THE STATE OF LINUX: LIVE FREE OR DIE?

February 2, 2001

FEATURES AND COMMENTARY

Peter Galli reported for eWEEK: John Alberg, Vice President of Engineering at Employease Inc., is typical of many IT managers nursing budding relationships with the Linux operating system: He loves it; he loves it not.

Alberg loves it as a relatively stable platform for running selected enterprise applications. About a year ago, the Atlanta-based human resources application service provider switched from Windows NT to Linux on its application server layer, where it has some 25 dual- and quad-processor Dell Computer Corp. PowerEdge application servers. “This is basically the workhorse of our network, and we switched primarily due to stability issues,” Alberg said. “Our system is about 100 times more stable now than it was with NT.”

That was a big step. But Alberg isn’t ready to consider making Linux the platform for all his enterprise applications. First, he wants to see better security and proven SMP (symmetric multiprocessing) scalability.

“Linux does not yet have the extensive security features of some of its Unix competitors, like Sun’s Solaris,” Alberg said. “We use Solaris on the external proxy layer that is exposed to the Internet. I want wholehearted vendor endorsement and a couple of years of solid quality assurance testing by companies like Oracle [Corp.] before I allow Linux to take over my database server.”

It’s a common refrain among IT managers today. For as far as Linux has come – and the release of the Linux 2.4 kernel earlier this month has brought a range of additional enterprise functionality to the open-source operating system – there is still a way to go before it becomes a true mission-critical, enterprise-class system that can effectively compete with the Unix and Windows platforms.

While users, vendors and analysts agree Linux has made great strides on the Web server side, they admit it still falls short when it comes to supporting workloads required by applications like ERP (enterprise resource planning), business intelligence, CRM (customer relationship management) and supply chain planning, as well as the ability to run multiple, mixed workloads on large SMP servers.

Michael Tiemann, chief technology officer at Linux vendor Red Hat Inc., in Durham, N.C., summed this up recently. “While there are many definitions of what constitutes an enterprise-class operating system, I think it would be fair to characterize Linux as a rookie Tiger Woods, full of potential that has yet to be realized,” Tiemann said.

How long it takes to fulfill that potential depends on several factors, among them: how quickly the 2.4 kernel is adopted by commercial distributors and how quickly the development cycle for Version 2.5 gets under way (for more insights, see eWEEK’s interview with Linus Torvalds).

Moving up to mission-critical

Greg Olson, the co-founder and chairman of Sendmail Inc., in Emeryville, Calif., which uses an IBM Linux mainframe for development and runs a host of Linux servers, wants more enterprise features. Olson agrees that Linux is clearly enterprise-ready at the server level for certain applications like e-mail, e-commerce and Web servers, but he said it lags with regard to running other mission-critical applications like financials and CRM.

Those will emerge over time only if an increasing number of companies demand a unified Linux platform, Olson said. “I welcome the ongoing development work to make Linux more robust and scalable. The initiatives that allow Linux to effectively host 100 million mailboxes and run huge backbones for mail systems are exciting for us,” he said.

Beyond the 2.4 kernel, Linux developers are asking for the incorporation of a journaling file system, more work on Linux clusters and on the scheduler, additional scalability, high availability, internationalization, and printing and systems management.

While a few IT managers are beginning to move critical systems onto Linux (see related story on Komatsu Mining Systems), others, like Richard Smrcina, data center manager for Grede Foundries Inc., in Milwaukee, say they first need to see further enterprise-level capabilities.

For the past year, Smrcina has been running Domain Name System, mail, network monitoring and other applications on an IBM S/390 Multiprise 2000 system equipped with SuSE Inc.’s Linux Enterprise Server. Eventually, he’d like to consolidate other applications such as DB2, WebSphere Application Server and Apache-based systems from other platforms onto the Linux mainframe. He’d even like to move Grede’s PeopleSoft Inc. PeopleSoft 7 ERP systems, currently running on IBM’s AIX Unix operating system, to the Linux environment.

“The potential going forward to consolidate those machines onto our [Linux] mainframe is desirable and, hopefully, with PeopleSoft 8, we can do some of that because this is more of a Web-based application, and the potential to use Apache to serve those Web pages will be a huge bonus,” Smrcina said. “I was somewhat skeptical about Linux and its enterprise capabilities until I started using it. The performance has been solid and reliable, opening up a whole new world of application possibilities for us.”

The enterprise capabilities found in the 2.4 kernel, which will hit the market later this year, are clearly a large step in the right direction. One of the most significant features is SMP scalability. While the kernel has a CPU limit of 64 processors, it is expected to be mostly used at the eight-way level.

Also included in distributions based on the 2.4 kernel will be large-file-system support; the ability to address up to 64GB of physical memory on Intel Corp. X86 servers and IA-32 platforms; expanded hardware support, with various new drivers for hardware like Universal Serial Bus and three-dimensional accelerated graphics cards; and various new architectures such as IBM’s S/390 mainframe, the IA-64 and, eventually, Advanced Micro Devices Inc.’s X86-64 (see related story). While the Linux backers are excited about the increased scalability of the 2.4 kernel and other developments such as the appearance of new, enterprise-class development tools for the operating system (see review), they say the platform needs further work.

But whatever shortcomings Linux may still have at the enterprise level, its phenomenal growth has surprised even the most bullish observers. Once dismissed by major software vendors like Microsoft Corp. as a niche operating system on the fringe of the mainstream that would appeal only to a small core of developers and engineers, Linux has become a force to be reckoned with. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer this month publicly said that Linux was his company’s greatest threat going forward. And IBM is committing $1 billion to its Linux initiatives this year.

Stacey Quandt, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc., in Cambridge, Mass., said the 2.4 kernel, with its increased technical enhancements, including logical volume management, raw I/O and enhanced SMP scalability, goes far toward closing the gap between Linux and midrange Unix.

“But for Linux to truly cross the chasm beyond characterization as a workgroup and departmental solution, it needs to be capable of supporting workloads like ERP and CRM,” Quandt said. “Kernel development is only one of the steps in this process. Enterprise-class system software supported by ISVs and OEMs is the other part.”

Even with the enterprise-oriented 2.4 kernel in place, that support will take some time to materialize. But IT managers who’ve become encouraged by the potential of Linux should be willing to wait. After all, enterprise-class operating systems aren’t made overnight.

============================================================

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Supercomputer Modeling Shows How COVID-19 Spreads Through Populations

May 30, 2020

As many states begin to loosen the lockdowns and stay-at-home orders that have forced most Americans inside for the past two months, researchers are poring over the data, looking for signs of the dreaded second peak of t Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

SODALITE: Towards Automated Optimization of HPC Application Deployment

May 29, 2020

Developing and deploying applications across heterogeneous infrastructures like HPC or Cloud with diverse hardware is a complex problem. Enabling developers to describe the application deployment and optimising runtime p Read more…

By the SODALITE Team

What’s New in HPC Research: Astronomy, Weather, Security & More

May 29, 2020

In this bimonthly feature, HPCwire highlights newly published research in the high-performance computing community and related domains. From parallel programming to exascale to quantum computing, the details are here. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

DARPA Looks to Automate Secure Silicon Designs

May 28, 2020

The U.S. military is ramping up efforts to secure semiconductors and its electronics supply chain by embedding defenses during the chip design phase. The automation effort also addresses the high cost and complexity of s Read more…

By George Leopold

COVID-19 HPC Consortium Expands to Europe, Reports on Research Projects

May 28, 2020

The COVID-19 HPC Consortium, a public-private effort delivering free access to HPC processing for scientists pursuing coronavirus research – some utilizing AI-based techniques – has expanded to more than 56 research Read more…

By Doug Black

AWS Solution Channel

Computational Fluid Dynamics on AWS

Over the past 30 years Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) has grown to become a key part of many engineering design processes. From aircraft design to modelling the blood flow in our bodies, the ability to understand the behaviour of fluids has enabled countless innovations and improved the time to market for many products. Read more…

What’s New in Computing vs. COVID-19: IceCube, TACC, Watson & More

May 28, 2020

Supercomputing, big data and artificial intelligence are crucial tools in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Around the world, researchers, corporations and governments are urgently devoting their computing reso Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

COVID-19 HPC Consortium Expands to Europe, Reports on Research Projects

May 28, 2020

The COVID-19 HPC Consortium, a public-private effort delivering free access to HPC processing for scientists pursuing coronavirus research – some utilizing AI Read more…

By Doug Black

$100B Plan Submitted for Massive Remake and Expansion of NSF

May 27, 2020

Legislation to reshape, expand - and rename - the National Science Foundation has been submitted in both the U.S. House and Senate. The proposal, which seems to Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Boosts Deep Learning Accuracy on Memristive Chips

May 27, 2020

IBM researchers have taken another step towards making in-memory computing based on phase change (PCM) memory devices a reality. Papers in Nature and Frontiers Read more…

By John Russell

Hats Over Hearts: Remembering Rich Brueckner

May 26, 2020

HPCwire and all of the Tabor Communications family are saddened by last week’s passing of Rich Brueckner. He was the ever-optimistic man in the Red Hat presiding over the InsideHPC media portfolio for the past decade and a constant presence at HPC’s most important events. Read more…

Nvidia Q1 Earnings Top Expectations, Datacenter Revenue Breaks $1B

May 22, 2020

Nvidia’s seemingly endless roll continued in the first quarter with the company announcing blockbuster earnings that exceeded Wall Street expectations. Nvidia Read more…

By Doug Black

Microsoft’s Massive AI Supercomputer on Azure: 285k CPU Cores, 10k GPUs

May 20, 2020

Microsoft has unveiled a supercomputing monster – among the world’s five most powerful, according to the company – aimed at what is known in scientific an Read more…

By Doug Black

HPC in Life Sciences 2020 Part 1: Rise of AMD, Data Management’s Wild West, More 

May 20, 2020

Given the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive enlistment of major HPC resources to fight the pandemic, it is especially appropriate to re Read more…

By John Russell

AMD Epyc Rome Picked for New Nvidia DGX, but HGX Preserves Intel Option

May 19, 2020

AMD continues to make inroads into the datacenter with its second-generation Epyc "Rome" processor, which last week scored a win with Nvidia's announcement that Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Supercomputer Modeling Tests How COVID-19 Spreads in Grocery Stores

April 8, 2020

In the COVID-19 era, many people are treating simple activities like getting gas or groceries with caution as they try to heed social distancing mandates and protect their own health. Still, significant uncertainty surrounds the relative risk of different activities, and conflicting information is prevalent. A team of Finnish researchers set out to address some of these uncertainties by... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Turns Its Massive Crowdsourced Computer Network Against COVID-19

March 16, 2020

For gamers, fighting against a global crisis is usually pure fantasy – but now, it’s looking more like a reality. As supercomputers around the world spin up Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Rallies a Legion of Computers Against the Coronavirus

March 24, 2020

Last week, we highlighted [email protected], a massive, crowdsourced computer network that has turned its resources against the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe – but [email protected] isn’t the only game in town. The internet is buzzing with crowdsourced computing... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Global Supercomputing Is Mobilizing Against COVID-19

March 12, 2020

Tech has been taking some heavy losses from the coronavirus pandemic. Global supply chains have been disrupted, virtually every major tech conference taking place over the next few months has been canceled... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Supercomputer Simulations Reveal the Fate of the Neanderthals

May 25, 2020

For hundreds of thousands of years, neanderthals roamed the planet, eventually (almost 50,000 years ago) giving way to homo sapiens, which quickly became the do Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

DoE Expands on Role of COVID-19 Supercomputing Consortium

March 25, 2020

After announcing the launch of the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium on Sunday, the Department of Energy yesterday provided more details on its sco Read more…

By John Russell

Steve Scott Lays Out HPE-Cray Blended Product Roadmap

March 11, 2020

Last week, the day before the El Capitan processor disclosures were made at HPE's new headquarters in San Jose, Steve Scott (CTO for HPC & AI at HPE, and former Cray CTO) was on-hand at the Rice Oil & Gas HPC conference in Houston. He was there to discuss the HPE-Cray transition and blended roadmap, as well as his favorite topic, Cray's eighth-gen networking technology, Slingshot. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Honeywell’s Big Bet on Trapped Ion Quantum Computing

April 7, 2020

Honeywell doesn’t spring to mind when thinking of quantum computing pioneers, but a decade ago the high-tech conglomerate better known for its control systems waded deliberately into the then calmer quantum computing (QC) waters. Fast forward to March when Honeywell announced plans to introduce an ion trap-based quantum computer whose ‘performance’ would... Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

SC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

AMD
AMD
ASROCK RACK
ASROCK RACK
AWS
AWS
CEJN
CJEN
CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
IBM
IBM
MELLANOX
MELLANOX
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
SIX NINES IT
SIX NINES IT
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL
WEKAIO
WEKAIO

Contributors

Fujitsu A64FX Supercomputer to Be Deployed at Nagoya University This Summer

February 3, 2020

Japanese tech giant Fujitsu announced today that it will supply Nagoya University Information Technology Center with the first commercial supercomputer powered Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tech Conferences Are Being Canceled Due to Coronavirus

March 3, 2020

Several conferences scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, including Nvidia’s GPU Technology Conference (GTC) and the Strata Data + AI conference, have Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Exascale Watch: El Capitan Will Use AMD CPUs & GPUs to Reach 2 Exaflops

March 4, 2020

HPE and its collaborators reported today that El Capitan, the forthcoming exascale supercomputer to be sited at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and serve Read more…

By John Russell

Cray to Provide NOAA with Two AMD-Powered Supercomputers

February 24, 2020

The United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) last week announced plans for a major refresh of its operational weather forecasting supercomputers, part of a 10-year, $505.2 million program, which will secure two HPE-Cray systems for NOAA’s National Weather Service to be fielded later this year and put into production in early 2022. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

‘Billion Molecules Against COVID-19’ Challenge to Launch with Massive Supercomputing Support

April 22, 2020

Around the world, supercomputing centers have spun up and opened their doors for COVID-19 research in what may be the most unified supercomputing effort in hist Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

15 Slides on Programming Aurora and Exascale Systems

May 7, 2020

Sometime in 2021, Aurora, the first planned U.S. exascale system, is scheduled to be fired up at Argonne National Laboratory. Cray (now HPE) and Intel are the k Read more…

By John Russell

TACC Supercomputers Run Simulations Illuminating COVID-19, DNA Replication

March 19, 2020

As supercomputers around the world spin up to combat the coronavirus, the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) is announcing results that may help to illumina Read more…

By Staff report

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This