May 21, 2003

Tracking Tux: Research Round-Up

- By Barbara French, Tekrati -
IDC takes issue with Open Source software in Nordic region political agendas. Stateside, SuSE, Red Hat and Debian do very well in D.H. Brown's massive technology assessment. Industry analysts from RFG and Wohl ponder the SCO lawsuit and In-Stat/MDR identifies Linux as a phenomenon enabling the Video On Demand server evolution.

Scandinavia's Polemic Study

IDC took surprisingly controversial stands on Linux and Open Source software with the release of its first study on Linux in the Nordic region:

  • That decisions to adopt Open Source software should not be driven by a political agenda aimed at "interfering with free market dynamics."
  • That "lack of product guarantees" is one of the decision factors in evaluating Open Source software.

Similar to the Gartner "hype cycle" report on desktop Linux debated recently on, IDC seeks to set some Open Source myths asunder with this report.

By the numbers, there is no surprise: IDC predicts that the market for Linux server systems will grow rapidly over the next five years, reaching a total value in the Nordic area of $200 million by 2006 and accounting for almost a third of all server shipments. This drives another market for software for Linux systems, reaching a value of $250 million by 2006, most of which will be proprietary software running on Linux.

The IDC report evaluates financial and political Linux adoption drivers in the Nordic region. IDC finds and favors private companies and public organizations in the region looking at Open Source software from a pragmatic cost/benefit viewpoint.

IDC does not, however, favor Open Source software adoption as part of a political agenda in the Nordic public sector. According to IDC, Open Source software is a highly debated issue in the Nordic region due to its promise of low costs and market model enabling users to have more influence on the products. In other words, the Nordic public sectors are considering open source software as more than a low-cost alternative to proprietary software. They are also looking to create alternatives to market monopolies, increasing competition in the market, as well as encouraging a wider acceptance of open standards. Therein lies IDC's issue.

An IDC press release states: "IDC believes that open source software can be meaningfully deployed in many cases, in particular if the decision is made on sound business considerations rather than a political agenda aimed at interfering with free market dynamics."

Per Andersen, managing director of IDC Nordic, concludes: "IDC also believes that the decision to use Open Source software is not nearly as simple as many Open Source proponents would like us to believe. Users are facing difficult choices between low initial product costs versus product guarantees. Just one aspect of this is the lack of guarantees against claims of intellectual property rights for OSS products." Source.

The Brown Derby

D.H. Brown released its landmark "2003 Linux Function Review" last week, finding substantial enterprise-grade improvements in the functional capabilities of SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8, Red Hat Advanced Server 2.1 and Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 since its 2001 evaluation. DHBA analysts rated each of the three distributions as shipped on January 1, 2003. In total, they rated each distribution on 167 functional items across five areas: scalability; reliability, availability and serviceability; system management; Internet and web application services; and, directory and security services. DHBA awards points for each function integrated and bundled; they deduct penalties for functions either separately priced or involving a third-party provider. The analysts performed hands-on evaluations, studied systems and related documentation and interviewed engineering and marketing staffs at the vendors. Finally, the analysts compared the three Linux distributions with five popular UNIX systems: AIX 5L 5.2, HP-UX 11i, Solaris 9, Tru64 UNIX 5.1 and, UnixWare 7.1.3.

The firm emails an executive summary of this 65+ page technology assessment in return for filling out a 5-second survey. For those not inclined to register, highlights of the evaluation results include:

  • Overall rankings: The three Linux distributions ranked between "good" and "very good." SuSE ranked best, Red Hat was second. Debian came in third but improved the most and was close to the leaders throughout the evaluation. UNIX flavors straddled the lot, with the best coming in as "Excellent" and the weakest on par with Debian.
  • Scalability: DHBA noted strong improvements in Linux scalability. Building on well-established compute-farm clustering strengths, Linux gains significant advantages from the 2.4 kernal ability to exploit SMP hardware, several industry benchmarks, and support for 32- and 64-processor systems.
  • Reliability: Red Hat improved by including HA clustering technology. SuSE improved by integrating partioning technology on IBM pSeries and iSeries.
  • Systems management: All scored well for good system management tools. DHBA particularly likes SuSE features such as the YaST2 administrative tool, support for Logical Volume Management, and advanced event logging system.
  • Internet/web: DHBA rated Red Hat and SuSE support for advanced Internet protocols better than many commercial UNIX systems. However, they rate UNIX systems superior on advanced NFS capabilities, high-end Java workloads (as evidenced by industry benchmarks), and support for emerging Mobile IP protocols.

DHBA attributes much of the gains to the Linux version 2.4 kernal plus steady tuning for greater scalability and enterprise usability. In April, DHBA released a comparative evaluation of server vendor Linux strategies.

Landshark Citings

Two of the less-publicized industry analyst takes on the SCO lawsuit come from Robert Frances Group and Amy Wohl. RFG's snapshot analysis following SCO's lawsuit and subsequent mail campaign says, "SCO's strategy is so full of holes that there is room to discuss only a few here." RFG analysts suggest that regardless of the eventual outcome, SCOs actions have damaged its corporate reputation. RFG concludes: "IT executives should not scrap Linux deployment strategies out of hand. Instead, IT executives should discuss the matter with their legal counsel, and determine the best reaction to any such letters should they arrive. SCO's attacks on enterprise users hinge on successfully proving its case against IBM, and the best estimates currently give at least two years before that case will be finally decided. In the meantime, IT executives should evaluate alternatives such as BSD as an escape route should one become necessary. However, they should also continue with their current strategies until such time as more details are available regarding specific IP violations to reassess SCO's probability of success."

Amy Wohl's latest newsletter includes a follow-up interview with Darl McBride, SCO CEO, instigated by SCO public relations following her initial opinion pieces. Wohl says that, should the case go to court, "I think weâre going to have a very interesting court case that ends up centering on the meaning of 'derivative works' and 'methods and concepts.' After all, many of the things programmers learn have little or nothing to do with particular operating systems, languages or tools, but rather with good technique. Saying they belong to one (and only one) of these spaces is going to look pretty foolish when any experienced technologist can point to their use across dozens of environments. And separating the mainframe methods and concepts of IBM, which may have been at least as important here, from UNIX concepts, should be really interesting, particularly since SCO intends to demand a jury trial." The piece includes links to her earlier assessments of the lawsuit.

The Vogue in VODs

With the Video On Demand server market heating up, In-Stat/MDR says that five phenomena - Microsoft, Moore's Law, Linux, IP and MPEG-4 - are likely to cause a changing of the guard among manufacturers of VOD Server products during the next five years. They predict that small, inexpensive, distributable VOD servers will dominate the market by 2006. They see evidence that Microsoft and Intel are becoming the enabling platforms of choice for the next wave of VOD servers. Linux also has a hand in enabling and changing the market, as it permits companies to create customized "extensions" to support VOD and does not require any licensing fees. Instat says, "Microsoft has responded to the threat from Linux by reducing their licensing costs and royalty fees, making Windows-based VOD solutions much more attractive." Source.


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