If this week's Linux World were to be summed up under a single theme, it would be penguins gone virtual.
Of course, there was the usual string of announcements from the big guns. More than in previous years, perhaps because this is the first full-year cycle since the last LinuxWorld show. Ironically, despite the heavy OEM attendance, Red Hat, once again opted to sit the show out. This time, it sent Fedora in its stead.
HP made several announcements centered around new Linux-centric tools and programs for data centers. First, it will open its Parallel Compositing Library visualization software, which enables customers to leverage previously unused compute power to visualize complex data sets. The move is designed to "make clusters mainstream, by reducing their complexity," Jeffrey Wade, worldwide Linux marketing manager for HP, told ServerWatch.
The library, Wade said, "allows a graphics card to share in the visualization calculations."
The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Partners HealthCare are two organizations investing in these technologies to help accelerate drug discovery.
Second, HP's pay-per-use grid now supports Linux running on HP Integrity servers, Wade said. The pay-per-use grid is similar to its more frequently discussed brethren from IBM and Sun. Like its competitors, it offers a flexible pricing structure payable in CPU usage per hour. In addition to the three Linux variants, HP's utility grid runs Windows, HP-UX and OpenVMS.
Third, HP expanded open source virtualization offerings with the addition of support for Xen and guest operating system support for Debian. Both have been added to the recently launched HP Partner Virtualization Program. The program already supports Red Hat Linux and SUSE Linux, Wade said.
These additions will enable ISVs to build and verify applications in a secure, virtualized environment. Partner program members have access to HP's entire server portfolio using HP Integrity, ProLiant and BladeSystem platforms running a broad range of operating systems and virtual machines.
Dell Makes Good
With virtualization a leitmotif at LinuxWorld, HP was far from the only OEM to make virtual waves. Dell, for example, made good on its virtualization promise from April 2006.
CTO Kevin Kettler demoed a very friendly interface that gives the user, "the ability to go and create a virtual machine that is more intuitive than it was," Kettler said. "You're able to do it very cleanly and actually create the machine in very little time."
As for the future, Kettler noted that Dell labs developers are working on pushing virtualization into an embedded layer.
"Think of it as being part of server but not something you add on afterward," Kettler explained. "It will allow for easier provisioning and allow you to boot to a virtual machine ready state."
Kettler expects embedded virtualization will not only improve utilization but power usage as well, since it's part of the boot process.
Kettler also believes that using virtualization takes away the barriers for Linux, making it easier to try out Linux applications without risk.
Kettler foresees a future where users will have as many as nine operating systems on single virtualized piece of hardware. He acknowledged there may be some licensing issues to be overcome for that vision to materialize.
"We need to think through the licensing to help foster this kind of compute model versus the one operating system for one machine model."
IBM Pairs Up With Novell
IBM, long viewed as a Linux fan, joined in the chorus of announcements in San Francisco, revealing that WebSphere Application Server Community Edition (WAS CE) will now be shipped and supported in Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES). As part of the deal, IBM will work with Novell to help end users migrate from Red Hat's JBoss middleware, which competes directly with WAS CE.
IBM also announced WAS CE 2.0, which has full JavaEE 5 support and will be generally available later this year. WAS CE is based on Apache Geronimo and has been part of the IBM portfolio since it acquired commercial Geronimo vendor, Gluecode, in May 2005.
In addition to WAS CE, IBM will integrate its Open Collaboration Client with SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED). The open collaboration client will run IBM's Lotus Notes and Sametime as well as support office suite functionality that uses the OpenDocument Format (ODF). The client is based on the EclipseRCP (rich client platform), which IBM is helping to support and develop through the open source Eclipse Foundation.
Inna Kuznetsova, director of IBM Linux Strategy, told internetnews.com that the partnership announcements with Novell should not be considered to be anti-Red-Hat moves. She noted that IBM would be happy to partner with Red Hat and explained that IBM is working closely with Red Hat on other initiatives.
For example, Red Hat is the operating system powering the IBM Information Server Blade, which was announced on Monday.
Linux Riches in the Niches
In addition to the announcements from the OEMs, large ISVs from Novell to Oracle had news to share in the City by the Bay this week. It would be a mistake to underestimate the smaller players, however. In the mail server space, for example, Kerio Technologies and CommuniGate Systems were two companies angling for the spotlight.
Kerio, in addition to having its flagship offering, Kerio MailServer, be named "Best Messaging Solution" in the LinuxWorld Product Excellence Awards, previewed a new mail server virtual appliance at LinuxWorld.
Kerio MailServer Virtual Appliance for VMware is designed to be used in both production and evaluation environments. The virtual appliance comes with a pre-configured version of the Fedora operating system.
It is also designed to be easy to use.
"Those looking to experience the stability of Linux along with the easy administration of Kerio MailServer can do so in minutes using VMware Workstation, VMware ESX Server, or VMware Player," said CTO Martin Viktora, in a publicly released statement.
Upon bootup of the virtual machine, Kerio MailServer automatically installs and runs a setup wizard, enabling IT administrators to start using with the appliance right away.
In a production environment, Kerio MailServer customers can take advantage of hardware optimization, high availability and other benefits offered by VMware Infrastructure 3.
CommuniGate Systems, meanwhile, unveiled a number of free offerings, including the CommuniGate Pro Community Edition, which is a free download for up to five users. Full-service accounts can be installed on any computer or server and run on Windows XP, Windows Server Edition, Mac OS X or Linux. The Community Edition features e-mail, groupware, VoIP, instant messaging (SIP/Simple & XMPP), virtual PBX with free CG/PL application source code, a conferencing server with free CG/PL application source code, voicemail, the Pronto! Flash user interface, and a mobility suite. Its major limitation lies in the number of users it can support.