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LINUX: A Year After the Big Splash

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System administrator Tony Mancill reviews Linux's progress in the quest for world domination during 2000. This year was significant because of the attention Linux received from the financial community and movements by some of the other big players.

It's been just over a year since the big IPOs of Red Hat (RHAT) and VA Linux Systems (LNUX), during which trade media as well as general media were touting Linux as the next great thing to revolutionize the computer industry. In the same time span, Microsoft failed to defend itself against the U.S. government's antitrust suit. Sun Microsystems picked up StarOffice—a serious contender for the Microsoft Office suite in the battle for the desktop—from German-based StarDivision. Almost all major systems vendors announced support for Linux and began to offer it preloaded on their servers. IBM announced not only that they were going to continue selling and supporting Linux systems, but that they were porting many of their middleware and development tools to Linux. (More on IBM's contribution later…)

Despite their meteoric launches, the stocks of both Red Hat and VA Linux have returned to earth (not unlike much of NASDAQ), and analysts are now demanding that the companies make some money. (Oddly, many of the same analysts who drove the frenzy in the first place. Hmm…) Linux-based IPOs occurring during 2000 have been received coolly (see http://www.lwn.net/stocks). Furthermore, there seems to be less overall buzz about Linux outside the IT world. So was Linux the IT shooting star for the turn of the century? Ready to be written off as a flash in the pan? (See the recent trade article on this topic.)

In this writer's opinion, let the stocks sag; it has little to do with the continued deployment and success of Linux because it had nothing to do with what brought Linux to the industry's attention before 2000 anyway. In fact, now that the blaring financial community fanfare is over, Linux is getting down to the business it's suited to: reinventing ideas about software development, licensing, system administration, and the IT analyst's role in the production environment. Let's go over some real activities in 2000 that bode well for Linux in the future.

Oracle Keeps Linux Versions Current

Oracle recently announced support for Oracle Parallel Server (OPS) for Linux clusters. Linux clusters were initially developed at NASA and have made inroads in the academic community as a low-cost DIY (do it yourself) supercomputer. Because such clusters are built out of commodity parts, they are relatively inexpensive and can achieve very high density using the rack-mounted platforms that are ubiquitous due to the surge in Web-based applications. (See more information about Linux clusters.)

Now, with support for a distributed database by the top database vendor, the way is paved for deployment of large-scale and mission-critical database applications based on Linux. In smaller and more familiar realms, Oracle is well poised with respect to Linux. They have already had some experience with Linux—Oracle 8.0.5 was released in 1998, Oracle 8i for Linux has been out for almost a year with regular point releases (just like they do for the commercial platforms), and they have announced that Oracle 9i will be available on Linux as well.

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