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Linux Today Feature: SGI's XFS Journaling File System on Track for Mid-Year Release to Linux

Jan 31, 2000, 14:00 (2 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by John Wolley)

by John Wolley, Linux Today Silicon Valley correspondent

MOUNTAIN VIEW, California, January 31, 2000 - At LinuxWorld Expo today, SGI will announce a new Linux-based product line and extensive Linux technical and professional services support, but perhaps the biggest news for the open source community involves SGI's high end journaling file system, XFS. According to Laura Shepard, product manager in SGI's high-performance networking and clustering group, XFS is right on schedule for a mid-year release to the Linux community, following a beta that is expected to begin in the March/April timeframe.

XFS--an 'OS Crown Jewel' Offered to Linux
SGI first announced its plans to release the source code for XFS to Linux last May. The headline in the InfoWorld (5/99) story, "SGI extends an OS crown jewel to Linux effort", poetically captured the value of XFS, both to SGI and to Linux. The first pieces of XFS code were released as open source in August (EE Times 8/99, The Register 8/99).

Portions of the XFS code were licensed by SGI from third parties, and hence could not be release by SGI. It was feared in some quarters that it could take a long time for SGI engineers, working with open source developers, to recreate those pieces of code. Apparently this work is moving along quite nicely. And according to Hank Shiffman, strategic technologist at SGI (quoted in LinuxWorld 5/99), no changes in the Linux kernel are necessary for it to work with XFS. The modular nature of the Unix architecture allows the kernel to interface easily with different file systems.

Other High-End SGI Code--Coming to a Linux Distribution Near You
In late July, SGI's new CEO, Rick Belluzzo, announced that SGI was preparing to release additional high-end code to Linux from its Irix version of Unix. "The company will contribute work to beef up the Linux operating system so it supports SGI's ccNUMA architecture, SGI's take on a method for designing services that allows a manufacturer to cram hundreds of processors into one machine. The credibility of NUMA (non-uniform memory access) as a concept has risen in light of IBM's plans to acquire NUMA server maker Sequent, he added." (CNET 7/99a).

A week later (CNET 7/99b), Jan Silverman, SGI VP of marketing for computer systems, indicated just how far SGI intends to push the scalability of Linux, and hence its suitability for enterprise mission-critical tasks: "...SGI hopes to stand out from the crowd by making its Intel servers able to use dozens or even hundreds of processors, and for that, 'you need an operating system where you can actually muck around with the kernel'…" The title of an interview in PC Week/UK (8/99) with Hank Shiffman, SGI's strategic technologist, graphically spelled out SGI's priorities: "Irix takes back seat as SGI goes for Linux".

How soon can we expect to see some of this other high-end SGI code available for Linux? According to Courtney Carr, SGI product manager for Linux servers, SGI's LinuxWorld Expo announcements today will include Pro Pack 1.2 for Linux (formerly called "SGI Linux Environment"), a set of "reliability and performance enhancements" that will initially be available for Red Hat Linux 6.1. This is code that "runs on top of a Linux distribution". SGI plans to make Pro Pack for Linux available on other major Linux distributions. (As of this writing, further details on exactly what capabilities Pro Pack for Linux would offer were not available.)

High-End IBM AIX Code Soon to Follow
IBM hasn't yet specified which parts of the source code for its proprietary AIX version of Unix it is prepared to release to the open source community. At this point it sounds like IBM is offering to let the Linux developers pick and choose. According to Miles Barel, IBM's program director for Unix marketing, " 'We'll work with the Linux kernel development team to determine exactly which parts they can really use'… IBM will leave it to the Linux kernel team to make the announcements about which parts of IBM's offer they decide to accept and their timeframe for implementation. 'We don't want to raise false expectations' by giving out more details now." (Linux Today 1/00)

While we don't yet have a timeline on the release of the IBM code that is as definite as that for SGI, according to VNUnet (1/00), "Irving Wladowsky-Berger, vice president of technology and head of IBM's Linux initiatives, said he hoped the first pieces of technology would be made available within the next few months."

SGI's Product and Services Announcements
While the movement of the Irix code towards open source release may seem like a more dramatic story, the product and services announcements are significant in their own right. SGI's theme is "taking Linux to the next level", and that's the next level of corporate credibility as well as technical capability.

The SGI 1200 is a low-end Linux- and Intel-based server offering that mounts in racks. It's designed for use in server farms and is likely to compete with the Cobalt RAQ 3.

The SGI services to be announced are intended to "make Linux a safe choice" for enterprise customers. SGI will offer "a full range of industry-specific consulting services, including advanced architecture, design and implementation, clustering services, technology porting services, Linux solutions, and best-of-breed consulting engagement methodology". And SGI will offer 23 Linux courses, five of them LPI (Linux Professional Institute) certified, at 29 training centers in locations around the world.

Related stories--XFS:
Linux.com: XFS - What it means for Linux (Aug 17, 1999)
The Register: SGI releases XFS file system to Linux community (Aug 12, 1999)
EE Times: SGI begins releasing open-source code (Aug 12, 1999)
CRN: SGI To Support Linux With XFS (May 24, 1999)
LinuxWorld: SGI will open source to XFS -- Release may or may not be GPL'd (May 22, 1999)
SGI: XFS: A Next Generation Journalled 64-Bit Filesystem With Guaranteed Rate I/O (May 21, 1999)
InfoWorld: SGI extends an OS crown jewel to Linux effort (May 21, 1999)

Related stories--other high-end code coming to Linux:
Linux Today Feature: IBM on 'Open Source' Solaris: Get Real! (Jan 29, 2000)
VNU NET: IBM making good progress on open source plan (Jan 26, 2000)
PC Week UK: Irix takes back seat as SGI goes for Linux (Aug 02, 1999)
CNET News.com: SGI counts on Linux for new servers (Jul 30, 1999)
CNET News.com: SGI chief hints at next steps in comeback (Jul 23, 1999)