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Linux goes mainstream

Posted: 28 Jan 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Linux servers? LinuxWorld conference? computing devices? PDAs? supercomputers?

Last year saw Linux earn credibility as an operating-system contender in servers. If the LinuxWorld conference is any indication, this year could propel the open-source OS across a spectrum of computing devices - from handheld PDAs to supercomputers.

The diverse platforms shown at the conference advanced the notion that supplementing the open-source code and then retargeting it for the next wave of platforms and applications amounts to a better value proposition, and a stronger basis for development, than reliance on a proprietary OS for each new product category.

"Early and open collaboration with partners and customers is the critical driver of true innovation," Advanced Micro Devices Inc. president and CEO Hector Ruiz said.

The words echoed a theme expressed earlier this month at the Consumer Electronics Show, where Sony and Matsushita said they will discontinue support for their respective proprietary OSes in favor of a jointly-developed version of Linux for digital consumer products. Samsung, Philips and LG Electronics are said to have signed on to that effort. The impetus behind it, said Paul Liao, CEO at Matsushita Electric Corp. of America, is that "we just can't keep on developing different software for every new product."

Ruiz praised the Linux community's commitment to compatibility and open standards as design objectives that put the customer first. "We in the semiconductor industry cannot continue to operate on a 'business as usual' basis," he said. "I think we have to consider a new business model, one that is more collaborative and more connected."

Gone global

Ruiz cited Linux's global acceptance, describing how companies including Dow Benelux; DaimlerChrysler; Rambler, Russia's most popular Internet portal; and Rackspace, the world's second-largest Web hosting company, use AMD Athlon MP processors running in Linux clusters for mission-critical server and workstation applications.

"Linux is not an exclusive American phenomenon," confirmed Jon Hall, executive director of nonprofit organization Linux International and a globe-trotting evangelist for open-source computing. The OS was developed in Finland, Hall noted, and European developers have taken to it "much faster than they would a proprietary OS like Windows."

Ruiz announced beta availability of the 64-bit version of IBM DB2 database software for systems based on AMD's upcoming Opteron processor. "Playing well with others" in the Linux community, he said, has allowed AMD to deliver solutions that maximize revenue opportunities for Linux-based businesses and their customers.

Lauren Flaherty, VP of marketing for IBM Data Management Solutions, said IBM "is committed to support the efforts of its partners to enhance the scalability and reliability of Linux for the enterprise. The combination of DB2 and AMD Opteron processors will enable customers to maximize their 32-bit applications and take advantage of native access to DB2's 64-bit environment." DB2 was demonstrated at the show running on a server with beta Opterons.

AMD also announced a joint development program with Motorola company Metrowerks, to develop a software platform that will allow device manufacturers and application developers to create Linux-based handheld computing devices based on the AMD Alchemy Solutions Au1100 processor. Berardino Baratta, CTO and VP of Linux solutions for Metrowerks, said that close to 10 percent of the company's engineering efforts are dedicated to the Linux platform - not small potatoes, given that the company is the third-largest OS applications development tool vendor.

AMD is also collaborating with the Numerical Algorithms Group and SuSE Linux to give developers the infrastructure support to equip AMD's 64-bit computing platform with Linux.

All aboard

LinuxWorld served notice that virtually every major computing company is seeking ways to profit from Linux and its underlying open-source philosophy.

Dell Computer Corp. showed server-node configurations made up of its PowerEdge 1655MC blade servers running Red Hat Linux. Up to 84 servers fit in a standard rack. A six-node certified configuration starts at $42,000.

Dell recently formed a network of partners for high-performance computing to deliver servers for specialized requirements in such vertical industries as life sciences, energy and manufacturing. The program marshals the efforts of solutions integrators, consultants, independent hardware vendors and independent software vendors. Founding members include the Cornell Theory Center, Cray, Dell Professional Services, Emulex, Extreme Networks, Fluent, Intel, Microsoft, MPI Software Technology, MSC Software, Myricom, Platform Computing, QLogic, Red Hat, Scali, and Turboworx.

IBM announced technology that could help extend the use of open, standards-based Linux and Java software to consumer electronics products, such as PDAs. The company announced a reference design centered on the PowerPC 405LP microprocessor and complemented by power-saving software, including MontaVista Software's Linux Consumer Electronic Edition and embedded middleware from IBM. The solution will initially be available through IBM Microelectronics, with the IBM Engineering & Technology group helping OEMs tailor it to their requirements.

IBM demonstrated the reference platform at LinuxWorld with common office productivity tools downloadable through an Opera Web browser and with MPEG-4 movies played back on the PDA screen. "Our next step is to incorporate speech and handwriting recognition, said Michael McGinnis, program director strategic marketing for IBM Microelectronics' Pervasive Computing group.

MontaVista Software announced availability of the first carrier-grade Linux that is fully compliant with the Open Source Development Lab's Carrier Grade Linux Specification 1.1. MontaVista's Linux Carrier Grade Edition 3.0 enhances standard Linux with high-reliability and high-availability features for deployment in carrier-grade environments. It is said to deliver optimized support for telecommunications platforms from leading providers such as Force, IBM, Intel, Motorola, and RadiSys. Linux CGE 3.0 advances the company's initial CGE 2.1 product.

HP announced that, starting in February, it will offer Red Hat Linux pre-installed on its XW line of personal workstations. HP also launched Linux Academy, through which professionals within the global HP Services organization will be certified in Linux.

SGI showed the recently announced Altix 3000 servers. Altix is a supercomputer architecture based on Intel Itanium processors and Linux. Entry-level servers with four processors will be available this quarter for $70,000. A supercluster model, with 64 processors (scalable to 2,048), starts at $1,130,000.

- Nicolas Mokhoff

EE Times

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