Hardware Today: For Linux, Maturity Leads to Inroads

Monday Jan 24th 2005 by Drew Robb
Share:

In the world of Linux servers, 2004 was not so much about revolutionary breakthroughs as it was about consolidation, growing maturity, and 'corporatization.' Two hardware vendors that illustrate this trend are Penguin Computing and IBM.

In the world of Linux servers, 2004 was not so much about revolutionary breakthroughs as it was about consolidation, growing maturity, and "corporatization." In many ways it's like the booming renewable energy industry. The age of hippies sitting on hillsides dreaming of windmills replacing coal and nuclear plants has passed. In their place are Fortune 500 suits — a less idealistic phase but a necessary one that propelled wind power from the far fringes into the energy mainstream.

Similarly, Linux appears to be transitioning successfully from the outer rim of the enterprise galaxy to the very hub of the server mainstream. While a few of the pioneering companies remain, like Red Hat and Penguin Computing, big names like IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Novell, and Dell are now driving the growth of the platform.

According to the latest numbers from IDC, Linux has moved into the fast lane. Linux server shipments grew at a respectable 15 percent annually four years ago, and now are growing at a rate of 40 percent.

"HP and IBM are the biggest drivers on the server side as Linux grows in maturity," said Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata. "Linux is accepted for more and more tasks, although that doesn't mean it's going to completely displace all other operating systems."

According to the latest numbers from IDC, Linux has moved into the fast lane. Linux server shipments grew at a respectable 15 percent annually four years ago, and now are growing at a rate of 40 percent.

While Linux initially gained ground in the enterprise via an abundance of small Apache Web servers, its deployment has widened significantly in the past few years. Linux is now found in various kinds of infrastructure servers, has attained success as an application server platform and in other midtier tasks, and blossomed in supercomputing clusters.

A series of steady advances has aided Linux's upward march into the enterprise. The release of the 2.6 kernel in 2004, in particular, added several key enterprise capabilities. This heralds greater scalability, enhanced 64-bit support, and heightened virtualization for organizations looking to deploy Linux deeper into the enterprise.

The growing legion of corporate Linux faithful, too, are adding to the allure of the operating system. Novell, for example, entered the open source realm in a big way in 2004 with its acquisition of SUSE last January. By all indications, the vendor appears to be betting the company on Linux growth.

Perhaps the biggest emerging trend, though, is the distinct blue hue Linux is taking on.

"More and more customers are taking advantage of Intel Itanium and AMD 64-bit chips running Linux on machines with 16 CPUs and higher," said Greg Mancusi-Ungaro from Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server group. "SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9.0 scales up to 512 CPUs on Itanium and an upcoming service pack will up that to 1,024 processors."

Lintel Monopoly

Everyone knows the term "Wintel" denotes the virtual monopoly long enjoyed by the Windows-Intel combo. But the way Intel is introducing Linux friendly features in its Xeon and Itanium lines, the idea of a future "Lintel" monopoly may not be such a far-off fantasy.

Intel's much-vaunted EM64T processor, for example, supported Linux before it supported Windows. This technology is used by Penguin Computing in its line of Relion 1U and 2U dual Xeon servers. The company also has an EM64T-based Linux workstation in the pipeline.

But like most Linux players, the vendor is keeping its processor options open. Phil Pokorny, Penguin's director of engineering, said the company also sells a 1U Pentium 4 server, 1U and 2U dual AMD Opteron servers, and a quad Opteron server.

"In 2005, look for Linux servers with PCI-Express slots augmenting and replacing PCI-X, as well as SAS drives in SATA form factors," said Pokorny. "Specific to Penguin Computing, we have a fiber channel external storage product in the works, as well as EM64T and Opteron workstations."

>> Big Blue Linux

Big Bluenux

Perhaps the biggest emerging trend, though, is the distinct blue hue Linux is taking on. True to its word, Big Blue is rolling open source into more and more of its products. For example, IBM introduced a new line of 64-bit POWER5 processor-based systems tuned for SUSE and Red Hat Linux.

As a result, IBM is posting the greatest growth among the big Linux hardware players. According to IDC, its Linux revenue year-to-year grew 52 percent in 3Q04, making IBM the top worldwide Linux-based server vendor in revenue for the quarter. But with HP and Dell expected to redouble their efforts to regain market share, IBM is not letting up on its Linux push.

"The emergence of scalable Linux has accelerated the migration process from Unix and Solaris hardware to lower-cost commodity-based machines running Intel processors," said Mancusi-Ungaro. "This is pushing Linux into the heart of the data center."

This commitment was re-enforced today with Big Blue's announcement of an entry-level server line built on Linux and POWER5 with a price tag of $3,499. The IBM eServer OpenPower 710 is a 1- to 2-way rackmount system that supports Red Hat and SUSE Linux. It uses high-end features of larger server systems, such as IBM's 64-bit Power Architecture technology, mainframe-inspired virtualization, and micro-partitioning capabilities. According to Joe Doria, program director of Linux on Power for IBM, the 2-way OpenPower 710 outperformed HP and Sun rivals in Linpack and SPECompM2001 benchmarks. He notes that more than 900 ISV applications are now available on the OpenPower platform. This includes the recent addition of a 64-bit combination of SAP and IBM DB2.

IBM plans to formally release the OpenPower 710 in mid-February. The expected configuration is POWER5 microprocessors, 1- to 2-way racks, and maximum memory of 32 GB. The sub-$3,500 price tag includes a 1.65 GHz processor, 1 GB of memory, and a 73 GB 10K drive. The base configuration, however, excludes the operating system itself.

Virtual Linux

Part of the attractiveness of OpenPower is that it makes mainframe-based virtualization technology more broadly available. Small and midsize businesses are looking at these technologies to reduce cost, consolidate and simplify data center management, and speed infrastructure deployments. Not surprisingly, many Linux hardware and software vendors have either developed virtualization features or have them in the works.

"Linux is increasingly chosen as a platform for high availability computing due to its virtualization features," said Novell's Mancusi-Ungaro. "Large-scale Linux systems running multiple virtual sessions provide breakthrough price performance to the corporate data center."

Novell is already on the virtualization fast track with SUSE Linux. It is about to embed some major features in its operating system that virtualize CPU and storage resources. Service Pack 1 for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 will include two features for the Itanium 2 platform: CPUSET and PAGG. CPUSET enables administrators to dedicate processor subsets to specific tasks, and PAGG allows the defining and grouping of processing and applications.

"The emergence of scalable Linux has accelerated the migration process from Unix and Solaris hardware to lower-cost commodity-based machines running Intel processors," said Mancusi-Ungaro. "This is pushing Linux into the heart of the data center."

Share:
Home
Mobile Site | Full Site
Copyright 2017 © QuinStreet Inc. All Rights Reserved