Originally Published: Friday, 10 December 1999 Author: Scott Nipp
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

1999: The Year of the Penguin?

Linux has been the buzzword throughout the computer industry for well over a year now. This past year has seen incredible growth for Linux in virtually every aspect. What started out as a college project by one lonely Scandinavian has become the fastest growing operating system in the IT world today. The success of Linux is well deserved, as it has enjoyed a worldwide development effort the likes of which has never been seen before. Linux is a relative teenager when compared to the venerable UNIX, developed in the late 60s, and even the various Microsoft operating systems that have been around in one form or another since the early 80s. Let's take a look at what this year has meant to Linux as an operating system, and the greater Linux community....

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Linux has been the buzzword throughout the computer industry for well over a year now. This past year has seen incredible growth for Linux in virtually every aspect. What started out as a college project by one lonely Scandinavian has become the fastest growing operating system in the IT world today. The success of Linux is well deserved, as it has enjoyed a worldwide development effort the likes of which has never been seen before. Linux is a relative teenager when compared to the venerable UNIX, developed in the late 60s, and even the various Microsoft operating systems that have been around in one form or another since the early 80s. Let's take a look at what this year has meant to Linux as an operating system, and the greater Linux community.

The computer heavyweights pick up Linux and run with it. Dell, IBM, HP, and Compaq have all begun offering systems shipped pre-installed with the Linux operating system. This allows for companies to forego the time and worry of getting a Linux system installed from scratch, not to mention paying for another operating system which they do not intend to use. This also gives companies and individuals the peace of mind and confidence that the system they purchase will be able to run Linux without having the worry of hardware support for some device in the system. These companies are offering Linux systems on a wide variety of platforms, from the higher end quad-processor servers, to the much more typical desktop systems. This choice by the big boys in the PC manufacturing arena is further validation of the success of Linux, and is a vote of confidence in the continued growth and success of Linux in general.

Support offerings aplenty. The days of only being able to get support for Linux from newsgroups, or your buddy who just happens to be a UNIX guru, are thankfully over. Newsgroups have been a great source of support in my experience, and I have been able to resolve countless problems myself through a little research, but more mainstream support offerings were needed for Linux to get beyond the niche it once held. These support offerings now take the form of not only the Linux vendor who developed your distribution, but companies whose sole business purpose is selling support for Linux. Linuxcare is the largest Linux support organization to date, and offers support contracts ranging from the typical 7AM to 5PM Monday through Friday option, to the more critical support level of 7x24 with same day resolution. Linuxcare and similar companies offer organizations large and small the confidence that they are not on their own with there Linux solutions. This type of support is critical to bringing Linux into the small and mid-sized businesses of America and around the world. Linux support has matured greatly this past year to really begin including the kind of enterprise class support which business today demands.

Software galore. One of the biggest weaknesses of Linux has been in the number of commercial applications available. This issue is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. A number of software companies have ported, or at least announce the intention to port, their products to Linux. Already we have most of the large database products available under Linux, including Oracle, Sybase, and Informix. SAP has announced intentions to port R/3 to run on Linux, and Lotus has recently dropped the Domino R5 server for Netware in favor of running and supporting that product on Linux. These server-side applications are all a great benefit for Linux, and the desktop applications do not lag far behind. Corel for instance already has WordPerfect 8 available for Linux, and has announced intentions of porting all of their products to Linux. Loki is another Linux related startup, which is addressing a niche market for desktop Linux systems, games. Loki specializes in porting existing commercial games to run on Linux, and already has had success with Civilization: Call to Power, Railroad Tycoon II Gold, and the soon-to-come Quake III Arena. This is just scratching the surface of the current trend of software companies to develop or port products to Linux.

Lets not forget the Linux kernel itself. Early this year the Linux kernel stepped up to the new 2.2 series. This new kernel series has added a plethora of new or enhanced features and hardware support including, integrated support for additional processors like the PPC and ARM, support for additional filesystems, new code for the sound subsystems, greatly improved support for multiple processors, and much more. The 2.2 kernel series has also become even more stable, more secure, and has received an overall performance boost over the older 2.0 kernel series. The XFree86 project has also made great strides this past year. XFree86 now boasts support for several new chipsets such as, the Banshee, Intels i740, the Matrox G400 and many more. The enhancements to the kernel and XFree86 help to expand the already vary broad base of hardware on which Linux will run, thus bring the possibility of Linux to many more individuals.

This has been a very exciting year for the Linux community. Advances in several areas have helped to propel Linux into the media spotlight, and bring it squarely into the sights of many large organizations. New support options as well as the availability of popular commercial software products have also served to make Linux a much more viable platform for a large number of individuals and organizations. The availability of supported Linux systems from your favorite PC manufacturer has become mainstream this past year, and is very exciting. The success of Linux companies such as Red Hat serves to validate the Open Source software development model. I think it is safe to say that 1999 has been an extremely exciting year for Linux, and looking forward, 2000 appears to be all that much better.

Scott Nipp is a Technical Solutions Consultant at Sprint Paranet. He spends his time there fighting the good fight, advocating Linux to his managers and customers.





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