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Issue of September 2002 
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News & Analysis

Preventing the fragmentation of Linux
Will Linux go the Unix way and become fragmented? There are various versions of Unix offered by Sun, IBM, HP and others. Multiple flavors of an operating system makes porting applications or offering support a complicated process.

However, initiatives like the Linux Standard Base (LSB) can avert the fragmentation of Linux. Already, three Linux distributions have received LSB certification for compliance with LSB guidelines.

Red Hat Linux 7.3, SuSE 8.0 Professional, and Mandrake ProSuite 8.2, three versions of Linux have become the first products certified to comply with the guidelines of the LSB. Red Hat, which plays a significant role in LSB, has built software alliances with major software companies including database seller Oracle, storage software maker Veritas and e-commerce software seller BEA systems.

Red Hat will LSB-certify its Advanced Server version, with an update to the existing version 2.1 and 3.0, in the second quarter of 2003.

For Linux to be successful, it is important to avoid its fragmentation, which depends on the support of software companies such as Oracle, whose programs make Linux computers useful. Software companies will not use Linux if they are to select from several incompatible versions of Linux.

With LSB compliance, software companies will sign partnerships with Linux sellers to deal with issues such as quality of support, speed with which the bugs are fixed or the ability to build in new features such as asynchronous input-output.

LSB is administered by the Free Standards Group, a nonprofit organization of software developers and information technology industry members. It standardizes many of the elements of Linux while enabling companies to add in their own features.

The Unix operating system has various flavors, thereby complicating the process of porting applications to this platform. For instance it can take months for a software company like Veritas to translate and test its software for Unix support. Unix uses several underlying microprocessors which widens the gulf between the different versions—unlike Linux, which generally runs on Intel chips such as Pentium.

But LSB certification is not enough for standardization as it does not prevent Linux from fragmenting into incompatible versions that can't run the same software. Some software needing particularly high-performance features bypasses the domain of LSB, reaching directly to the kernel, of Linux, an area LSB has not standardized.

LSB isn't the only unification initiative, several Linux sellers are using the Linux software through the UnitedLinux alliance, while the Embedded Linux Consortium has created a first-draft proposal for standardizing Linux in computing devices such as network routers or factory robots.


Red Hat, Microsoft to support AMD's 64-bit chip
AMD and Red Hat are slated to announce an agreement where Red Hat will support AMD's 64-bit Opteron processor. Red Hat is to provide 64-bit support for processors based on AMD's x86-64 technology, while providing support for existing 32-bit Linux-based applications. The offerings will include Red Hat Linux Advanced Server, and future enterprise Linux offerings from Red Hat.

Microsoft too, has offered public support for the Opteron's advanced features in its next generation operating system. AMD said that an AMD-compatible 64-bit version of Microsoft's Windows software would be released after the 64-bit Windows .Net server is released to manufacturing.

According to AMD's roadmaps, a desktop version of the Opteron will be released during the fourth quarter of this year, with a similar processor for servers produced early in 2003.

In another deal, AMD will provide its Athlon XP chips in one PC model, the D315, aimed specifically at business users. Though HP has used AMD chips in consumer-based PCs, it is the first time that HP would be using the chips for the critical business segment.

Other than for desktop PCs, HP and other vendors could also consider AMD chips—specifically those slated for the third quarter—for use in low-priced server computers running Linux or Windows.


A helping hand to banks
The Mumbai chapter of ISACA (Information Systems Audit and Control Association), a global organization dedicated to IT governance, control, and audit, in association with Reserve Bank of India held a conference in Mumbai this July. The theme of the conference was 'A Bank's survival in the Digital Era' and it was mostly attended by financial and systems audit personnel of various public and private sector banks. The seminar focussed on aspects like choosing the correct outsourcing partner, what to look for in an outsourcing partner, various network security technologies, and how to choose the correct security technology for your organization.

The welcome address was delivered by the president of the organization, M.S.V. Rao. He is also the Director, Department of Information Technology, Air-India. Vepa Kamesam, Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India, inaugurated the seminar and said that it has become impossible to separate technology from the business of banks, and banks are increasingly dependant on the Internet. He then spoke about Information Systems security and felt it was a "burning issue" among banks today. He mentioned that Information Systems Audit is a very specialized job and will have to be carried out by suitably qualified and skilled personnel, preferably initially by external agencies only, in association with suitable in-house personnel.

Anjay Agarwal, Treasurer, ISACA said that the danger of not having proper security in place or failure to undertake an Information Systems Audit as recommended by the RBI could well lead to huge number of frauds among banks. ISACA plans to organize other seminars and conferences in the city in future. For more information write to president@isacamumbai.org.


'Software is really for end-to-end automation'
"What good is software if it provides automation in pockets?" asks Sanjay Govil, CEO, Infinite Computer Solutions USA. "Software automation is only good when you have end-to-end automation." Infinite wants to create this mindset here, before it enters the Indian market.

Govil feels software has always been perceived as something tangible, like a physical product. "We have to get over that mindset and see it more as a tool that improves efficiency. That brings in a lot of checks and balances. It should be seen as intellectual property."

Govil informs Infinite is now in awareness and exploratory mode here in India. It is working with bodies like Nasscom and talking to decision makers and policy makers in various ministries.

Infinite Computer Solutions India is a USD 41.5 mn company with wholly owned subsidiaries in the US and Singapore. It has offices in Delhi and Bangalore. The Bangalore center undertakes offshore development.

Infinite offers IT solutions to service providers that provide basic telephony. It also works with the cellular phone service providers. "We focus on the front-end—customer relationship (call center applications), billing, etc. We also offer products for provisioning and maintenance. Managing a call, end-to-end," says Govil.

The company has also been active in the areas of consulting services, e-commerce, B2B markets, transformation services and support services.


Integrated connectivity
KRONE Communications has organized a four city road show titled 'Integrated Connectivity' starting on September 23, 2002. The show has been conceptualized to provide an update on information and knowledge in the connectivity field for the fast growing enterprise market across the country.

The seminar will focus on topics like integrated connectivity, latest developments in CAT 6 standard-based technologies and fiber products, network supervision, trends and developments in wireless technologies, Wireless LAN and Free Space optics.

The seminar is scheduled for September 23, 24, 26 and 27 at Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai respectively.

 
     
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