Originally Published: Wednesday, 12 April 2000 Author: Jeff Alami
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Linux Expo North America Report: Part 2

The exhibit floor was quite a bit less busy today, and people are concentrating on the software companies with large booths, namely Red Hat, Stormix, Corel, and MandrakeSoft. Some parts of the floor were empty, however -- this might make some exhibitors think twice about coming back to this event.

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The exhibit floor was quite a bit less busy today, and people are concentrating on the software companies with large booths, namely Red Hat, Stormix, Corel, and MandrakeSoft. Some parts of the floor were empty, however -- this might make some exhibitors think twice about coming back to this event.

I caught up with Ted Cook, CEO of Enhanced Software Technologies, the developers of the BRU software package for Linux and Unix systems. About EST's presence at the event, he said that the company was "looking to getting additional exposure in Canada." EST's never been to a Linux show in Canada, so they wanted to find out the interest from local resellers and clients for their backup application.

I asked about Atipa Linux Solutions' announcement in February to acquire EST, and Mr. Cook explained that the company's business model wouldn't change -- it would simply be a matter of more resources available. As for bundling BRU with Atipa systems, Atipa has been doing that for a while now anyway. I'm guessing that Atipa noticed the interest in this bundling, and decided to use its recent financing to acquire companies that have already been partners.

What about open source? "We have considered that," explained the CEO. "We've developed our CRU crash recovery utility for Linux and released that as an open source product last summer." And BRU itself? "We have considered the possibility of opening up source code to BRU," he says, but so far there aren't any formal plans. Now that BRU has more funding from Atipa, Mr. Cook mentioned that making BRU open source is not out of the question.

Ted Cook later added, "we have been really honored by the Linux community in terms of their acceptance of our product, even though we are commercial software." As for contributions to the community, EST has worked to certify tape drives for use with GNU and Linux. "Even without going open source, we have enjoyed a very good relationship with the Linux developer community."

One of the most exciting announcements of the event was the creation of a new service for software management called WhatIfLinux.com. Created by Acrylis, WhatIfLinux.com offers systems administrators the ability to monitor their systems and the software running on them, determine if updates are needed, and test updates, installations, and uninstallations before actually going ahead with them. I spoke to Reg Broughton, President of Acrylis, Allan Cantos, VP of Engineering, and Keith Erskine, Product Manager.

How does WhatIfLinux.com work? Acrylis' Product Manager explains. The sysadmin runs an Java-based server agent on the server that needs to be monitored. This agent will investigate the system and determine what software is installed and how it's configured, and securely report this back to the WhatIfLinux.com servers. On the desktop side, the client uses a Java application which shows the server's configuration and provides for testing new software implementations. The WhatIfLinux.com servers hold a knowledgebase of Linux software and the latest news such as security alerts and distribution updates and lets the sysadmin know which of these items are applicable to which server. The service costs US$100 per month for the first server, and the price per server decreases as the number of servers increases.

Why choose Java? "Portability," says Reg Broughton. "At moment, it's Linux only," but Java gives them the ability to consider immediate porting of its software to other platforms. About the licensing nature of the software provided, it's currently proprietary, "although we have plans to bring the console and the agent to the open source world at some point. The knowledgebase, which remains on our side, will remain proprietary."

The interesting aspect of WhatIfLinux.com is that the service is the first of its kind, and thus is quite innovative. To see such an innovative product available first for GNU and Linux is encouraging, and further shows that the community is capable of producing new software rather than just equivalents of software available for other operating systems.

I suspect we'll see more examples of this kind of innovation as Linux progresses. Many companies with new ideas will look at the marketplace and realize that it's best to use their idea in the Linux world rather than the Windows world, mainly because of the hyper-competitive nature of the Windows world. Also, Windows software developers have to worry about Microsoft deciding to compete with them at some point. This problem isn't as acute in the Linux community, and will help accelerate the creation of innovative products for Linux.

Jeff Alami, jeff@linux.com





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