May 11, 2007

Red Hat Summit 2007, Day 2: Red Hat Exchange and interesting presentations

Author: Joe Barr

In addition to the seven official tracks, this year's Red Hat Summit has an unofficial eighth track for the press. Day 2 saw two official announcements: Red Hat Exchange and a new partnership with Sybase. In addition to covering the press conferences, I had time to sit in on some interesting presentations.Red Hat Exchange (RHX) provides a way to simplify shopping and support issues for open source applications from Red Hat partners. Software purchased through RHX is packaged in RPM format and is available over the Red Hat Network. Red Hat handles the first line of support should the need arise. If the support needs to be escalated to the application vendor's staff for resolution, Red Hat handles that as well, transparently.

The partnership announcement disclosed plans to deliver a "virtual software appliance" containing Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5 and Sybase. Pricing and availability of the appliance was not announced.

On day one, the press track yielded news of the Red Hat/IBM mainframe alliance, Red Hat's Global Desktop, and Red Hat's Virtual Appliance OS for Intel vPro hardware.

The most important meal of the day

Breakfast here is served from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. As it does every year, the morning meal is a great time to meet fellow attendees and hear their views on the event. I had breakfast with Red Hat customers from CheckFree, EDS, a Los Angeles school district, and a financial analyst.

Everyone at the table said they were enjoying the event, but several expressed disappointment in the sessions they were attending, wanting a more hands-on and in-depth treatment of the subject matter. None, however, had gone to any of the Linux Labs sessions -- not because they didn't want to, but because they couldn't get in, victims of the unexpectedly high attendance at the summit this year. Later in the day, as I discussed the issue with another journalist, who said he had heard just the opposite complaint about the nature of the sessions, and suggested it might be a case of varying needs or expectations between technicians and managers.

CheckFree, I was told, runs its entire network of more than 700 servers on Linux. I was surprised to see EDS at the show, but learned that the company not only runs Linux on X86 machines, but on large IBM mainframes as well, as dictated by their customers' needs.

DreamWorks and Linux

The formal sessions began after breakfast. After an opening pitch for Red Hat Exchange given by Matt Mattox, Red Hat's director of product management, and an introduction by Paul Cormier, executive vice president of engineering at Red Hat, Derek Chan -- head of digital operations at DreamWorks -- came on the stage to talk about how DreamWorks has scaled over the years, not only in terms of rendering time, but in becoming a virtual studio with various artists scattered around the globe. It's no surprise that Linux has played a big part in that.

As the cost per hour has gone down and the number of hours required to meet an accelerated production schedule has gone up, DreamWorks' use of Linux has become more and more integral to the company's operation. It began running Linux only on the rendering machines, but today Linux runs on DreamWorks desktops and servers alike.

It was an interesting talk, but I was taken aback by the large caption along the bottom edge of a video Chan used in the keynote, which read "PROPERTY OF DREAMWORKS - DO NOT DUPLICATE."

Realtime Linux and the US Navy

IBM/Linux kernel hacker Theodore Ts'o gave a presentation on the use of realtime Linux by the US Navy. A next generation warship -- DDG 1000 -- is currently under construction and scheduled for a 2009 launch, and will employ realtime Linux systems throughout.

Actually, it's not just realtime Linux, it's realtime Java as well, and most of Ts'o's talk was about the problems involved in building a realtime Java VM. Garbage collection seemed to be the major roadblock, as pretty much everything else is stopped in the traditional Java. The solution was to limit the duration garbage collection could run at any one time, running it more often perhaps, but only for very short periods. Ts'o demonstrated the success of this approach by playing music on a traditional Java and letting the audience hear the gaps in the sound as everything stopped to tend to garbage collection, then playing it again on the modified Java and hearing no gaps at all.

Day 2 festivities concluded with a margarita party on the hotel grounds, followed by an off-site dinner hosted by AMD at the Aerospace Museum.

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