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.

What the world’s fastest systems say about Linux

I’ve been tracking the Top500 Supercomputer List with a particular eye on Linux for some time now, highlighting how Linux continues to power the majority of the world’s fastest supercomputing systems. So it’s no surprise to see continued dominance for Linux, but there are some interesting changes every six months when the new fastest supercomputer system list comes out. The most recent list, released last month, reinforces Linux leadership as every single one of the top 10 fastest supercomputing systems in the world runs Linux. We had previously seen Linux in four of the top five systems or seven to eight of the top 10, but this year was marked by a sweep of the top 10 for Tux.

Read more at LinuxInsider.

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 supercomputing strength is generic and community

With every Top500 Supercomputing list, we like to check in on Linux, which maintains a dominant position after a relatively fast ascent, primarily at the expense of Unix, over the last several years.

One thing that is striking in the latest list is the dominance of generic Linux, which reportedly accounts for more than 80% of the world’s fastest supercomputing systems. Combined with named Linux distributions, primarily Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux, Linux accounts for 91% of these HPC systems. The Linux share of the Top500 list is even greater considering another 3% or more of systems that are mixed-OS, mostly with some form of Linux.

Another interesting highlight of the latest Top500 Supercomputer list is that use of community Linux is a significant factor here. We’ve covered unpaid, community Linux use in the enterprise for some time now, and we continue to see its impact on enterprise IT and as we see with the Top500 list, supercomputing. Similar to how we have seen community Linux grow in the enterprise, the impetus in HPC is as much about capability as it is about cost. These organizations have the teams and talent — and increasingly everybody has somebody who knows or has experience with effectively using Linux and open source software — to take advantage of Linux, whether building their own clusters for modeling and simulation, running or even providing virtual appliances and applications or building public, private or hybrid cloud computing architectures. Underlying that community Linux use, even in HPC, is a strong and growing presence on the list of one particular Linux that has been at the crux of increased consideration, use, support and profile of unpaid community Linux: CentOS. The unpaid, unsponsored (at least by any official company or even organization) clone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux managed 1.4% with 7 supercomputing sites on the latest list, all this despite being declared dead last summer before developers got it back on track. CentOS is no doubt a part of the 81% of generic Linux used for these supercomputing systems, as well.

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.