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Red Hat: Think Less Linux, More Architecture

Jan 23, 2003, 19:00 (21 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Erin Joyce)

By Erin Joyce
atNewYork.com

The chief technology officer of the largest distributor of the Linux open source operating system urged developers to curb their enthusiasm about Linux's surge in popularity in enterprise systems.

"Instead of getting serious about Linux, get serious about architecture," said Michael Tiemann, the CTO of Red Hat during a keynote address at the LinuxWorld Expo conference here.

"It's not about the component technology and not about the processor or the operating system. It's about the architecture that delivers the benefits and the technology that enables the architecture," he said, wearing the company's logo, a red fedora hat.

Tiemann's remarks were in response to research data from IDC that said the installed base of Linux servers will grow by 24.7 percent annually between 2001 and 2006, outpacing its proprietary rivals such as various Unix operating systems and Windows NT, for example.

In his own way, Tiemann was urging the open source faithful gathered here that more work awaits the movement to develop an architecture in which one application can reside anywhere on a system's network.

To help illustrate some of the programming difficulties porting major applications from proprietary operating systems to a Linux based operating system, Tiemann was joined in the keynote by Jeffrey Birnbaum, managing director and global head of enterprise computing with investment bank Morgan Stanley. Red Hat was involved in an 18-month project that entailed moving Morgan Stanley's enterprise from a proprietary Unix operating system to an open source Linux-based platform.

The job entailed 6,000 servers, 35,000 desktops, thousands of applications, all supported by about 22,000 employees, Birnbaum said, and involving four major hubs around the globe.

"In some sense, we are in an arms race in terms of technology, and that means we need to deploy more. We also needed our systems to be highly available, and able to run any application on any box at any time," Birnbaum said.

Some of the software vendors involved were smarting from prior negative eperiences on the Linux platform, added Tiemann. In addition, the project needed the involvement of Morgan's software vendors such as Oracle, Veritas and others, "just so we could run one application" on a Linux system, Tiemann said.

The developers had to step up the quality of their debugging platform as they ported applications over to Linux, Birnbaum said, because of strict debugging procedures in place with Morgan's trading applications.

"We needed to understand: What is this application doing to this kernel (and) with these sets of data, and be able to tell with a high degree of precision, what are performance issues, memory issues."

The project meant building in new diagnostic tools to the architecture similar to the traditional tools found in Unix platforms, Tiemann added.

These were some examples of why he urged the open source community think not so much about Linux in and of itself, but of architecture issues.

"There's a large ecosystem we need to continue to build," Tiemann said. "We've brought new ISVs (independent software vendors) to the table. They are finding the platform to be not only reliable and scalable but also profitable."

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