April 22, 2003

Tracking Tux: Research Round-up

- By Barbara French, Tekrati -

Red Hat garners favored status from Gartner and Illuminata, while Sun just gets scorched. Amid the Sun beating, an Aberdeen benchmark offered small respite, finding that Sun can at least beat Dell in scalability and cost of ownership. Meanwhile, Yankee Group cranks out practical advice to those focused on NT 4.0 replacement and Gartner helps ease open source into enterprise best practices.Red Hat Makes Midrange Magic

More vendors expend more effort grappling with their Gartner Magic Quadrant position than any other type of analyst report. It is no small feat, then, that Red Hat AS on x86 placed in the coveted "Challenger" quadrant of the latest Gartner Midrange Server Magic Quadrant.

Gartner vp's George Weiss and Andy Butler replaced a two-year-old generic "Linux" entity on the Midrange Server Magic Quadrant with three specific Linux servers. In addition to the Red Hat AS ranking, Weiss and Butler awarded respectable positions to Linux on IBM zSeries and SuSE on x86.

All Magic Quadrants are based on a proprietary model employing market-specific assumptions, criteria and weighted ranking values. This one reflects server/vendor suitability for traditional midrange server roles -- such as business applications and database serving -- and newer e-commerce roles, such as Web and mid-tier application serving. Mid- to large-size IT departments worldwide will study the report as part of their purchase decision processes over the next six months. Linux servers are also ranked on Gartner's Intel Server Magic Quadrant.

Gartner offers this Midrange Magic Quadrant research note free of charge in pdf and html formats.

Sun Burn

Sun has put itself in a tenuous position with the industry analysts as well as the open source community. For example, Gartner vp's Weiss and Butler openly rebuke Sun for its stalled and fuzzy Linux strategy. This is evidenced in the Midrange Magic Quadrant. They placed Sun x86-based servers -- with Linux and proprietary operating systems -- in the not-so-respectable HP Tru64 UNIX neighborhood quadrant. This must be particularly bitter as IBM and HP improved their rankings, and Red Hat debuted in a stellar position.

Sun claims that its upcoming Linux strategy announcement will finally clear up confusion among its channel partners and customers. It's a tall order for any vendor. Sun has been busy previewing and probably message-testing their new new Linux strategy with several industry analysts, while attempting to keep the market focused on Orion and N1. For signs of this activity, see the Aberdeen Group free, breezy synopsis of Sun's a recent analyst conference.

Sun SPARC/Solaris Trumps Dell/Linux

The research news is not all bad for Sun. According to a free Aberdeen Group benchmark report, Sun delivers a superior long-term cost-of-ownership value proposition to Intel/Dell/Linux. Aberdeen compared Sunâs V480 SPARC/Solaris architecture running Oracle 9i RAC with Dellâs PowerEdge 6650 Xeon MP-based server using Linux and also running Oracle 9i RAC. According to Aberdeen, these represent typical configurations for medium- to large-scale architectures seeking to scale three-tier applications with existing Oracle databases.

The benchmark finds that:

  • Dell/Linux delivers lower up-front license costs.
  • As the application needs to scale, the license-cost advantages of server consolidation using Sun servers equipped with more than four processors begin to match or exceed the license costs of hundreds of PowerEdge 6650s.
  • Sunâs support services and the ability to deal with two vendors (Sun and Oracle) versus three (Dell, Oracle, and the Linux supplier) ensure that Sunâs administrative costs are less at any level.
  • Dell/Linux can scale out only to a certain point, beyond which Sun SPARC/Solaris delivers additional scale-up potential.

According to Aberdeen, the result is that as the application grows, Sunâs cost and scalability advantages increase.

Dueling Penguins

Illuminata singled out Red Hat and SuSE as preferred enterprise Linux distros, based on their "relentless focus on the needs of sophisticated IT infrastructures and the ways that Linux can fit into them." According to a recent brief by senior analyst Gordon Haff, Red Hat and SuSE "promise customers the best aspects of the open-source and the commercial UNIX world, and the competition between them keeps both companies honest."

Vintage Ports

Since January, IDC has released a dozen reports analyzing Linux market dynamics, from server adoption in Japan to potential ripple effects of the SCO lawsuit. One of the more interesting reports looks at the impacts of ISV applications ports to Linux. In the short history of Linux ports, 2002 was a vintage year.

"Linux servers are taking on new roles in enterprise computing, moving from the Web-centric workloads, where they are already well established, and moving into application-serving and database-serving workloads," said Jean S. Bozman, research vice president of IDC's Global Enterprise Server Solutions group. "This move is being made possible as ISVs port more applications that formerly had been running only on UNIX servers and Windows servers to Linux servers. IDC expects that Linux servers will continue to evolve, both in 'scale out' clustered configurations for technical and commercial computing and in 'scale up' configurations for larger databases with a single-system image."

Yankee Triage

In light of Microsoft announcing limited NT 4.0 support NT through 2004, Yankee Group offers crisp advice to Linux vendors and users through a free advisory note. Yankee advises IT shops still running NT 4.0 to take advantage of this unusual reprieve. In Yankee's perspective, that means pushing Microsoft for better licensing terms and pricing for Windows Server 2003 and, getting competitive bids from alternate server operating systems such as Linux, UNIX and Novell NetWare.

Meanwhile, Yankee analysts advise Linux vendors to exploit the extended NT 4.0 replacement timeline by making Microsoft/Linux comparisons as easy as possible for decision makers. For example, provide current and prospective customers with details of service and support strategies. Offer clear comparisons to Windows. Yankee also suggests including cross platform technical support and integration guidelines.

IT Best Practices Updates

Gartner offers two best practices frameworks for IT organizations implementing open source. One addresses open source applications. The other addresses operating systems, and is free in pdf and html formats. The idea is simple: capture the benefits of Linux and open source integration by tweaking traditional IT selection criteria and practices. These simple frameworks can help neutralize internal FUD-driven proprietary/open debates.

Base Intentions

Martin N. Brampton's informal poll on open source database intentions revealed just what he expected from his "Devil's Advocate" readers. "The use of open source DB software is highly web oriented, probably because this is the strongest area for general use of Linux. Within the web area, there is considerable use and interest in other open source software," Brampton wrote in an email on poll results to date. "I'd expect that the bulk of the interest is specifically in MySQL and most likely the popular combination of PHP and MySQL and Linux."

Vote and view results at his Black Sheep Research site, or find more on open source database projects at the SourceForge database foundry.

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