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Issue of March 2003 
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Cover Story: Linux in the enterprise
Romancing the penguin

Only time will tell if Linux will be the preferred OS in the enterprise space. Let's see what server vendors, enterprise applications vendors, and analysts say about it. by Soutiman Das Gupta

It began as defiance. Proprietary server and OS vendors didn't really want to admit the presence of Linux in the networking world and dismissed it as a passing fad and hype. In the late 90s, a few hardware and software vendors entered into alliances with Linux distribution vendors, but still did not have anything large to offer. Faced with constrained IT budgets, CIOs/CTOs decided to try Linux-based servers. Happy with its performance companies slowly migrated more systems to Linux. Then they began insisting that new servers be delivered pre-installed with Linux.

Time will tell
Now when users insist on a Linux-based solution, how can vendors be far behind? Defiance gave way to compliance. Over the last three quarters, Linux has received a noticeable amount of attention from server vendors and enterprise application solution providers. Server vendors like Sun and IBM now offer customers the choice between its proprietary OSs (Solaris and AIX) and Linux. Enterprise application solution vendors like SAP and CA have released versions which perform optimally on a Linux-based platform. Linux distribution vendors like Red Hat and SCO have released enterprise editions of its products and upheld it with on-site support contracts.

Analysts have also made ambitious predictions on Linux-based server sales and popularity. They feel that the low cost of license and ability to tweak source code will be the main drivers for sale. For example, IDC projects that in 2006, 2.2 million Linux servers will be shipped worldwide. All in all, a pretty picture for the OS. But after this spell of romance is over will the OS still be a preferred partner in the enterprise space? Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, let's look at some of the initiatives of server vendors, enterprise applications solutions vendors, and Linux distribution vendors. And let's also see what analysts have to say.

Server vendors
The server vendor biggies like IBM, HP, and Sun have announced a number of Linux initiatives. Despite spending thousands of dollars over time to develop and market proprietary Unix variants, these companies are foraying into the use of the open source OS. Some even plan to invest substantially for Linux's development.

IBM has Linux-enabled its range of e-business applications like DB2 Universal Database, WebSphere application servers, Domino, MQSeries, and Tivoli system management tools. And the company claims to deliver complex Linux-based solutions to its customers by synergizing its range of products.

Sandeep Menon, Linux Business Manager, ASEAN/SA at IBM says, "We recognize that Linux will be one of the leading OSs in the future and are ready with products, which will support Linux-based solutions. Linux neutralizes any vendor's ability to exercise control over customers or developers. This helps us to make heterogeneous hardware, software and applications work together."

Kamal Dutta, Business Manager-Linux, HP India said, "We view Linux as a 'strategic OS' and have devoted substantial resources across the company to make Linux as robust and reliable and as easily managed as HP-UX or a Windows platform."

HP's Linux offerings include servers, workstations, storage, printers, server appliances, software, services, support, and education & training. Its recent initiative called 'Linux Systems Operation' aims to provide in-depth perspective into the advancement of Linux and open source technologies. HP has also been involved in projects like Samba, Debian, Linux Standards Base, and Pegasus.

Sun feels that Linux is a real growth opportunity for the company and promises to make enterprise-class software available on Linux through its initiatives line Sun ONE and the Mad Hatter project.

Some of Sun's Linux initiatives are:

  • New offerings of the Sun ONE software stack on Linux, which includes the Sun ONE Application Server 7 and Directory Server 5.1 on Linux.
  • Other Sun ONE software like Portal Server, Identity Server, Calendar Server, and Messaging Server are scheduled to run on Linux within this year.
  • All Java technology offerings like J2EE and J2SE for the server and the desktop are tested and available on Linux.
  • Mad Hatter, a Linux desktop solution is slated for a beta release in a few months and will be generally available by the middle of this year.

Dell, Oracle, and Red Hat have collaborated to develop, test, and market enterprise-ready Linux solutions based on Dell PowerEdge Servers, Dell/EMC and PowerVault storage systems, Release 2 of Oracle9i Database with Real Application Clusters, and the Red Hat Linux Advanced Server OS.

Amit Midha, Director of Marketing and Enterprise Systems, Dell Computer Asia, said, "Dell’s alliance with Red Hat called Dell/Red Hat One Source Alliance in June 2000 outlined an integrated package of joint development, global services, and marketing initiatives."

Enterprise applications
Most enterprise application vendors claim that their products are platform-independent. But there have been compatibility issues when enterprises have tried to install the packages on a chosen platform. This prompted application vendors to announce 'preferred platforms' for their products and develop product variations optimized for a particular OS. In line with this philosophy, a number of enterprise application solutions vendors like Oracle, SAP, CA, and Veritas have released Linux versions of their products so that the user has the choice.

SAP’s products like SAP Business Information Warehouse and SAP Business-to-Business Procurement for Linux with are in the market. In 2000 the company announced SAP DB database management system available as open-source software under GNU General Public License.

Alan Sedghi, President and Managing Director, SAP India said, "SAP is the first and only software in the world that runs mission-critical ERP operations on Linux." The company also delivers, the e-business platform on Linux for the IBM eServer zSeries.

Last year, Veritas outlined its strategy in the Linux storage market with a few new products, partnerships, and contributions to the Linux open source community. The company introduced its clustering and NAS software for Linux. Veritas also announced initiatives to bring Linux solutions to market with key companies, including Dell, HP, IBM, Intel, and Red Hat.

Agendra Kumar, Country Manager, Veritas said, "Until 2002, there was no comprehensive storage management tool for Linux-based platforms." The company's storage software range includes NetBackup, Foundation Suite for storage management, and Cluster Server. Agendra Kumar adds, "Before we released the 'Foundation Suite' on Linux, the OS lacked the storage management capabilities required to be deployed in mainstream and enterprise-class environments."

CA claims to offer more than 60 e-business products that can help manage, secure, preserve and integrate Linux in an enterprise. Some of CA's Linux strategies are:

Linux on Mainframe: IBM and CA announced a number of Linux-on-mainframe solutions, including pre-configured Linux-on-zSeries and S/390.

  • Network management: Unicenter provides solutions for integrated Linux management and offers other network management features.
  • Security: eTrust offerings for Linux deliver policy compliance, vulnerability assessment, access control, and virus protection for Linux file servers.
  • Storage: CA offers BrightStor ARCserve Backup for Linux, the first native disaster recovery solution on Linux.

Oracle has gone gung-ho with its support of Linux and has been able to generate a lot of positive response from its partners and the Linux developer community. The company claims more than 3,500 ISVs use Oracle Database on Linux. Its partner Network Appliance claims Oracle on Linux is easy to deploy and cost-effective on its Filers. And Oracle claims more than 733,000 developers have downloaded Oracle Linux products.

Analysts viewpoint
A Gartner Dataquest APAC OS forecast and server quarterly statistics 2002 report claimed that Linux is making inroads but is dollar-elusive. It said that Linux continues to be over-hyped, mostly due to anti-Microsoft sentiments, especially with the release of Microsoft Licensing 6.0 and worry of Microsoft and MNC vendor lock-in.
The same report said Linux-based server units had 2.88 percent market share in 2001, 3.17 percent in 2002, and estimated 3.78 percent in 2003. Windows-based servers had the largest share with 84.28 percent market share in 2001, 86.9 percent in 2002, and estimated 88.09 percent in 2003. Although both Linux and Windows market shares are growing Unix's market share has steadily dropped from 10.21 percent in 2001, 8.17 percent in 2002, and estimated 7.34 percent in 2003.

The end-user spending share for Windows has grown from 34.42 percent in 2001 to 38.81 percent in 2002 and is estimated to grow to 40.35 percent in 2003. Linux shows slow end user spending share growth. It was 1.11 percent in 2001, 1.24 percent in 2002, and estimated 1.5 percent in 2003. The figures for Unix have grown from 46.8 percent in 2001, to 47.81 percent in 2002, and estimated 49.09 percent in 2003.

Kevin McIsaac of Meta Group feels that through the first quarter of 2003 Linux will begin to penetrate the application server tier, with IBM and BEA targeting Linux on Intel as a low-cost J2EE platform. By the first half of 2003 Oracle Real Application Clusters will demonstrate adequate high-availability clustering capabilities, enabling Linux to begin penetrating the low-end enterprise database market. By the end of 2003 Lintel will constitute 25 percent of server sales for the application server tier and 10 percent of server sales in the database tier. By the year end of 2007, this will increase to 40 percent and 25 percent respectively.

The Aberdeen Group says that in 2003, Linux will continue to move toward the domination of high performance computing and embedded systems. It also feels that on top of a 50 percent-plus growth rate in enterprise servers in 2002, it forecasts a 40 percent growth for Linux servers in 2003.

Soutiman Das Gupta can be reached at

Enterprise Linux distribution
There are various Linux distributions like Red Hat, SuSE, Mandrake, Debian, and Slackware. But enterprises were reluctant to use Linux because they were worried about vendor support. Vendors like Red Hat, SuSE, and Mandrake now offer support, services, and consulting at a fee. This has put a lot of confidence into a CIO's mind and will be a driving factor for increased Linux use.
Red Hat has released Red Hat Linux Advanced Server, and other applications like Content and Collaboration Management tools, and Stronghold Enterprise Secure Web Server. The company also offers consulting, training, and support for enterprises. SuSE offers SuSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) and other applications like SuSE Linux Openexchange Server, and SuSE Linux Groupware Server with Lotus Domino. It also offers enterprise services and support. Mandrake offers Mandrake Linux 9.0 ProSuite Edition and a Firewall for enterprises. The products are backed with support, consulting, and training.

Linux on the desktop
Linux has not been able to make much of an inroad in the desktop market as yet. Around 93.7 percent of desktops in APAC use Windows. Companies like Red Hat, SuSE, and Mandrake market a desktop version of its OS and users can also download other distributions. LG Electronics India has launched a range of PCs called MY PC. The LG MY PC series is available in two configurations and is shipped with the Linux OS on Intel Pentium 4 processors. The company feels that Linux is not only relatively stable and bug free but also lowers the price of the product. The price ranges between Rs 33,900 and Rs 36,500. KNOPPIX, a collection of GNU/Linux software is available on a bootable CD. It includes automatic hardware detection, support for graphics cards, sound cards, SCSI and USB devices, and other peripherals. It can be used as a Linux demo, educational CD, rescue system, or adapted and used as a platform for commercial software product demos. It is not necessary to install anything on a hard disk. Due to on-the-fly decompression, the CD can have up to 2 GB of executable software installed on it.
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