Linux: Signs Of Maturity

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The spotlight at LinuxWorld Expo last week in Boston focused on the launch of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 and Novell Open Enterprise Server for infrastructure needs. But more availability and adoption of open-source applications, middleware, desktops, virtualization, storage and services markets prove that Linux is maturing, observers said.

"First [Linux] handled firewall and caching, and next we moved into the direction of file and print and e-mail. Now we're maturing with corporate-wide growth of ERP, CRM and Linux-based clusters across industries," said Martin Fink, Hewlett-Packard's vice president of Linux, during his keynote. "We continue to penetrate the heart of the data center."

As evidence, Fink pointed to the growth in market share of open-source projects such as Firefox and Evolution on the desktop; MySQL, JBoss and SugarCRM on the middleware and applications front; and Xen virtualization for data center needs. Xen, an open-source alternative to VMware, received strong backing at LinuxWorld Expo from HP, Novell and AMD.

Red Hat touted the release of RHEL4 platform as a fully integrated desktop-to-data-center platform for all enterprise needs, and pledged to begin pilot-testing virtualization services in 2005. At the show, Novell unveiled its Open Enterprise Server for NetWare and Linux workgroups and a data center strategy for its Suse Enterprise Linux Server.

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Novell's data center plans call for commercially supported Xen virtualization for Suse version 10 as well as advanced clustering, security and management services.

HP announced that it will open source virtualization management software to the Xen open-source project, and Novell said it plans to open source its NetMail collaboration products and eDirectory interfaces to enable collaboration and directory services adoption.

Red Hat and Novell touted plans to push their new Linux enterprise desktops, while IBM pledged $100 million over the next three years to boost Workplace support for Linux, which provides server-asserted provisioning and management of desktop applications.

The popularity of open-source software and Linux applications is also spurring more activity in the services industry, Fink said.

He cited services firms that are sprouting up to handle integration, deployment and consulting services for popular open-source middleware stacks.

Services is the final phase of completing Linux's maturity and is expected to grow to $14 billion, he said. "We finally have an approach that allows businesses and Linux to thrive in the business world."

One Novell partner agreed that Linux is indeed maturing. "We do believe Linux is turning a corner this year. We have many manufacturing companies using Linux-based ERP systems," said Scott Urbatsch, engineering manager at Polar Systems, Portland, Ore. "We are looking at a variety of applications to sell on this platform."