At LinuxWorld: New tools fuel continued enthusiasm

[Jan 28, 2003 - ADT's Programmers Report] - If developer proponents of the Linux platform have been meeting resistance from managers because the bosses view Linux software as a potential computer room renegade, they may take heart. It seems that cynical view is quickly fading if the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo, held last week in New York City, is a valid indicator.

Developers from Wall Street, Madison Avenue and likely all of New York's five boroughs and beyond made the trek (a cold one at that with temperatures in the teens and below) to the show. At press time, the show's sponsors estimated the headcount to be running well ahead of last year's 16,800 attendees. For this reporter, the enthusiasm was palpable.

On hand were the big guns of computing -- Intel, AMD, IBM, HP, Dell, Sun, CA and, surprise, Microsoft -- as well as an assortment of smaller players that ply the Linux trade.

Among the many products discussed or on display:

» Scyld Computing Corp.'s 64-bit version of the Scyld Beowulf cluster OS running on AMD Opteron processors;
» Version 1.2 of Ximian's Red Carpet Enterprise software management product with rollback and intelligent proxy connections;
» Systems ''virtualizing'' software from MetaLinx;
» Partitioning solutions for Linux from Candle Corp.;
» A highly scalable DB2 clustering product from IBM; and
» An application clustering solution for Apache Linux servers from Emic Networks.

The bigger players, as stated, were very evident. IBM has been particularly in the forefront, and no one, it seems, wants to be left in their dust. Why the interest in software that so turns the OS into a commodity?

The push is customer-driven, said IBM Software Group General Manager Steve Mills in a near-SRO keynote. Customers want to be better able to architect, manage, partition and cluster their CPU pools, he indicated. Conversations on the show floor seemed to indicate that customers are especially loath to be at the mercy of vendor-dictated OS upgrades, and see Linux open source as empowering in this regard.

For IBM, Linux is an opportunity to regain ground lost a number of years ago in the early client/server days when many of its mainframes were replaced by Unix boxes, especially those from Sun and HP. Developers and sys admins both know the truckloads of midrange computers made a mess of many a computer room. The move to more carefully architected rack-mounted server farms, which in turn is accompanied by efforts to consolidate workloads, plays to IBM's traditional strong points.

Viewers indicate that the Unix vendors have been the first to feel the sting of Linux rising.

Users' desires for a steady platform are hardly met yet, as Linux, though stable, is far from mature and itself keeps changing. Smaller players vie with bigger ones to provide solutions on this point.

As an example, there is LTrix Engineering's lice 1.7 patchless Linux kernel debugger, shown at LinuxWorld. At the show, Programmers Report spoke briefly with Micah Nutt, senior engineer, LTrix, who told us he and colleagues found openly available GNU tools ''archaic, difficult to install and having an interface that was insufficient.''

''So we built our own debugger,'' Nutt said.

The LTrix software-based debugger is intended for engineers developing device drivers, porting Linux to embedded systems or otherwise customizing the kernel. Many such engineers must scramble at times when new Linux kernels appear. LTrix's software runs on the familiar Win32 interface at present. The company plans to release a Linux GUI within the next 12 months.

Links:
For more LinuxWorld coverage, please go to http://www.adtmag.com/article.asp?id=7186

For other Programmers Report articles, please go to http://www.adtmag.com/article.asp?id=6265

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