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Linux: this year's silver lining?

Watch out Windows and Solaris, says Zemlin

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Rather than brush off the question as absurd - which it sort of is, given that Windows owns the server volumes and has dominant revenue market share in the server space unless you add Unix and Linux together - Zemlin answered it like it is a perfectly logical question.

"That will take years. These things just take many years." Unix techies will retire, applications will move as servers are retired, the attrition will be slow but steady. "The important thing to realize is that this trend is irreversible. It will happen, even if it doesn't happen overnight."

The Linux Foundation also has high hopes for services-style computing, which has the moniker "cloud computing" these days but has gone by many names over the decades.

Zemlin was one of the founders of an application service provider called Corio that went public in 2000 and that was subsequently acquired by IBM. He said the economics of IT hardware and software killed the ASP idea back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but that the open-source software stack makes so-called cloud computing possible now.

"In a down economy, if you are a small startup, you are not going to buy any hardware or software," Zemlin explained, adding that people will buy compute and storage capacity on clouds. "Then, if you are successful, you can lever it up. But the key is to be able to keep capital costs low at the start."

This was still expensive back in the 1990s. You had to buy Sparc servers, BEA middleware, Oracle databases, then add the applications on top of that. "Our economics at Corio were very difficult. Now, companies can offer capacity at a much more compelling price, and a large part of that is that Linux is priced to sell. Think about it: would Google be Google if it ran on Microsoft Windows? Google is Google because it runs on customized Linux."

Bootnote

In a separate announcement, the Linux Foundation has named Ted Ts'o, the lead developer of the future ext4 file system for Linux as well as the first Linux kernel developer from North America, as it's chief technology officer.

Ts'o has been a fellow at the Linux Foundation since December 2007 - a position held by Linus Torvalds, Andrew Morton, Andrew Tridgell, and Steve Hemminger. He takes over the CTO position from Markus Rex, who had been on loan for 18 months from commercial Linux distributor Novell as CTO in the wake of the departure of Ian Murdock.

Murdock, who is one of the co-creators of the Debian variant of Linux, jumped to Sun in the summer of 2007 to head up its open-source community efforts and was the first CTO of the Linux Foundation. The foundation is, of course, the result of the merger of the Free Standards Group and Open Systems Development Labs in January 2007, and it has some pull with the open source community but does not explicitly steer code development.

Developers do that through the meritocracy that is open source, and the CTO is an interface between the vendor-backed Linux Foundation and that community.

Rex, by the way, has returned to Novell to take over as general manager and senior vice president in charge of Novell's Open Platform Solutions group, which is mostly SUSE Linux. Roger Levy, who had been general manager at the Open Platform Solutions group, has made a lateral move as Novell's senior vice president of strategic development, and will be responsible for developing the company's cross business unit strategy. Both Rex and Levy report to Jeff Jaffe, Novell's executive vice president for products and its chief technology officer. ®

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