451 Take on Red Hat-CentOS

There was a somewhat quiet, cost-free acquisition of sorts in the Linux world earlier this year when Red Hat announced it was joining forces with Red Hat Enterprise Linux community clone CentOS. The move, which effectively brings organization, governance, backing and technology of CentOS under Red Hat’s brim, is interesting for a few reasons.

First, it illustrates the continued presence and power of unpaid community Linux distributions like CentOS. Second, it’s part of the changing Linux market, which is being driven by cloud computing and new types of uses on the rise. Third, it also may be a sign that open source software users and customers are exerting more influence than ever before.

Read the full article at LinuxInsider.

Microsoft hearts Linux, just not Red Hat

Just when you thought it couldn’t top itself — having contributed Linux kernel code under the GPL, broadly supported Linux alongside Windows with its systems management and other software, and spun off a new subsidiary dedicated to openness, Microsoft showed yet more Linux and open source love recently, adding an impressive Linux lineup to supported software on its Azure cloud.

However, there’s one major Linux player that’s sort of getting left out of the love-fest. It’s enterprise Linux leader Red Hat and its Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), which has to sit by while other distributions, including RHEL community clone CentOS and market competitors SUSE and Ubuntu, get first-class treatment in Microsoft’s Azure cloud.

Read the full article at LinuxInsider.

Our view on the Changing Linux Landscape is out

We are pleased to present our latest CAOS special report, ‘The Changing Linux Landscape.’ This latest in our series of long-format reports takes a more in depth look at the Linux server market and how cloud computing, competition and the confluence of application development and IT operations known as devops are all affecting it.

Basically, we still see commercial vendors Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) leading the market, but there are significant changes afoot, ushered in by cloud computing, wide use of other distributions such as Ubuntu, and continued use of unpaid community Linux such as CentOS and Debian. In addition, other distributions such Oracle Enterprise Linux continue to evolve and grow, as do the providers of Linux support, which now includes Microsoft. These additional competitors and choices, along with the new way of developing and deploying enterprise applications known as ‘devops,’ are all driving and disrupting the Linux server market.

This means challenges and opportunities – particularly in PaaS, which embodies devops practices – for both vendors and users. The report focuses on market dynamics with competitive analysis of leading Linux distributions, analysis of adoption drivers and hurdles, and customer case studies highlighting how Linux is put to work in today’s cloud computing environments.

451 CAOS Links 2011.07.12

Citrix acquires Cloud.com. Funding for Piston and Zettaset. And more.

# Citrix acquired Cloud.com, reportedly for $200m-$250m.

# Piston Cloud Computing raised $4.5m to fund its efforts to commercialize OpenStack.

# GOTO Metrics re-launched as Zettaset with a Hadoop-based data management platform and $3m in funding.

# Red Hat launched JBoss Application Server 7

# The Document Foundation provided an update on its efforts to establish as legal entity.

# Google’s rivals have been accused of colluding against Android.

# Carlo Daffara explained how it could have been so different.

# Opengear hired Rick Stevenson as CEO.

# rPath announced the launch of its OpenStack Compute Appliance.

# DataStax launched version 1.2 of DataStax OpsCenter for Apache Cassandra and Hadoop.

# Facebook banned Open-Xchange’s OX.IO export tool.

# Nuxeo announced that Nuxeo Document Management is available in the Ubuntu software partner catalog.

# Richard Fontana continued his explanation of the problem with the Harmony project.

# Debian and SFLC published patent advice for community distributions.

# Mandriva appointed a new president of its executive board.

451 CAOS Links 2011.06.24

Red Hat posts Q1 results. USPTO disrupts Oracle’s patent claims.

# Red Hat announced first quarter revenue up 27% to $265m.

# The USPTO rejected 17 of 21 claims related to a patent Oracle is asserting against Google.

# Apple hit Amahi with a cease and desist letter related to its app store.

# The Eclipse Foundation announced the availability of Indigo, its 2011 annual release train.

# Red Hat released Red Hat Enterprise MRG 2.0

# Microsoft is working with Joyent and the Node community to bring Node.js to Windows.

# Talend announced the availability of Talend ESB Studio Standard Edition and Talend ESB Enterprise Edition for Data Services and joined the JCP.

# Alfresco announced Alfresco Team for content collaboration.

# Savio Rodrigues discussed the growth or MongoDB into the enterprise.

# Pentaho released Pentaho BI 4 Enterprise Edition.

# Cloudera announced the general availability of its Cloudera Connector for IBM Netezza appliances.

# The Open Virtualization Alliance added 65 new members.

# Acunu released version one of the Acunu Data Platform.

# WSO2 added WSO2 Message Broker and WSO2 Complex Event Processing Server to its updated Carbon middleware platform.

# Nuxeo updated its Studio hosted customization and configuration environment.

# VoltDB announced the release of VoltDB Integration for Hadoop.

# Carlo Daffara discussed the economic value of open source software.

# Nokia and Accenture finalized the agreement for Nokia to outsource Symbian software development and support activities to Accenture.

# Dirk Riehle explained the open source big bang.

# Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols discussed five reasons Android can fail.

# Debian adopted LibreOffice.

Community Linux love from Microsoft

One of big stories out of the Open Source Business Conference this week was Microsoft’s announced support for the CentOS community Linux distribution, a free clone of RHEL that nonetheless enjoys significant enterprise and cloud computing use, as we’ve covered extensively, including a special report that is currently being updated, in part, with a new survey.

This is not the first time MS has displayed love for unpaid, community Linux, given its 2009 contribution of GPL-licensed code to the Linux kernel. This was significant in that it was contribution and participation by Microsoft in the Linux kernel, beyond one of its partner’s Linux distributions, such as the case of Novell and SUSE Linux and more recently, Red Hat and its RHEL for mutual, customer-demanded virtualization support (451 subscribers) between Microsoft and Red Hat.

It seems Microsoft understands that unlike pirated Windows, which it considers a loss, the use of free, unpaid Linux — particularly by large enterprise, government and other organizations — is a big opportunity for it.

True, use of community Linux is typically driven by cost savings and the capability of sizable organizations to self-manage their Linux servers, often involving no payment. However, our research indicates there is often is still a need for higher level support and, more commonly, the ‘insurance factor’ of having a commercial vendor behind your infrastructure software so you, or your boss or board, have someone to call or blame if things go wrong. Microsoft is capable of supporting CentOS in both cases of technical support and being the insurance for an organization. It will be interesting to see the kind of reaction and traction the company gets from customers, presumably Windows shops, running CentOS.

It was only a couple of years ago we were writing about the death, and ongoing life of CentOS.

Today, it continues to be one of the most fascinating open source software projects in that it has no formal commercial backer, not even a foundation, but yet benefits from a solid, dedicated development team that continues to push the OS forward. We, along with Microsoft, continue to hear about use of CentOS increasingly in cloud computing, where it can be used, often free of charge, to add, subtract, scale and scrap as needed. It is, like other Linux distributions, also popular among hosting and other service providers, who again are primarily building public, private and hybrid cloud environments and ecosystems.

This is why again it is very interesting to see Microsoft supporting CentOS with HyperV and Windows. It’s not the first vendor to do so, as server giant HP has supported CentOS, Debian and other community distros to some extent in its server and support offerings. Microsoft’s CentOS support is certainly another example of how the landscape and market for various Linux distributions and operating systems in general is currently undergoing disruption.

New Linux landscape emerging

Recent news that Linux vendor Red Hat is changing the way it releases code, described as ‘obfuscating’ or worse by some FOSS advocates, brings up an important discussion of complying not only wiith the letter of open source software licenses, norms and practices, but complying with the spirit of open source.

However, I’m going to leave that debate to others while I focus on another matter that is highlighted by Red Hat’s recent move: the changing enterprise Linux landscape. Red Hat’s move shows an intensifying competition in the Linux market, with Red Hat seeking to thwart or slow the copying and reselling of its code. It also highlights the change in positioning of Linux distributions, which are expanding beyond a couple of main distributions to a number of other possibilities, driven primarily by virtualization and cloud computing. Of course, there is also an impact from unpaid, community Linux distros, including CentOS, Debian and Ubuntu, as covered in our special report The Rise of Community Linux.

Indications are that the Linux market changes are continuing, with a greater impact from the unpaid community distributions, which are often ideal for stripping out or adding components for various virtualized and cloud computing deployments. Based on customer and vendor conversations, we also see Ubuntu as a much more important Linux distribution in the clouds, compared to the traditional enterprise server market. In fact, most polls and surveys indicate Ubuntu as the top Linux OS used for clouds, including our own. Finally, there is yet another Linux distribution that is not necessarily an ‘official’ Linux, but is certainly well-used in cloud computing: Amazon Linux. While the company does not promote its own Linux version, wide use of Amazon’s Linux AMI are, in effect, Amazon Linux. The same might be said for OpenStack, which is being described by Rackspace and other backers as a ‘cloud operating system.’

Given we have described 2011 as the year of Linux in the clouds, we will be watching closely to see how the market, the use of Linux and the various distributions and their backers continue to evolve. This will also be the focus of a new special report from The 451 Group that is coming soon.

2011 to be year of Linux in the clouds

It’s time for our annual outlook on Linux for the new year, and after spending the last few years highlighting non-desktop Linux in 2008, the range of Linux in 2009 and hidden Linux in 2010, they will all be coming together in 2011, which will be the year of Linux in cloud computing. This is a trend that has been building over the past few years, but I believe it will hit a tipping point in 2011.

The significance of Linux to cloud computing and vice versa has been building for some time already, with the use of unpaid, community Linux in the clouds, commercial Linux from the likes of Red Hat, Novell, Canonical and others in the clouds and a general propensity toward Linux and other open source software in cloud computing. We also covered the recent Red Hat-Eucalyptus Systems deal, which is all about Linux in cloud computing.

As we’ve covered in the past, we see Linux use driven both ways — from unpaid, community Linux to paid subscriptions and also from paid Linux to unpaid versions and self support — but regardless of whether it is Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Suse Linux Enterprise Server, Ubuntu Linux, CentOS, Debian, Fedora, OpenSuse or other version, there is more and more Linux used for cloud computing. This includes not only public and private cloud infrastructure, but also as cloud services, with many Linux flavors available on various public clouds. We’ve also covered the advantages of open source software, and while we continue to see cost and flexibility drive use of Linux in cloud computing, we also see advantages to open source licensing in simplified, less intrusive and less frustrating license terms, management and support (meaning an open source alternative does not typically bring the dreaded audits and sales pressure of traditional, proprietary software).

There’s no question that formidable competition looms on a number of fronts, particularly from Microsoft’s Azure cloud which is winning interest and adoption from many users, but Linux is still consistently identified and used as a core building block to all types of cloud computing, and I believe we’ll see more of this than ever in 2011.

Linux Foundation highlights growth, but what versions?

The Linux Foundation has released some survey findings as it hosts its End User Summit. We agree with many of the findings, and discuss our take below. But we also wonder more about which version of Linux these large enterprises are using for their own infrastructure, for cloud computing and for the technologies and services they build on top of Linux. More on that below, too, but first, some thoughts on the survey results.

One of the more interesting findings from the survey pertains to migrations to Linux from Windows. More than 36% of respondents said their Linux deployments in the last two years had been from Windows. More than 31% were moving to Linux from Unix, 13.5% reported no new Linux deployments and most, 66%, said Linux deployments of the last two years have been centered on new applications and services (greenfield deployments).

In terms of Windows migration, we agree there are significant drivers for Linux over Windows in cloud computing, where more than 70% of Linux Foundation respondents cited Linux as their primary cloud platform. We agree that Linux appears to be the preferred route to cloud computing offerings, both public and private (as covered in our special report, Seeding the Clouds). However, we must also acknowledge that the continued, wider availability of Microsoft’s Azure is having and will continue to have an impact on the market and may help Microsoft mitigate the cloud connection to Linux, according to cloud users and mixed-environment shops with which we’ve spoken. Another point to remember here is that Microsoft, which has changed significantly in its approach and strategy with Linux and open source, will likely support other hypervisors and perhaps Linux with Azure as well.

The Linux Foundation survey also highlights continued gains for Linux at the expense of Unix, with 19.8% of respondents indicating a decrease in their use of the OS (compared with 18% decreasing use of Windows and only 1.8% decreasing use of Linux). Those planning on increased use were 76% for Linux, 41% for Windows and 19.5% for Unix. We also wonder whether Oracle’s end of support for OpenSolaris will perpetuate Unix-Linux migration?

We also saw consistency from our own research in the Linux Foundation survey’s coverage of the drivers for and benefits of Linux. We asked more broadly about the factors driving open source software, not just Linux, but the results from both our survey at the end of last year and the recent Linux Foundation survey do match up. While cost savings was cited by our own survey respondents as the top reason for adoption, flexibility was cited as the top advantage after adoption. Similarly, the Linux Foundation survey showed that 67.5% of respondents cited ‘features/technical superiority’ as the top driver for Linux adoption. Next, with 65.4% of LF respondents, was ‘lower total cost of ownership.’ A recurring theme we are hearing in terms of Linux and open source cost savings centers on licensing. Not only do users and customers report cost savings from royalty-free open source software, but they also cite license maintenance as a key source of cost savings. Basically, because software is open source, organizations do not have to worry about convoluted IT audits and keeping track of licensing across physical, virtual, cloud and other resources. Though there still may be some trepidation around open source licensing, it seems that Linux and open source software represent both cost-savings and simplicity in terms of licensing for many users, particularly in cloud computing.

While Linux Foundation does not delve into the version of Linux, we recently asked open source consumers about their Linux choices. We have covered unpaid, community Linux in the enterprise since 2008 and more recently community Linux in the clouds, but we were amazed to hear the response when we asked 286 open source users about their Linux choices. More than 70% (206) of respondents cited ‘unpaid community Linux, such as CentOS or Debian’ as the distribution they use. 12.6% reported use of ‘paid, subscription Linux, such as RHEL or SLES.’ With respondents able to check multiple categories, another 26% said they used a combination of paid and unpaid community Linux and another 5% cited other options. Our survey pool of more than 1,700 open source consumers is made up of about 65% with 50 or fewer employees, 10% with 50 to 100 employees, 7% with 100 to 249 employees, another 9% with 250 to 2,500, and 6% with more than 2,500 employees, but we were interested by the fact that only 16% of our survey pool claimed to be non-paying open source users. We also acknowledge the Linux Foundation survey was aimed at large enterprises and government organizations with $500m or more in annual revenue and 500 or more employees.

Still, we continue to watch community Linux, particularly in cloud computing uses, and have no doubt it is having an impact on the paid, enterprise Linux market, mainly in terms of pricing, support and flexibility.

CAOS Theory Podcast 2010.06.11

Topics for this podcast:

*Linaro reinforces traction for mobile and embedded Linux
*Open source strategy spotlights: Novell, HP
*Riptano makes commercial play with Apache Cassandra
*Linux still tops in Top500 Supercomputers

iTunes or direct download (26:27, 7.3MB)

LinuxCare relaunch reveals cloud lift for Linux

LinuxCare, which recently relaunched a new cloud computing-based Linux services business, had represented frankly a lot of the Linux support business, promise and opportunity that never quite lived up to the hype and expectations. LinuxCare, which suffered from lack of leadership and execution, later became Levanta, and we eventually questioned its Linux-only approach in an enterprise IT world increasingly made up of mixed-OS deployments. Levanta shut down, along with some other missed systems management efforts, in 2008.

The lack of novelty and uniqueness about Linux continued, and as we saw with Linux World 2008, Linux had become so well ingrained in enterprise IT that it truly seemed nobody cared. Like Levanta, LinuxWorld is now gone.

So why would now be the right time for another go at Linux support business? I believe the answer lies in the same response I’ve been offering a number of users, vendors and clients: cloud computing. We began watching more closely the use of Linux, including unpaid community Linux, in cloud computing a couple of years ago with our report, The Rise of Community Linux. Last year, we continued to track the use of Linux, and again community Linux, in cloud computing as we were still hearing about the use of both paid versions such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Suse Linux Enterprise Server, but also community versions such as CentOS, Debian, and Ubuntu, which is growing both its paid and unpaid use in cloud computing environments.

We’ve also seen cloud-specific versions and vendors, such as CloudLinux, which typically aim their cloud-tuned Linux software and support at specific verticals and industries. For CloudLinux, as well as for the major Linux vendors and others, that specific industry is hosting and other service providers moving to the clouds.

So a LinuxCare relaunch with with focus on supporting Linux for cloud computing infrastructure, applications and services makes some sense, and also highlights the continued business, benefits and opportunities of Linux as opposed to competing operating systems.

Support keeps coming for community open source

We’ve been tracking the enterprise use of unpaid, community open source software for a few years now, particularly Linux. Today, it is clear to see that commercial paid support for this type of software is on the rise. The latest example: OpenLogic’s bid to support CentOS, a free community Linux distro that, while a clone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, does not have any official commercial entity behind it.

Still, as we covered in our CAOS report ‘The Rise of Community Linux,’ we see increasing interest in and use of community distros such as CentOS, Debian, which is particularly popular in the telecommunications industry, Slackware, PCLinux, Asianux and others, including community versions from the biggest commercial Linux vendors: Novell’s OpenSuse and Red Hat’s Fedora. Although it is distributed and supported by Canonical, we also see some unpaid enterprise use of Ubuntu, as well.

What’s driving this use? Cost and the fact that these distributions are free of charge and free of licensing issues at scale, in virtual and cloud computing environments is obviously a big reason. However, we also see the desire to more effectively and efficiently utilize existing IT talent and experience. Organizations using Linux and other open source software typically realize before too long they have employees capable of supporting and deploying that software, and this is another big driver of unpaid community open source in the enterprise.

Although it will to some extent, OpenLogic is not looking to compete with Red Hat or other Linux vendors and supporters as much as provide unique support for open source software that is gaining interest and use in the enterprise. The company cites customer demand as the reason for the offering and for starting with CentOS. OpenLogic plans in 2010 to add other community distro support, which consists of an SLA support package of indemnification, incident support, unlimited sockets or CPUs, and VM support.

There are plenty of other organizations adding CentOS to their offerings and support. While we’ve covered support from hardware vendors, particularly HP — which this year launched a community Linux support site — we have also seen virtualization and cloud computing-focused vendors that have also turned to CentOS and other community Linux distributions. Part of the trend of community Linux in the cloud, vendors such as rPath, RightScale and Convirture have incorporated CentOS and Ubuntu into their software and support, for example.

We’ll continue to watch what’s happening with community open source software, but it seems clear that enterprise customers will be using more of it, sometimes even in official, above-board fashion. This will also mean that commercial open source software vendors will be competing even more with it, but the good news is there is a recognition from most successful open source software vendors that these are the rules of open source, and this is part of the pressure and competition that drives innovation. All in all, it seems community open source software is turning out to be quite beneficial for enterprise IT.

LinuxCon corrals community, clouds, challenges

I attended the first LinuxCon this week and saw firsthand evidence of a growing, thriving Linux community. Notice I did not call it the Linux kernel community nor Linux development community since it’s much more than the kernel that is key to the fate and progress of Linux, with an increasing role for users as well.

Of course, LinuxCon and the accompanying Linux Plumbers Conference (held for the second time since last year are primarily a gathering of Linux kernel hackers and the developers that push the open source OS forward. So it was fitting to have some of the most significant contributors and maintainers gathered to discuss the state of Linux in front of the Linux faithful.

A highlight of the conference for many was a kernel panel featuring Linux creator Linus Torvalds himself, Jonathan Corbet, Chris Wright, Ted Ts’o and Greg Kroah-Hartman, moderated by James Bottomley.

The panel began with some discussion of improvements and efficiences in kernel development and incorporation of new branches and code, with Torvalds indicating his kernel life had gotten a bit more manageable. However, the discussion soon turned to some significant issues, particularly the size and fitness of Linux. What began as a lightweight OS (which is still stripped of parts and used for lightweight embedded and other uses) has grown dramatically over the last 10 years. In fact, in just the last year, 2.7m more lines of code were added to the kernel. Although there is certainly a great sense of vitality around Linux and the kernel, there was also agreement that Linux may be getting too fat. While there was no real solution that emerged, at least it’s clear kernel developers and Linux leaders are aware of the situation.

Another interesting topic and perhaps dilemma for the Linux kernel and its backers: the aging team of core contributors. Also, as highlighted by Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin to open the conference, the Linux community needs to do a better job of reaching out and including women. I would add that there is also a need for greater diversity and geographic representation among kernel hackers, even though we already see a global Linux community with LinuxCon visitors from across Europe, Asia, South America, Australia and elsewhere.

The unmasking of the fake LT was fun, mostly for the rap music video with dancing penguin suit guy, but once again we saw Matt Asay take the prize (this after winning the open source license debate recently). I guess this open source advocate is on a roll.

For my part at LinuxCon, I gave a talk on community Linux — that is unpaid, self-supported Linux — and its impact on the enterprise, with a particular focus on cloud computing. This coincides with a 451 Group report on the same topic. When we wrote our report on community Linux a year ago, we highlighted how community distributions such as CentOS, Debian and Ubuntu are putting competitive pressure on commercial, subscription Linux, such as RHEL and SUSE. We see the presence of community Linux and its impact increasing, though we must point out there are also complimentary effects from community Linux, which grows users, support and the overall Linux ecosystem. Still, we see enterprise organizations using community Linux for some of the same reasons they look to Linux in general: cost savings, flexibility and greater utilization of developers and teams that are capable of supporting themselves.

We had indicated that technology trends such as virtualization and cloud computing tend to favor the established, paid Linux distributions and vendors. In fact, virtualization, cloud and interoperability are key areas where Linux vendors differentiate their paid versions. This continues to be the case, and there is ample room for Linux vendors to continue and deepen that differentiation. However, there will be more community Linux pressure coming from these ‘other’ distributions, and much of it appears to be coming from cloud computing.

We are hearing from vendors and end users that community Linux makes sense for cloud computing. Obviously cost is a big factor, and perhaps bigger give current economic conditions. Also, enterprise organizations are finding that they can support themselves in many situations. Technically, community Linux distributions may also be easier to strip of messaging and other parts for use in cloud building. Community Linux may be growing its presence in cloud computing, with vendors such as Convirture, rPath, RightScale and others incorporating it into their technologies and strategies. However, when it comes to offering Linux in the cloud, we again see this favoring the more established, more accepted commercial distributions of Linux.

451 CAOS Links 2009.07.31

When open source goes bad. Is open source a success or failure? And more.

Follow 451 CAOS Links live @caostheory on Twitter and Identi.ca
“Tracking the open source news wires, so you don’t have to.”

When open source goes bad

The H reported on the apparent turmoil at the CentOS project, while Jay Lyman offered the CAOS perspective. Meanwhile Slashdot reported that Alan Cox has quit as Linux TTY subsystem maintainer.

Success or failure?
Danny Windham, Digium CEO, responded to Peter Yared’s claims about the “failure” of commercial open source, as did Alfresco CEO John Powell, who focused on its perceived successes.

Best of the rest
# Ingres announced a column-based, vectorized execution database engine project, Ingres VectorWise.

# Sourcefire announced 2Q revenue up 38% to $22.2m.

# Wazi published “A Primer on Europe for US-Based Open Source Communities and Vendors”.

# Intuit explained its choice of the CPL, and why it will likely move to the EPL.

# Linux.com reported on the value proposition of open source.

# Sony Pictures Imageworks launched an open source code site including visual effects, data storage and database migration software.

# Canonical to launch Ubuntu desktop support, reported Computerworld.

# BitRock released BitNami SUSE-based Virtual Appliances for SugarCRM, WordPress, Alfresco, Drupal and others.

# Funambol introduced an open source mobile cloud sync product for mVoIP.

# The OpenDNSSEC project announced open source software that manages the security of domain names on the Internet.

# The H Open reported on the latest bizarre twists in the bankruptcy hearing of The SCO Group.

# WATBlog discussed the closed nature of many “open source” mobile projects.

# Stephen O’Grady published The Private Cloud: Opening the Door for Open Source.

# Matt Asay argued that open source may be your only ticket out of the cloud.

# Pentaho partner Proventa delivered a Pentaho Data Integration plug-in for IMS TM mainframe apps.

# Progress announced that the FAA has selected FUSE as open source integration for its SWIM information management project.

# Case study: Gap Direct use of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Likewise Enterprise.

# IDC said open source adoption grew faster in last 12 months than it previously predicted.

# Astaro reported Q2 revenue up 16% over 2008 and 14th consecutive quarter of growth.

# The Debian project adopted a regulated development cycle.

# Zend launched Studio 7.0 and also Framework 1.9, featuring PHP 5.3 support.

# Open-Xchange launched Server 6.10, including Social OX, which aggregates social networking and email.

# RethinkDB – a new engine for MySQL, this time for solid state drives.

# OStatic reported on OpenGoo: an open source answer to Google Apps.

CentOS is dead, long live CentOS

UPDATED 8/01/09 – It appears there has already been progress in addressing some of the issues raised among CentOS developers. A visit to the project’s home page provides explanation, as well as the original plea from developers.

There’s been some disharmony and disruption in the developer community of CentOS, the freely available clone of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) open source OS. Key CentOS developers resorted to a message on the project’s home page for CentOS co-founder Lance Davis, whom they say they was otherwise unreachable.

Immediately we saw some hype and some declarations that CentOS was going to die, dying or dead. That prompted response from the would-be mutineer CentOS developers who stressed the project would live on at the same time they conveyed that they had tried, reportedly for years in some cases, to call attention to and address the issues of project management and control of CentOS. Let’s remember this is a Linux version that has no commercial backer, no foundation or other oversight body and which runs on the pure free and open source software spirit and volunteer work of its developers. These guys work on CentOS because they love CentOS. Apparently, they love it so much, they’re willing to go through this public circus of sorts to reach the person and leadership they feel is sorrily lacking.

The open source (in this case meaning available for all to see) discussion is, rightly, prompting some serious concern and questions from enterprise organizations, yes enterprise organizations, that are among CentOS users. We’ve written extensively about enterprise-grade use of community Linux distributions, and CentOS is a prime example alongside Debian and Ubuntu (which admittedly has a commercial backer in Canonical, but which provides its server version for free distribution. These free Linux versions do not necessarily appeal to enterprise users in all situations, but they are increasingly on the radar with a rising generation of developers and system administrators, and they are increasingly attractive as cost-cutting measures where feasible. Furthermore, enterprise organizations are among those with the development teams, expertise and experience to comfortably use a community Linux distribution. Sometimes it leads to commercial Linux use, such as RHEL or SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) from Novell, but it also sometimes leads to more community, free Linux use, particularly if it works.

So what does this dust-up mean for enterprise users of CentOS? In the end, it is proof of a vibrant, well-supported Linux project and community. Similar to how a fork can serve as a necessary check on an open source project or vendor in a positive way, this nasty public display of the struggle for leadership, strategy and longevity shows that CentOS matters to these dedicated developers. Enterprise users may not want to hear about such disruptions, but they should not fear them. What is far more threatening is the silence of a stagnating project.

There was also further explanation of the call fortrust, delegation and leadership in the CentOS community. Regardless of what happens from here (and it appears some bureaucratic changes, such as Web domain, may suffice), the open discussion is reflective of the transparency and openness of open source software communities, and when things need to get aired out, they get aired out. At the very least, this seems a superior alternative to bottling up the politics, disputes, struggles and progress of any organization or project.

Microsoft contributes to Linux kernel: a CAOS Theory Q&A

Microsoft has announced that it is to contribute code to the Linux kernel development effort under the GNU General Public License (GPL) v2. What on earth does it all mean? Here’s our take on the situation. With thanks to Jay Lyman for his contribution to the following:

Flying Pig

Q. This is a joke, right?

A. Not at all, although if any announcement is better suited to the image above, we can’t think of one. Microsoft has announced that it is going to contribute code to Linux under the GPLv2.

Q. What code is Microsoft contributing?

A. Microsoft is offering 20,000 lines of its own device drivers to the Linux kernel that will enable Linux to run as a guest on its Hyper-V virtualization technology. Specifically, the contributed loadable kernel modules enable Linux to run in ‘enlightened mode’, giving it efficiencies equivalent to a Windows virtual machine running on Hyper-V.

Q. Why is Microsoft doing this?

A. Red Hat and Novell’s Linux distributions already support enlightened mode, thanks to the development work done by both in partnership with Microsoft. One benefit for Microsoft of contributing to the kernel is that it reduces duplication of effort and the cost of supporting multiple, unique implementations of Linux. Once the code has been accepted into the kernel, Microsoft will use the kernel tree code as the basis for future virtualization integration development.

It also means that community Linux distributions will be able to use the code, which opens up more opportunities for Microsoft in the hosting market, where adoption of community Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, Debian and CentOS is significant. It also therefore slightly strengthens the challenge those community operating systems can make to Red Hat and Novell, which are more direct commercial challengers to Windows.

Make no mistake about it, Microsoft’s contribution is driven by its own interests. While it must serve and respond to enterprise customers that continue to drive the use of multiple operating systems and mixed environments, Microsoft also benefits by differentiating its Hyper-V virtualization technology from virtualization leader VMware. We believe Microsoft sees an opportunity to make virtualization with Windows more Linux-friendly than VMware.

Q. What’s in it for Linux?

A. The interoperability benefits previously reserved for ‘approved’ Microsoft partners will now be available licensed under the GPLv2, and available for all Linux distributions – commercial or community – without the need for a formal partnership.

The contribution of device drivers to the Linux kernel as been a sticking point for the Linux development community in the past as developers have struggled to encourage vendors to contribute driver code to the kernel. Microsoft is therefore setting something of a precedent and could encourage other vendors that have been reticent to contribute their drivers to do so.

The seal of approval Microsoft has given to the GPLv2 is also not to be overlooked. If Microsoft can find a way to contribute to Linux projects, many other organisations may also be encouraged to do so.

Q. I guess Linux is no longer “a cancer” then?

A. Exactly. Back in 2001 Steve Ballmer told the Chicago Sun-Times* “Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches. That’s the way that the license works.”

Reviewing the statement in the context of today’s announcement demonstrates how much progress Microsoft has made in the intervening years to understand open source licenses. Contribution to Linux, or to any other project under the GPL, would have been unthinkable at the time, and is still barely believable today. The announcement is likely to challenge perceptions of Microsoft’s strategy when it comes to open source, Linux and the most popular open source license.

*The original article is no longer available online. Plenty of references are still available, however.

Q. What does this say about Microsoft’s overall strategy towards open source?

A. The contribution is a significant sign that Microsoft is now prepared to participate with open source projects on their own terms by using the chosen license of that project and making contributions directly to the chosen development forge of that project. Microsoft continues to use its own CodePlex project hosting site for code releases, but if an existing open source project uses SourceForge then Microsoft has acknowledged that the best way to engage with that community is on SourceForge. Don’t expect this to be the last contribution Microsoft does under the GPL.

Microsoft is now becoming more proactive in how it engages with open source under a strategy it describes as ‘Open Edge’ (which we have previously mentioned here and here. Whereas Open Core is used by commercial open source vendors to offer proprietary extensions to open source code, Open Edge is Microsoft’s strategy to encourage open source development and application deployment on top of its suite of commercial software: Windows, Office, Exchange, Sharepoint, SQL Server etc.

The Open Edge strategy is rooted in attempting to ensure Microsoft’s commercial products continue to be relevant to the ecosystem of developers and partners that the company has attracted to its software platform. It is also a continuation of the realization that if customers and developers are going to use open source software, Microsoft is more likely to retain those customers if it helps them use open source on Windows et al.

For more details on Microsoft’s strategy towards open source, its partnerships with open source vendors, and its contributions to open source projects, see The 451 Group’s formal report on the contribution to Linux (the report will shortly be available via this link ).

Q. How is the contribution to the Linux kernel being handled?

A. The contribution is being made via an alliance with the Linux Kernel Driver Project and its maintainer, Greg Kroah-Hartman, who will steward the contribution into the Linux kernel code base. (Greg has a post up about it here).

Q. What are the intellectual property issues?

A. The copyright for the code will remain with Microsoft, with the contributor credit going to its engineering lead, Hank Janssen, group program manager at Microsoft’s Open Source Technology Center.

Q. And patents?

A. If we were putting money on the most likely conspiracy theory to emerge in response to this news it would be that this is a Trojan horse and Microsoft is contributing code to Linux that it will later claim patent rights over. Whether that is even theoretically possible depends on your understanding of the GPLv2.

The GPLv2 contains an implicit patent promise that some would say makes a Trojan horse impossible. However, the FSF obviously thought it necessary to introduce a more explicit patent promise with the GPLv3 to remove any doubt.

Ultimately this is a question for a lawyer, or an eloquence of lawyers (yes it is ironic, apparently). In the meantime, it is our understanding that Microsoft’s understanding is that contributing code using the GPLv2 includes a promise not to charge a royalty for, or assert any patents covering, the code being contributed.

Q. What about Microsoft’s prior claim that Linux infringes its patents?

A. Microsoft really dropped the ball on its communication of the suggestion that free software infringes over 200 of its patents, and tensions with free and open source software advocates are likely to continue to be tested by Linux-related patent agreements, such as the one struck with Melco Holdings last week, which have driven scepticism and mistrust of Microsoft among some key open source supporters.

Absent the company giving up on software patents altogether, we believe that in order to convince those FOSS advocates that it is serious about co-existence, Microsoft needs to find a way to publicly communicate details about those 200+ patents in such a way that is not seen as a threat and would enable open source developers to license, work around, or challenge them. We also believe that the company is aware of this, although finding a solution to the problem will not be easy. But then neither was contributing code to Linux under the GPLv2.

UPDATE – It has subsequently become clear that there were two important questions that were not answered by our Q&A. Those have been covered by an addendum – UPDATE.

451 CAOS Links 2009.07.17

Sun shareholders approve Oracle deal. The un/importance of the GPL. And more.

Follow 451 CAOS Links live @caostheory on Twitter and Identi.ca
“Tracking the open source news wires, so you don’t have to.”

Sun shareholders approve Oracle deal
As expected, Sun’s shareholders approved the proposed acquisition by Oracle, reportedly in the absence of Scott McNealy and Jonathan Schwartz. Meanwhile people continue to be obsessed with Oracle killing things. If its not OpenSolaris then its Unbreakable Linux.

The un/importance of the GPL
Matt Asay speculated on Apache and the future of open-source licensing, in doing so referring to the GPL as “an alternative way to release proprietary software”. Needless to say that put the cat amongst the pigeons, with Glyn Moody stepping forward to explain why the GNU GPL still matters and Savio Rodrigues contemplating why open source vendors will continue to select the GPL. Meanwhile Benjamin Black reported on the failings of the GPL in the cloud era.

While we’re on the subject of open source licenses, Andrew Binstock argued that the OSI needs to consider licenses with defined limitations, while we pondered the theory of natural selection as it applies to license proliferation in the context of our recent long-form report, CAOS 12 – The Myth of Open Source License Proliferation.

Incidentally, on Tuesday, July 21 at 1:00pm EDT we will be hosting a webinar to discuss some of the findings from the report. Register here.

Best of the rest
# Matt Asay noted that Intel was second largest contributor to Linux in 08, just behind Red Hat.

# The FSF responded to Microsoft’s Mono patent promise, asking for a license for all patents Mono exercises.

# Mike Hogan explained how open source commoditizes itself.

# eWeek reported on how to bring open source software into the enterprise.

# I-CIO reported on how the French government leads the way in open source.

# Microsoft inked a patent agreement with the parent company of NAS vendor Buffalo, that relates to Linux.

# TDWI published a Q&A on “The Maturing Open Source Model”.

# MontaVista launched Android commercialization services offering.

# Bluenog responded to accusations that it has violated the Apache Software License.

# OStatic reported on how Microsoft’s and Amazon’s cloud strategies face open source challenges.

# CohesiveFT has added Ubuntu 9.04 Server Edition and Debian GNU/Linux 5.0 to its Elastic Server platform.

# Carlo Daffara presented the different reasons for company code contributions.

# Forbes reported on why open source software flourishes in downturns.

# Open World Forum unveiled its Program for 2009.

# Accenture published a podcast titled Increase Flexibility at a Faster Pace and Lower Cost with Open Source.

# Dirk Riehle published a call for papers on Empirical Research Free/Libre Open Source Software.

# EOS reported on a “new” movie, called Code Rush, covering the release of the Netscape browser as open source.

Red Hat cloud program needs partners, punctuation

Red Hat announced a new cloud certification and partner program. I’ve been expecting to see and hear more from Red Hat on cloud computing given its prominence in Linux and open source and the prominence of Linux and open source in the cloud. However, I’m left asking a few questions.

First of all, where are all of the partners in this new partner program? Other than Red Hat, the only other vendor mentioned is Amazon. Okay, Amazon is a good one to have on the cloud announcement, and is a logical starting point for what will hopefully attract more partners. However, as Red Hat describes a ‘triangulation’ of forces — customers, ISVs and cloud providers — that are driving the climb to the cloud, I wonder why we don’t have representation from any other points of the triangle or any other cloud providers or ISVs. Upon seeing the announcement, I was expecting to see a long list of vendors ready to put RHEL and JBoss to work in the cloud, similar to what we’ve seen from Red Hat in its announcement of the Red Hat Exchange or the more recent Open Source Channel Alliance. In response, Red Hat says it is too early in cloud computing and in its partner program to name additional vendors, and to be fair, we agree the industry is still early in the process. Still, given the number of open source cloud computing vendors crowding to market, we might expect more than Amazon to kick things off.

I also wonder how much of Red Hat’s cloud program may be a reaction to the use of Ubuntu Linux in the construction, deployment and management of enterprise clouds, particularly internal clouds. RightScale, for example, recently switched from using, for its cloud management software, Red Hat clone CentOS to Ubuntu based on customer demand. Ubuntu distributor Canonical also includes a preview of its Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud in its latest release and the company is focused on leveraging its significant opportunity in cloud computing. With its leadership on the desktop and, with Ubuntu Netbook Remix, in netbooks, Canonical’s Ubuntu also stands to benefit from its client capabilities, which may be key to connecting with the cloud. For its part, Red Hat says it does not see Canonical and Ubuntu as competition here, but rather as a benefit in promoting the advantages of Linux and open source for enterprise cloud computing.

Of course Red Hat is competing with other Linux distributions beyond Ubuntu in the cloud. Novell’s SUSE Linux is the most direct, enterprise Linux competition, but consistent with our report, CAOS Eight-The Rise of Community Linux, and with statements from Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst, there is also competitive pressure from ‘community’ or unpaid Linux. This includes community versions from the leading Linux vendors — Fedora and OpenSUSE — as well as other non-commercial Linux distributions that are popular in enterprise datacenters and, from what we’re hearing, in cloud computing as well. This would include Red Hat community clone CentOS and Debian, upon which Ubuntu is based.

One final question from Red Hat’s cloud partner program announcement: where’s the open source (or at least, where’s the noise about open source)? I’ve been hearing from vendors and customers and saying to reporters and clients that open source software is popular and critical for cloud computing mainly for its flexibility and freedom from vendor lock-in. Customers that have been burned by the end-of-life of whole enterprise operating systems are more confident moving to Linux when they know their staff skills and connections will continue to be useful beyond the life or success of any particular vendor. In looking at Red Hat’s announcement and partner program, and following the vendor closely as I do, I believe it could do more to set open source and itself apart from others when it comes to cloud computing. I don’t doubt Red Hat’s dedication to open source and true openness, but I think it is time to take advantage of that dedication and its community and leave no doubt that Red Hat and its partners and Linux and open source will play a prominent role, if not the lead, in cloud computing.

CAOS Theory Podcast 2009.02.06

Topics for this podcast:

*Defining an open source vendor
*The virtual desktop game opens up
*Canonical’s Ubuntu survey, Linux server market
*Marten Mickos moving on from Sun

iTunes or direct download (26:32, 6.1 MB)

Linux shows staying power on Top500

When I was a reporter a few years ago, I began covering the fast rise of Linux to dominance on the Top500 Supercomputer list. Since the list comes out every six months, I would end up getting a response like, “Is it that time of year again already?” to which I would respond, yes. My previous editor’s exasperation aside, I thought it was incredibly significant to see Linux with as much if not more dominance as Microsoft in a market. The fact that it’s the high end of high-performance computing (HPC) only increases the significance, in my opinion, since it is generally a harbinger of things to come in more mainstream enterprise IT. So, is it that time of year again? You bet.

The latest list indicates growing Linux dominance. Linux is used in the top nine supercomputer systems in the world. When considered as the primary OS or part of a mixed-OS supersystem, Linux is now present in 469 of the supercomputer sites, 93.8% of the Top500 list. This represents about 10 more sites than in November 2007, when Linux had presence in 91.8% of the systems. In fact, Linux is the only operating system that managed gains in the November 2008 list. A year ago, Linux was the OS for 84.6% of the top supercomputers. In November 2008, the open source OS was used in 87.8% of the systems. Compare this to Unix, which dropped from 6% to 4.6%, mixed-OS use which dropped from 7.2% to 6.2% and other operating systems, including BSD, Mac OS X and Windows, which were all down this year from the November 2007 list.

While ‘Linux’ in general grew its share of the Top500 sites, we also saw the top Linux vendors losing some ground, perhaps indicative of the ‘Rise of Community Linux’ we discuss in our CAOS 8 report. In fact, while SUSE Linux fell from use in 62 systems a year ago to use in 52 systems on the latest list and Red Hat dropped from 13 systems down to six, the November 2008 list includes five systems using CentOS, giving it 1% share of the list. CentOS, Debian and other distributions are likely also part of the general Linux category in the Top500 data.

Another interesting change in this list: while Sun’s Solaris disappeared from the list in November 2008 after securing two slots on the November 2007 list, the open source OpenSolaris OS managed to get on the latest Top500 list with one system.

There are certainly a number of factors, described here succinctly by Gordon Haff, that are playing into the progress of supercomputing, but based on the Top500 list and what we hear from vendors, users and communities, the move to Linux and open operating systems in supercomputing shows no signs of slowing down, stalling or otherwise getting un-super.