Hovsepian cites four vehicles to broaden Linux adoption

At LinuxWorld, Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian lauded the success of Linux but cautioned that complacency and fragmentation are still real threats.

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Linux is an integral part of the enterprise today, said Novell Inc. CEO Ron Hovsepian during his keynote at the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo on Wednesday, Aug. 8. But as much as the operating system has been accepted in mission-critical environments, it's still not enough.

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During his keynote, which addressed how to accelerate the progress of Linux in the enterprise, Hovsepian noted with a bang, "We are approaching critical velocity, but we run the risk of becoming complacent. If Linux is really going to find its place as the dominant platform, then we need to accelerate it as a community."

We are approaching critical velocity, but we run the risk of becoming complacent.
Ron Hovsepian,
CEONovell Inc.
To that end, Hovsepian launched into a presentation of what he believes will accelerate every Linux distribution -- not just SUSE Linux Enterprise Server-- into a role as the dominant OS in every enterprise.

What are some of the measures that will help broaden Linux adoption? Enlarging the independent software vendor (ISV) ecosystem, enabling next-generation data centers and broadening the Linux market footprint.

The Linux ISV ecosystem
To broaden the reach of Linux, one must turn to Unix, Hovsepian said, because Unix market vendors have been responsible for fragmenting applications. Today, the No. 1 need for Linux is applications, Hovsepian said.

"We need customers writing applications to Linux; we need application ISVs with a footprint on the Linux platform. This is [Microsoft] Windows' largest advantage" over Linux.

The problem is that vendors like Novell and Red Hat are competing on the quantity of applications for Linux rather than the quality of the code and support. "The root cause is a lack of standards … that centers on a lack of consistency between Linux distributions at the API level," Hovsepian said.

The answer to the fragmentation problem is to standardize the ISV certification process beyond what entities like the Linux Standard Base offer, Hovsepian said. "We need more; we need to drive this further. Today we are asking the entire open source vendor community to support a vendor-neutral effort to standardize ISV certification," Hovsepian said.

Four vehicles to enable Linux adoption
So what does it mean to "enable" Linux adoption? Hovsepian told attendees the answer is fourfold: through virtualization, management, Unix and power management.
  • Virtualization. According to Framingham, Mass.-based analyst firm IDC, Linux will capture 36% of the virtual machine market by 2010. IDC also predicts that virtualization will continue to be tightly integrated with the operating system.
    XenSource Inc.'s hypervisor virtualization now ships standard in both of the major Linux distributions. It was added to the Linux kernel in July. For Hovsepian, the idea is that open source hypervisors and tight integration of virtualization with the operating system will mold virtualization for the indefinite future.
  • Management. The need to manage virtual machines and physical servers with multiple operating systems is a critical component of the Linux market, Hovsepian said.
  • Unix. "The single biggest growth opportunity for Linux in the short term is Unix," Hovsepian said. "[Linux] has the same security; it is as good in scalability, performance; its tools can compete. Oh, and by the way, Linux is more flexible, at 75% of the cost."
  • Power management. Citing industry research, Hovsepian said that by 2010 simply running servers alone will cost $10 billion a year. That money could be better spent elsewhere -- namely on development and environmental issues, Hovespian said. "A 1 point improvement in efficiency would generate $100 million saved worldwide."

This was the second energy-related data center point made by Novell in just a couple of months. In June, Margaret Lewis, director of commercial solutions at Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD), said that the two companies had been working to incorporate AMD's PowerNow power management technology into SLES 10 SP1 and SLES 9 SP4. PowerNow is a dashboard-based application that conserves power in AMD-based computers. To save power and reduce heat, when the computer has a low load or is idle, the CPU's clock speed and VCore automatically decreases.

Mixed source: A fact of life
For the Linux community, the final obstacle is to accept mixed source in the data center as a fact of life. Acceptance of that reality will give way to the expansion of Linux adoption, Hovsepian said..

"The acceptance of mixed source will come with the acceptance of multiple things and multiple sources of code" in a computing environment, Hovsepian said. "I am pleased with Oracle's support for Linux; [the fact that] Microsoft [has] sign[ed] with Linux distributors, that's life."

The reality is that when you walk through a customer's door, that company will have multiple operating systems running in mission-critical capacities, he said.

Email Jack Loftus with your comments and suggestions.

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