Linux in 2002: More security, high-end computing
By Todd R. Weiss
(IDG) -- It was a big year for Linux in 2001, from IBM's $1 billion commitment to the introduction of the latest feature-laden kernel updates.
At vendor Red Hat Inc., 2001 saw the introduction of new Linux applications, including an e-commerce suite, a database and operating system versions for the IBM S/390 mainframe and Intel Itanium processors.
For SuSE Linux AG, it was a year for further refinement of its operating system offering and the release of its own new versions for the S/390 and Itanium.
So what's in store from Red Hat and SuSE, the two major Linux distribution vendors, in 2002?
Michael Tiemann, chief technology officer at Research Triangle Park, North Carolina-based Red Hat, said customers are looking for better security for their IT systems, and the company is taking those requests to heart.
Red Hat recently created a security resource center on its Web site, where users can discuss security issues and share information as a prelude to additional research and development by the company. "This is the beginning of our attention to help our customers better deal with the evolving security threats," Tiemann said.
In 2002, the company will deliver additional security enhancements to customers as it continues to address their concerns, he said.
Also sure to get attention next year, Tiemann said, is the continued evolution of Linux in high-end computing projects. The company, which acquired a consulting team from the former VA Linux Systems Inc. earlier this year, has been establishing a relationship with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to further develop Linux in advanced applications, Tiemann said. "There's no doubt that high-end graphics are going to be Linux-driven, as is high-end computing," he said.
Overall, Red Hat is "very, very pleased with the way Linux has matured this year," Tiemann said. "We see no doom and gloom in our space."
At Nuremberg, Germany-based SuSE, director of sales Holger Dryoff predicted that 2002 will bring continued improvements and more widespread adoption by businesses.
"Next year I see more as a deployment year," Dryoff said, adding that he expects the operating system to make further inroads into the banking and financial industries, which are finding Linux to be a good fit. "That's one of the very large target markets right now," he said.
Still to come from SuSE is a version of Linux for the IBM pSeries/R6000 in January; but unlike Red Hat, SuSE doesn't plan on going into the application business, he said. Dryoff predicts that Sun Microsystems Inc.'s StarOffice 6.0, due next year, will be a "major application" for Linux users seeking improved software for business use.
Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst at IDC in Framingham, Massachusetts, said the year's Linux activities show that the operating system is "making steady headway toward becoming a mainstream choice for server operating environments in most markets."
Still needed are developments including scalability beyond 16 processors in a symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) environment, where multiple CPUs in one box share memory, and better tools for distributed systems and network management, Kusnetzky said.
Also needed is Linux expertise in organizations that have no prior experience in Linux or Unix, as well as a continuing public relations campaign that Linux is a "safe choice" for corporate computing, he said, adding, "Linux is getting there rapidly."
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