Intel, IBM, HP, fund new Linux lab

By : |August 30, 2000 0

A major new high-tech alliance between computer makers and the Linux
community was announced in Silicon Valley this week. The group will aim to
unseat Sun Microsystems’ Solaris operating system as the networking OS of
choice in the Internet and enterprise computing markets.

The group is spearheaded by hardware vendors, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, IBM,
Silicon Graphics, Dell Computer and Japan’s NEC. They are teaming up with the
leading companies in the Linux community; Caldera Systems, Linuxcare, LynuxWorks,
Red Hat, SuSE Linux, TurboLinux and VA Linux Systems.

The funding for the so-called "Open Source Development Lab" will
come mostly from the hardware companies. They have pledged millions of dollars
and equipment to finance the center.

Researchers will work on making improvements to the Linux kernel to increase
its ability to manage large enterprise networks. To date, Linux has been
utilized mostly in the small and medium-size companies. "Linux has to be
industrial strength,” said Intel software group manager Will Swope.

Another key function of the Linux lab will be to encourage and assist
software developers to port their Unix and Windows applications to the Linux
platform. Currently, the performance of applications can vary from one Linux
implementation to the next. "Customers want to know how software has been
validated, what types of platforms have been run. There’s just not any easy way
in this market to do that now,” Swope said.

Currently, many companies independently create specialized Linux products and
services. The development center will help coordinate projects among Linux
programmers and give them access to high-end equipment to develop advanced
systems and applications. Development of a full set of electronic-business
programs for Linux could further speed the system’s adoption.

The Linux lab, to be located near Portland, Oregon, will open its doors this
fall. Three more labs are expected to be added by June next year.

Rather than starting on new Linux development projects, the lab’s work will
focus on speeding up the work on existing programs. Board members for the lab
will come from sponsor companies, and from among open-source advocates. An
independent executive director will implement policy, make funding decisions and
help select projects. Already, Linux is projected by research firm IDC to be the
fastest-growing operating system for servers, based on new unit shipments, from
now through 2004, accounting for nearly half of new server installations in
2004. Windows 2000 will remain the most popular overall and Sun’s Solaris will
continue to dominate the high-end.

A major opportunity for Linux, however, may appear in the high-end in direct
competition with Solaris. But Linux will have to make significant kernel
improvements. While ultra reliable in small and medium-size implementation, the
software cannot compete effectively with Unix on the high-end. Since the Linux
kernel is based on Unix, an intense development effort could bring Linux’s
stability en par with Solaris.

The hardware companies are strongly motivated to make Linux succeed. Although
they have to write off any chance of making money from the OS, they are
currently facing an uphill battle in competing with Sun using their own
proprietary Unix software systems. Others, like Dell are using Linux to enter
segments of the server market previously closed to them.

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