LinuxWorld preview: Open source rules, SCO fades and apps abound

Concerns about Linux litigation are decreasing, and attendees of next week's LinuxWorld can expect to see several proprietary vendors that have recently jumped into the open source applications game.

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Linux in the enterprise has won the credibility game, if you use the agenda for LinuxWorld Boston 2005 as an indicator.

At one time, keynoters evangelized Linux from LinuxWorld pulpits, but next week they'll encourage businesses to take the step by adopting open source enterprise applications and infrastructures.

Whatever the outcome of current IP litigation involving Linux and open source, the market will move forward.
John H. Terpstra
presidentPrimaStasys Inc.

At one time, attendees looked in vain for a full selection of enterprise-ready applications, but now they'll be overwhelmed by products, both proprietary and open.

Also, during the past year, the specter of SCO-like legal actions hung over the industry and LinuxWorld. But, in 2005, people don't seem to be worried about it. In fact, experts will be on hand at LinuxWorld to show how users can defend themselves against legal threats.

All LinuxWorld Boston keynotes will focus on OSS. Just a sampling: Jack Messman, CEO of Novell Inc., will describe the ways open source will change IT infrastructures; Martin Fink, Hewlett-Packard Co. Linux vice president, will offer tips on how to choose and use open source; and, John Swainson, president and CEO-elect, Computer Associates, Inc., will chart the next steps to widespread corporate adoption of OSS.

Proprietary software vendors taking the stage to tout OSS indicates a major turning point in the IT industry, according to site experts John H. Terpstra and Bernard Golden.

"Their participation should be viewed against the backdrop of the diffusion of open source into IT shops both large and small. That's the dramatic reality behind this show and the vendor participation," said Golden, IT book author and CEO of Navica Inc., a system integration firm. "The message to IT managers, both attendees and non-attendees, is that open source has come of age and has become more than a viable option, but an important option that every IT organization must make part of its strategic planning."

At last, there is a truthful discussion occurring about the real costs of being locked in to proprietary operating system and applications versus the lower costs of OSS and the value of real freedom, said Terpstra, also an author, as well as co-founder of Samba Team and president of consulting firm PrimaStasys Inc.

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Terpstra noted that OSS products -- including Samba, Apache, ISC BIND, Sendmail, ISC DHCP and PHP -- have been in major deployment for over five years. "Whatever barriers [to corporate adoption] one might talk about have been overcome," he said. "The barrier has not been enterprise readiness - but rather the willingness of the market to shift."

LinuxWorld's speakers will not be starry-eyed idealists, and that's a good thing, experts say. Conference tracks cover how, when and why to use OSS in corporate environments, info that's a must whether it's gathered at this show or elsewhere.

"The message to IT managers is quite simple – as they start to consider open source solutions for their tech stack they have to become familiar with the issues related to evaluating, procuring, and managing their open source efforts," said Yohesh Gupta, CTO of CA. "Open source has its benefits and risks and it is IT management's responsibility to be aware of them, and the ways to overcome them."

Speaking of real-world practicality, this will probably be the first LinuxWorld where only a few enterprise Linux application gaps will be found.

The ecosystem of layered technologies, development tools, applications and service providers needed for an operating system to be viable for the enterprise platform are in existence today, said Yohesh Gupta, Computer Associates' CTO.

Andrew Bowles agreed, noting that IT managers will find that widespread support for the LAMP stack of Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP/Perl/Python. Bowles, director of BakBone Software's Worldwide OEM and Alliance Group, said he thinks that IT managers will applaud the development of an open strategy that goes beyond Linux to embrace the full LAMP stack.

Beyond the LAMP stack, mature databases, content management, enterprise storage management, application servers, and SOAP stacks are also ready, as well as many development tools, infrastructure management products and security solutions, according to Gupta.

The combination of OpenOffice.org with Firefox, Mozilla Thunderbird and/or the Mozilla Application Suite has many IT managers itching to make a big switch is they haven't already. Steven Thompson, CTO of building products corporation Omega Products International, is implementing SuSE Linux, in a departmentally-phased approach and only buying new software that is Web-based and certified with a Mozilla/Firefox client. "We are switching the entire company over to OpenOffice this year, [and] 45% of desktops have been switched to date," he said.

What will be missing at this year's LinuxWorld? Some vertical applications. Thompson would like to get some accounting/credit programs. Stephen Heath, IT manager for Frigite Refrigeration, wants a program that can read and print CGM drawing. Open Office Draw will read some, but not all, he said. But that's just one gap, said Heath, who reports that his company is being well served by OpenOffice, Ximian Evolution (with a Microsoft Exchange connector) and a Citrix client running on Linux.

While there are vertical app gaps, there are ways around them, said IT pro Tom Russell. He advises LinuxWorld attendees and others to check out Runtime Revolution.

"With Revolution and the shell tools, non-programmers can create their own business-centric apps on Linux, just like the good old days, when individual solutions meant productive competition against those not so bright companies using ready built apps and all doing business the same way."

Some complaints may be heard about scanty offerings in layered applications, such as messaging systems, project management tools, and collaboration suites. "In many cases the piece parts are there, or nearly there, but they have to be integrated into a cohesive whole – a real solution that an IT organization can use and rely upon," said CA's Gupta, adding that some announcements in those areas can be expected in the near future.

No one, other than controversy addicts, will be complaining if SCO fails to deliver a new lawsuit during this LinuxWorld. Actually, few people will be listening if that happens.

"While still a concern for many, the fear of being sued is decreasing by the day," said Mike Sheffey, CEO of Versora, a migration products vendor. "There is just too much credible information available to the public that shows there is little to no basis for being sued for using Linux."

Gupta said business and IT executives are less worried about anti-Linux anti-OSS lawsuits because more vendors are offering indemnification protection against such action.

"Whatever the outcome of current IP litigation involving Linux and open source, the market will move forward," Terpstra said.

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