Penguin Leaders Scale Up, Spread Out

Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik summed up the feeling of most enterprise Linux vendors at this week’s LinuxWorld in San Francisco when asked to describe the current state of the sector.

“I scoff at the idea that the software is dead,” Szulik said during his keynote. “One year from now, when we look back and note that we are looking at a different venue for Linux. We are seeing different forms of security. We are seeing 32-node and 64-node clustering. We are now starting to see a Linux operating system that can run on nine different architectures and manage thousands of machines.”

Szulik’s sentiments ring true for the Raleigh, N.C.-based Linux vendor and a random sampling of its rivals. The enterprise Linux space is not dealing with the same issues: the 2.6 kernel is coming, and integration is imminent; acquisitions — or rumors of acquisitions — barely register; even the fear of lawsuits from SCO Group seems to have subsided.

So the current challenge facing the enterprise Linux vendors like Red Hat, IBM, HP, and Novell is twofold, according to Szulik. The first part is taking a larger slice of pie away from proprietary Unix and Windows systems. The other is a trend toward different forms of specialization.

“Two-and-a-half-years ago, we were not talking about a subscription relationship. Now we talk about software-as-a-service and the value of the technology as a subscription,” Szulik said. “I am encouraged by reusable objects and components. We are working with the Eclipse project on development tools. We are moving closer and closer up the stack.”

IBM, HP and Novell have also experienced transition years. Novell today announced the release of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) v. 9.0, which is the first collaboration from the Provo, Utah-based network business since it acquired SUSE seven months ago. HP announced its first Linux notebook, additional Linux reference architectures, its first multi-OS Superdome server and a new 6,500-person Linux services team.

IBM trumped them all with the release of a copy of its Java-based Cloudscape relational database application to the Apache Software Foundation (ASF). Big Blue also said it has scored yet another major Linux deployment with the U.S. Department of Defense.

Still, customers are somewhat wary of their Linux choices. Michael Dortch, principal business analyst with Robert Frances Group, suggests the issue for the world market and the marker for IT executives is: “Can I trust my business to these vendors?”

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