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What's next for Linux?

Depending on whom you spoke with at the recent LinuxWorld conference in New York City, the next frontier of Linux is either at the data center or on the desktop. And as SCO ramped up litigation with a new copyright suit against Novell last month, it's not surprising that licenses, intellectual property and indemnification were also hot topics at the conference.

Open-source guru Eric Raymond argued during the event that desktops will gain traction within 18 to 36 months, citing Novell's recent Ximian acquisition and Sun's win of a contract with the Chinese government to install Java desktops.

According to Scott Handy, who directs Linux marketing for the IBM Software Group, the prospects for Linux desktops are better than previous Microsoft Office alternatives because they won't require the same 'forklift upgrades' associated with thin clients. ''The reality is a mixed-mode where you can migrate some apps to the desktop and others to the server, which Linux allows,'' he said.

''We want to encourage an application market for Linux on the desktop,'' added Handy, who then qualified matters by saying that ''the server will remain the most important market for Linux.'' Over the coming year, IBM is devoting most of its push to 64-bit Power architecture blades supporting the iSeries and pSeries, where IBM claims it can underprice Intel.

At the other end of the spectrum, several vendors at LinuxWorld announced new or upgraded tools for managing Linux in the data center. Mountain View, Calif.-based SteelEye Technology Inc. demonstrated wide-area disaster recovery by failing over between dual IBM blade servers in its booth and IBM's on the other side of the show floor.

Qluster, a new entrant, announced enterprise cluster management for Linux that offers faster failover for systems using shared memory architectures.

BMC demonstrated dual products for managing multiple instances of Linux on a mainframe. The dilemma, according to BMC Product Marketing Manager Jahjuan Rogers, was trying to figure out which BMC product to port to Linux: the MainView mainframe management product or the Patrol product line associated with distributed Unix systems. In the end, BMC split the difference. Customers buying BMC Linux management products will get copies of MainView and Patrol for Linux in the same box.

Who says you can't have it both ways?

As for licensing, officials from start-up Black Duck Software Inc., Chestnut Hill, Mass., outlined plans to bring out a tool that can be used to extend software license management to open-source code in general. Borrowing a page from antivirus vendors, the Black Duck technology searches for signatures of open-source code and then alerts the customer as to the particular license that might apply. The company claims to have identified nearly 75 such licenses.

According to Eric Raymond, the Black Duck approach may be overkill. ''The only issue is whether the license supports The Open Source Definition,'' he said, referring to the definition developed by colleague and Linux enthusiast Bruce Perens.

As this was a Linux conference, it's not surprising that those willing to go on record were pretty dismissive of SCO's legal prospects. Perens dismissed SCO's evidence as little more than file headers. ''The time is past where we could hold these as honest errors,'' he said. ''No doubt what we're seeing from SCO is software piracy that's fraudulent in nature.''

For more Linux news, go to ADT Linux Page.

About the Author

Tony Baer is principal with onStrategies, a New York-based consulting firm, and editor of Computer Finance, a monthly journal on IT economics. He can be reached via e-mail at tbaer@tbaer.com.

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