Linux Foundation: We'd love to work with Microsoft

In an interview, Jim Zemlin, the Linux Foundation's executive director, talks about desire to interoperate and discusses the desktop outlook for Linux

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Zemlin: Linux is ahead of them in many cases. There are three to four virtualization solutions on the Linux platform. In fact, the Linux platform in general has done a poor job communicating how effective virtualization technology is on that platform. I think that you'll see companies like VMware support a lot of virtual machines that run on Linux. You know, the Xen platform that's being offered by both Red Hat and Novell is incredibly compelling. You're seeing management tools on the Linux platform that are very similar to mainframe technology. You look at IBM's z10 mainframe, that's a Linux-based mainframe platform.

InfoWorld: What about the security?

Zemlin: So IBM, I mean, check out the z10. This thing is equivalent to 1,500 x86 boxes, and it takes 75 percent less space and 75 percent less power. And they've done a terrific job with a lot of the actually more mature mainframe technology that they've had in providing security across different virtualized instances, within that being able to manage those effectively.

InfoWorld: With the virtualization and security enhancements for Linux, are they owned by a particular vendor, or are they out in the open for anybody to get?

Zemlin: That's the best part -- the GPL requires that technology to be out there in the open. And the reason that that's been official, where companies can make money off of that, is they're innovating at a higher level. They're benefiting from the work that others are doing around making virtualization more secure in the Linux platform and then innovating on the management of that. 

InfoWorld: What innovations are being eyed for upcoming versions of the Linux kernel, and when might we see those?

Zemlin: Well, I probably am not the best guy to go down the roadmap of the Linux kernel. Jonathan Corbet, who works with us and publishes something called The Linux Weather Forecast, would probably be the best person to talk about that. But I think you'll see improvements to the file system, you'll see improvements in power management, in virtualization technology coming out pretty regularly.

InfoWorld: What type of improvements?

Zemlin: More efficient power utilization, more efficient use of system resources. It matters in the context of -- does my battery last longer? Am I using less power in the data center? Do I have a file system that scales effectively? These are all things that are coming out and being improved. Is there a way for me to get performance information out of the kernel in an effective way so that I can monitor the platform? And those are all being improved continuously in the kernel itself.

InfoWorld: Can Solaris compete with Linux?

Zemlin: I think [with] Solaris, had [Sun] open-sourced the platform maybe eight years ago, it would have been a very effective competitor to Linux. But I think at this point, the competition around Solaris is creating a similar development community to the Linux development community, which has thousands of developers working for hundreds of major corporations around the world. And I think that they're extremely late to that camp. That type of effort requires a platform that people have confidence in, will be here for years to come. I mean, if I'm a developer and I want to bet my career on being a Solaris guy, I want to make sure I'm making the right bet. And I think people see the handwriting on the wall, they see the massive amount of industry support for Linux across the widest variety of computing, and they make a choice. And that choice is increasingly Linux.

InfoWorld: Is there anything else you wanted to bring up?

Zemlin: One of the things I wanted to talk to you about today, just to give you context for what's going on in Linux, is the concept of the community is starting to become extremely sophisticated in Linux. And I think it's interesting to watch how many of the developers of the platform are full-time paid commercial developers who participate in a community process as both an individual and as an employee of an organization. How organizations like the foundation are playing a role within that development process to provide legal means, for example, for a kernel developer to get access to proprietary specifications through an NDA program where we sign an NDA with a developer and then coordinate with companies to get the development community access to specifications before those products go to market. Just the sophistication and the means to collaborate, [with] the tools available. The number of new countries that are participating in that. Meetings that are being coordinated throughout the world in order to enhance the development process of the platform. What you're really seeing is an acceleration of this collaboration that will have huge, huge rewards reaped from it over time.

InfoWorld: What type of rewards?

Zemlin: Better technology, better price performance, a cross-pollination of ideas through different technology segments that previously had not communicated with each other. And all of the examples I gave are like -- I've got to have fast boot time and good power utilization on a mobile phone. Well, it turns out that data centers need the same thing because the cost of power and cooling are higher than the cost of the machines. Right? And so that cross-pollination of ideas, that acceleration of the platform is an incredibly compelling and interesting thing about the Linux platform that's just, to me, is creating this big snowball effect that we're just starting to see the very beginning of which right now.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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