Heavy hitters to dominate LinuxWorld

Dominant Linux players including IBM and HP are proving to be the chief beneficiaries of Linux's rising financial fortunes in the enterprise as smaller Linux-only companies struggle for survival.

The industry's top-tier companies will use this week's LinuxWorld Expo in New York City to roll out a raft of Linux products that span from desktop to mainframe environments, reflecting the technology's strategic importance to cross-platform strategies and bottom line performance.

The announcements coincide with the demise of MandrakeSoft, one of the more successful distributors, which last week filed for bankruptcy protection in France and announced it still plans to ship an upcoming version.

Even the revenues of market leader Red Hat were flat compared to the previous year.

"Looking at our preliminary data for 2002, it was not a good year for Linux distribution vendors. Red Hat is in a flat growth situation year over year. Mandrake was losing significant amounts of money each quarter so I am not surprised by their filing. All this doesn't give me a lot of encouragement for the long term prospects of these Linux vendors,'' said Al Gillin, senior analyst with International Data Corp.

Still, most of the leading Linux operating system distributors are at this week's show rolling out new products and services, or announcing strategic alliances with much larger vendors.

SuSe will become yet vendor to try and establish momentum for Linux on the desktop when it rolls out its Linux Office Desktop. The new product reportedly gives users the ability to install versions of Microsoft Office up to an including Office 2000 without the need to have Windows present. The Office Desktop combines the company's 8.1 version of Linux with a partitioning tool that allows users to run Linux along side Windows on the same machine, if users so choose.

The Acronis partitioning tool permits the installation of SuSE Linux on any Windows XP-based system that uses an NTFS file system by re-sizing NTFS hard disk partitions. This enables users to free up disk space and install SuSE Linux along side other operating systems on the same PC.

SuSE will also roll out its Linux Openexchange Server, which combines the SuSE Linux Enterprise Server operating system, along with an e-mail server, and a number of groupware functionalities. The product is intended to better enable dynamic cooperation and accelerated workflows aimed to increase productivity.

UnitedLinux , a consortium of leading Linux and non-Linux vendors, will give the fortunes of Linux a boost among telecommnications providers when it debuts a Carrier Grade Linux (CGL) 1.1 feature set for the recently-released version of UnitedLinux 1.0. This will allow, for the first time, the ability to develop and deploy sophisticated carrier grade applications across a standardized Linux environment.

The CGL features will be available as a service pack by the end of this quarter. The new technology, which was worked on by SuSE, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Intel, will be targeted initially at Intel-based servers. The updated product uses technologies defined by the Carrier Grads Linux Working Group, an initiative launched by Open Source Development Labs, which is focused on creating Linux-based software components for communications products.

Computer Associates will underline commitment to its overall Linux strategy this week rolling out 12 new Linux-based products as well as updates to another six. The new and/or improved offerings span mainframes and a range of distributed systems and focus on management.

The new offerings include versions of Unicenter Management for Websphere for both mainframes and departmental servers, Unicenter Management Portal, eTrust Web Access Control, CleverPath Aion, Version 9.0 of BrightStor ARCserve for Linux, Advantage Easytrieve, and the UniCenter NSM Job Management Option.

Some industry observers believe an area where Linux has remained weak is management software, a market where Computer Associates has traditionally has excelled particularly in applications such as job automation and scheduling and backup and recovery.

"I think the point they will be making (with the new products) is that organizations are not bringing Linux into a vacuum. They are looking for tools that run across all of their and environments and would like to create a unified management domain. This is where CA is strong,'' said Dan Kusnetzky, vice president at IDC in charge of research for operating environments and platforms.

IBM will again make its presence felt at this year's show announcing several new products, most of which are intended to make it easier to integrate a range of products from access devices to servers using both hardware and software.

Perhaps the centerpiece of the announcements is the Tivoli System Automation for Linux designed to give corporate users higher availability on servers while reducing the complexity and costs of doing so. As part of IBM's autonomic computing initiative the product offers a number of policy-based self healing capabilities than can identify failing clusters and either notify or proactively fix the problem.

IBM will also roll out a Linux-based reference platform for low-powered devices. The new blue print, aimed at devices such as smart phones and PDAs, is centered around the IBM PowerPC 405 embedded chip and MontaVista Linux CEE software. It will also include new device software namely IBM's Websphere Everyplace Mobile Device Edition.

In a third announcement IBM will debut its eServer Integrated Platform for e-business on its zSeries aimed at users wanting to conduct one-stop shopping in order to implement an integrated Linux solution on its zSeries mainframes. Users can choose from a number of pre-configured and tested hardware and software that give them all of the components to build a mainframe-based e-business.

Lastly IBM will announce Linux client support for Lotus iNotes Web Access 6.0 software that lets users access Notes-enabled functions including e-mail and calendaring from any Internet connection. This better helps companies to tie their remote workers in with critical data and applications.

Hewlett-Packard will roll out a new line of workstations that will come bundled only with Version 7.3 of Red Hat's Linux. The new systems, which include the XW 4000, 5000, 6000 and 8000 will be aimed at users involved with data intensive applications. The systems will range in price from just under $1,000 to slightly over $2,000 and will be available sometime in February, said Judy Chavis, HP's Worldwide Linux Director in Houston .

HP will also announce a four-processor version of its blade server at the show that can be bundled with either Linux or Windows. The company will also announce it is breaking out the clustering software that it has been bundling with its HP UX operating systems and sell a Linux version of it separately.

For the second year running Microsoft will participate in this year's show. While the long time Linux archrival will not announce any new products company officials will be showing off incremental improvements to its Web Matrix development site, as well as improvements to its GotDotNet Workspaces.

Microsoft will also be demonstrating the latest version of Windows Services for Unix as well as the most recent versions of Embedded Windows XP and Windows CE.

Like last year when they attended the show for the first time Microsoft officials said they intend to keep a low profile at LinuxWorld, although they hope to encourage the ongoing dialog they have established between Windows and Linux developers about a range of common programming issues.

"We are not there to so much debate Windows versus Linux, but more to exchange ideas among from both camps about common issues and cool technologies,'' said Peter Houston, Microsoft's senior director of Windows Server strategy.

Ximian will be demonstrating its newly released software that specializes in deploying and managing Linux desktops and servers across an enterprise. The company's Enterprise Red Carpet product is a behind-the-firewall product that helps administrators maintain software providing version management on Linux-based servers and workstations.

While Red Hat is not planning any product announcements, it will be showing off a number of beta versions of Linux-based applications aimed at the financial markets. The company will also unwrap a number of updates to its managed services as well as outlining a roadmap for where it hopes to take that business.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.