Linux legitimacy - Page 3

By Dan Orzech | Posted Feb 1, 1999
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However, there's no sign that other major application-software vendors are rushing to jump onto the Linux bandwagon. SAP, for example, has "no plans" to support Linux now or in the near future, says a company spokeswoman, despite published rumors that the company is running a version of its applications under Linux. Neither does Peoplesoft.

Instat's Ball contends that the current Department of Justice case against Microsoft could affect the number of software packages that end up running on Linux. "If the outcome keeps Microsoft in its existing state, in its existing dominant role, then ISVs are going to stick with the dominant platform. But if Microsoft's hold on the industry gets shaken in some way, then ISVs may well consider diversifying their portfolios more rapidly."

What the future holds

There are other things holding Linux back. System administration tools, for example, are still aimed mostly at small to medium-sized IT operations. Linux distributors such as Orem, Utah-based Caldera Systems, Inc. however, are beefing up their offerings to handle the demands of large enterprises. Caldera Systems plans to offer directory services that will allow administrators to manage large numbers of users more easily, and backup tools capable of backing up large numbers of machines over a network. And while technically sophisticated users like Schlumberger's David Sims say they prefer Linux' Unix-like command line interface, both Red Hat Software and Caldera Systems now offer GUI-based system administration tools which are less intimidating to Linux novices.

Large corporate users are also hesitating to adopt Linux because of concerns that without a major company backing it, Linux may not still be around in a few years. Linux supporters say the opposite is likely to be true. "Free software actually outlives commercial software," says Professor Clay Shirky, who works with Linux at Hunter College in New York. "Look at history. DEC--which was confident in the 1970s that VMS was going to rule the world--no longer exists, but every network protocol that was written in that decade is still valid. You can still FTP; you can still Telnet; you can still send e-mail using sendmail."

Part of the skepticism, says Shirky, is that the community responsible for Linux can't be found in one physical place. It requires a cultural shift to recognize that the Linux community is on the Internet, he says, and that "communities outlast companies."

Linux milestones

January 1999: Linux kernel 2.2.0, with improved SMP support, released on January 25, 1999.
September 1998: Intel and Netscape invest in Linux distributor Red Hat Software. Red Hat Software announces beefed-up support.
September 1998: IBM announces a version of DB2 for Linux, and Sybase says it will release a Linux version of its database engine.
July 1998: Oracle and Informix announce Linux ports of their database software.
April 1998: Netscape releases source for Mozilla, validating the open source model.
November 1997: Red Hat Software version 5.0 released.
July 1997: Red Hat Software version 4.2 of Linux released. First Linux distribution that installed easily, had lots of driver support, and was considered really "solid."
1991: Linus Torvald, then a computer science student at the University of Helsinki, begins writing an operating system.

It seems likely that Linux will continue to gather momentum. A new version of the kernel with improved symmetric-multiprocessing capabilities was released on January 25, 1999. Despite the existence of an X-Windowing system for Linux and the availability of software such as Corel's WordPerfect for Linux, it seems unlikely that Linux will ever be a huge presence on the desktop.

But Linux is likely to grow in strength as a server platform. Just how fast it will grow depends on whom you ask. Jon Oltsik, a senior analyst at market research firm Forrester Research, based in Cambridge, Mass., expects Linux use to continue to expand at a "steady, albeit relatively unexciting" rate. But computer book publisher and open source proponent Tim O'Reilly believes that corporate IT departments--whose computing infrastructures are already riddled with Linux--are just waiting for the operating system to get the seal of approval from major computer companies like Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard Co., and IBM. And that is already happening. Linux, predicts O'Reilly, is going to see "an explosion of corporate acceptance" in 1999. //

Dan Orzech is a Philadelphia-based writer specializing in technology. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and many computer industry publications. He can be reached at orzech@well.com.

Read all about it!

Title: Using Linux
Author: Jack Tackett and Steven Burnett
Publisher: Que, May 1998
At any decent-sized bookstore, you're likely to find several shelves groaning under the weight of thick tomes about Linux. One of the newer ones, this guide gives beginning to intermediate users everything they need to know about Linux, from UNIX basics such as the vi editor and UNIX mail to system administration and running a Linux Web server. It includes CD-ROMs with the Red Hat Software and Caldera Systems versions of Linux, and utilities from Slackware.

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A look at the hardware side of the Linux equation. Led by PC maker Gateway, server manufacturers are taking a hard look at the growing Linux market.

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Publication: from Release 1.0, November 1998
A fascinating and in-depth look not just at Linux, but at the entire open source movement and its relevance to the future of the computer industry. Well-known computer publisher Tim O'Reilly explains how open source software like sendmail, Perl, and Apache are at the heart of the Internet revolution, and how various companies--from Red Hat Software to Netscape to IBM--are making money in the open source world. Open source software, says O'Reilly, has not only radically changed the rules of the computing game, but holds the key to the next stage of the computer industry.


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