Linux clustering takes to LinuxWorld stage

IBM, HP pitch clusters at corporate computing

High-end linux clustering comes of age this week with the launch of 32- and 64-bit platforms at LinuxWorld in San Francisco.

Although the promise of industrial-strength Linux clustering has been a slow train coming, industry observers believe this week’s announcements will lend much-needed corporate credibility to the architecture.

IBM will unveil its 64-bit DB2 Integrated Cluster Environment for Linux, which scales from two nodes to 1,000 nodes and is designed to take advantage of AMD’s 64-bit Opteron processor. Accompanied by the Opteron-based IBM eServer 325, the software will run both 32- and 64-bit applications to ease the transition to 64-bit computing.

“We are focusing hard on users who want to cluster together hundreds of servers now because increasing numbers of [users] are being driven by the total-cost-of-ownership issue,” said Scott Handy, director of the Linux software solutions group at IBM in Somers, N.Y.

Hewlett-Packard will counter IBM by rolling out the first of its turnkey LC (Linux Compute) cluster line. Based on a preconfigured design and aimed at commercial users, the Xeon-based clusters will scale to as many as 128 nodes.

“This helps users in that they don’t have to redesign everything. We’re using our industry-standard ProLiant systems, but we have tweaked them for high-performance applications,” said Mike Balma, business strategist at HP in Palo Alto, Calif.

HP will also roll out a raft of software, including ProLiant Essentials Rapid Deployment Pack for Linux, which helps users automate server-software deployment; HP Serviceguard for Linux, management software that supports Red Hat’s Enterprise Server and SuSE Enterprise Server 8.0; and HP OpenView GlancePlus for Linux, which improves the uptime of server-based applications.

Veritas has also hopped on the clustering bandwagon and is expected to announce the porting of Veritas Cluster Server agents to Linux and of Veritas Foundation Suite to Linux for IBM’s zSeries mainframes.

Some corporate users are heartened by the expected announcements, saying they have been waiting eagerly to tap into the administrative efficiencies, improved price performance, and greater flexibility promised by the Linux clustering model.

“The secret sauce in all this for us will be in the database clustering side of things because we would like to hook up well over 100 servers and to share all that data cleanly. The question for us will be how these things work across multiple operating environments and what the true cost of doing so will be,” said Tom Jennings, IT manager at St. Louis-based Monsanto.

Candle will also fuel the drive to 64-bit Linux-based platforms by announcing an extension to its management-software line, which supports IBM WebSphere, IBM MQSeries, and 64-bit computing platforms.

“We are witnessing rising demand from new and old customers for Linux tuning, testing, and management as they begin to focus on migrating to a common operating system to reduce costs,” said Teri Soken, vice president of Candle’s datacenter management group in El Segundo, Calif.

Also at the conference, BEA Systems is expected to announce expanded Linux partnerships with HP and Red Hat. The joint-support agreement will allow Web-

Logic users to get the same level of support on United Linux and Red Hat Linux distributions as had been previously available on HP-UX.

BEA will also announce the year-end availability of a product that bundles WebLogic 8.1 with Red Hat Linux. The company also plans to expand its partnership with Red Hat in an effort to optimize Java on Linux.

SuSE Linux, which established a bundling agreement with HP last month, will announce a deal it has inked with Sun Microsystems, in which Sun will bundle SuSE’s Linux Enterprise Server 8.2 with its Intel-based line of servers.

SuSE is also working on a deal with SGI, although sources said that the two companies have yet to work out the contractual kinks.

Meanwhile, Penguin Computing will unveil four new systems. Penguin’s Tempest 2100 workstation, 1U Altus 1200 and the 3U Altus 3200 will all be available with AMD’s new Opteron 246 chip. The four-way Altus 4200 will come with Opteron 840-series processors.

One company not attending LinuxWorld is former Linux distributor The SCO Group, which is currently embroiled in a legal dispute with IBM and is threatening to sue Linux users over alleged intellectual-property violations in the Linux source code. “I’m not sure what reception we’d get if we went there,” said SCO representative Blake Stowell.

Gordon Haff, an analyst at Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata, offered an idea: “For SCO to show their head at LinuxWorld would only invite hostility, vitriol, and hangings in effigy.”