribution and a version of Solaris for Intel, executives noted. The servers will ship later this month and on Sept. 27, respectively, officials said.

Sun is also expected to introduce a new Native Connector Tool for Linux and new Linux development modules to NetBeans, sources said. The Native Connector Tool is a specification and a set of libraries and wizards that gives Linux developers the ability to extend legacy applications as Web services. NetBeans is the open-source platform on which Sun ONE Studio is based.

Adding to the sizzle of McNealy's submission to the penguin on stage will be Microsoft's official bow to the open-source operating system on the show floor. This will be the first time Microsoft sets up booths at LinuxWorld. The software giant,which, like Sun, spent years dismissing Linux as pure hype,will demonstrate Windows-to-Linux interoperability technologies and a community-based development tool aimed at the LAMP (Linux Apache MySQL PHP) camp.

Microsoft is not going to the show to play the enemy and bash Linux and open-source technology, said Peter Houston, senior director of the Windows platform at Microsoft. Instead, the software vendor will be there to demonstrate that Linux and Windows can co-exist and compete.

"They're [Microsoft and Sun both being dragged kicking and screaming. This is the direction of the market, and they need to be a part of it," said Tony Stanco, senior policy analyst at George Washington University's Cyberspace Policy Institute.

Stanco is working with the U.S. government on its Linux procurement strategies. "They can't resist the wave that's washing over them," he said. "They'd rather be at the center of a proprietary software industry, but the center is moving toward open source."

While the debut of Sun and Microsoft in the Linux space will take center stage at the show, the planned announcement of the first UnitedLinux alpha distributions is also on tap. Those include a major Red Hat 8.0 upgrade due this fall and announcements from BMC Software, Computer Associates, HP and IBM.

UnitedLinux,a consortium formed in May by Linux distributors Caldera, Conectiva, SuSE Linux and Turbolinux,will demonstrate an alpha version of its uniform UnitedLinux distribution and detail new ISV and channel programs, said Ransom Love, the former president and CEO of Caldera, who became head of Caldera's UnitedLinux operation in June. The beta is expected to be available in September with UnitedLinux, and distributions are due to ship in the fourth quarter.

Red Hat, for its part, will debut its next distribution, version 8.0, which is due to ship in October. That release will improve the out-of-box experience for end users and administrators, said Mark De Visser, vice president of marketing at Red Hat. The company will also disclose the details of customer wins with Amazon, Dell, Lithonia Lighting and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

BMC Software will unveil its Deployment Manager for Linux, a configuration management solution that allows the deployment of thousands of heterogeneous Linux images and nodes. It will be available in September.

In addition, Hewlett-Packard will highlight Linux wins with Verizon, Reuters and Dreamworks and expanded Linux support across its products and services portfolio, including an upgrade of SecureLinux and a Linux version of MCServiceGuard.

Elizabeth Montalbano and Joseph F. Kovar contributed to this story.

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