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LinuxWorld: Novell fires back at Microsoft

Mark Brunelli, News Director

The LinuxWorld Canada Conference and Exposition kicked off today with a keynote address from David Patrick, Novell Inc.'s manager of Linux, open source platforms and services. SearchEnterpriseLinux.com recently talked to Patrick about the progress the Linux operating system has made in recent years, and where his company hopes to take it going forward. Patrick also had some interesting things to say about recent and highly controversial Microsoft-funded reports that show Linux in a poor light. Here are excerpts from that conversation:

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Microsoft has a whole organization whose entire purpose is to create messaging against Linux.
David Patrick
 manager of Linux, open source platforms and servicesNovell Inc.

What is the overall message or theme of your LinuxWorld keynote presentation?

David Patrick: The main thing that I'm going to be covering is how we see Linux in the enterprise progressing and what types of application workloads that we're seeing Linux being deployed in. I'll go through a series of workloads, starting with workgroup computing, and cover the progress that has been made with Linux in the workgroup environment. This would be the traditional NetWare or Windows workgroup server environment. [I'll also talk] about what we're doing to take NetWare type services over to Linux -- print, file, user authentication, directory management. Those components have been done and are being done by NetWare, but also, this is a big market for Microsoft too with Windows Server 2003. I'll talk about what is happening with Linux in the data center, Unix-to-Linux migration, and how we see Linux growing up to now deal with large databases such as Oracle, DB2, and large enterprise applications like SAP or CRM or other related applications. I'll focus on four major areas when I talk about workloads including workgroup computing, data center, HPC, and then we'll get into what's happening at the desktop.

What are some of the new workloads that you're seeing Linux-based systems take on? How have those workloads changed over the last few years?

Patrick: In the old days, it was supercomputers, and then it went to more higher cost proprietary Unix-type machine architectures. And now Linux becomes a very powerful lost cost alternative because Intel-based machines can be put into these blade configurations or racks in a very low cost way and running Linux for very compute-intensive environments. For instance, Wall Street companies are using a lot of Linux right now for a lot of their workloads. The horsepower that is available now at the Intel level in a commodity environment with Linux has really changed as well as how people are looking at things like Linux and how they can use it. We're seeing Linux being pushed into all of these different environments, into newer workload situations.

What new features is Novell planning to add to Linux in the coming days, months, or years?

Patrick: We're now looking at the features that are needed to make Linux more effective in the data center, like cluster file systems. We recently did a partnership with PolyServe. Now, we're deploying Linux inside of the data center with their cluster file system solution. We're deploying virtualization inside and around the Linux OS. We're implementing the XEN open source virtualization technology, so that's helping with data center workloads. We're also building out security and management targeted at managing Linux inside of the data center.

From an overall market standpoint, what else do you see happening with Linux in the data center?

Patrick: I think at the data center we're seeing a lot of big applications vendors all wanting to run more and more on Linux on various platforms. I mean Linux supports more than just Intel machines. We run on Itanium and all kinds of different platforms. But what they're doing is typically taking the big applications that are highly tuned for Unix proprietary boxes and they're running them now on more lower cost hardware running with Linux. We're finding that our enterprise customers want more support and more features and functionality to support their applications at this level. [This is especially true for] the financial services environment. They're pushing Linux very hard for clustering and virtualization. They want operating system virtualization so they can run multiple instances of Linux on the same machine or manage resources as their applications resource requirement grows. These are things that we see as very critical. We see Linux in the data center as one of the markets where we can get the deepest market penetration.

What do you make of recent Microsoft-funded reports that show Linux to perform poorly when compared to Windows?

Patrick: Microsoft has a whole organization whose entire purpose is to create messaging against Linux. Mark Taylor's group is quite a large organization that is funding research and everything they can do to spin messaging against Linux. So, we're fighting back. We have our own Web site now that discusses the research and analyzes the research that Microsoft funds. You know, when [Microsoft] does user case studies or speed testing, they have a highly tuned Windows server [versus] an untuned Linux server. We're constantly messaging back at that and responding. And that's the way it is when you're marketing technology against a competitor. You have to face the challenge of what they're saying. They talk about Linux being less secure, but the data supports the fact that there are a lot less security breaches on Linux servers than there are on Windows servers. But that's a constant thing that we accept in the Linux world.


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