LinuxWorld 2003 Report

Throngs of people flooded into the Moscone center in San Francisco to get a glimpse at what is new in the Linux world. Once again, the Linuxworld Expo came to the West Coast making a stop at the Moscone center in San Francisco August 5-7. The show floor was filled with a mix of software and hardware vendors. Somehow, I was not expecting to find so many hardware vendors at what is otherwise a show about simply an operating system. Editor’s Note: Mr. Wread sumbitted this report the day after the expo, and it has been stuck in mailing list server purgatory.

Some of the larger booths on the show floor were Sun, IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, Red Hat, SuSE, HP, Dell, Computer Associates, and AMD. The vast majority of the vendors plied for large walleted customers, displaying products like expensive RAID cards, racks full of servers setup in Beowulf clusters, high-end management software, database software, visualization and video editing workstations. All the things that a Linux geek dreams of owning but very few can afford, except those who were taking time off work to do a little vendor shopping for their company. Some of the less represented in the exhibits themselves were those from the open-source community. Many a company chatted up the charms of open-source software but few had products that were licensed under the GNU public license. Red Hat, SuSE, Gentoo, and one small booth called “Open Source” were the best known of the open source booths. One booth was trying to get people to sign up for a Linux credit card, a percentage of which would support open source software.

The LinuxWorld Expo is an interesting mix of the corporate world and the Linux community rolled into one. Since floor space requires money, closed source vendors such as AMD, Sun, IBM, and Oracle owned most of the larger booths. Red Hat and SuSE had the largest booths for companies using the open source model. SuSE was right next to the Red Hat booth.

Some of the highlights of the show are covered below:

These were my favorite of the whole show. These robots scoot around powered by Via C3 processors running Linux with a radio antenna on top. From this photo it is evident that they experimented with different video cameras.

The Via booth was very crowded with people. It was difficult to get this shot and the one before it without having someone block the camera.

This is an 8 channel serial ATA RAID host adapter made by Highpoint.

Also at the Highpoint booth was a PCI-X Serial ATA RAID host adapter.

Highpoint had an external Serial ATA adapter. This promises to be a high-performance external drive interface. Not even Firewire (IEEE 1394) (50MB/s) can match the speed of Serial ATA (150MB/s).

Vovida had some interesting open source protocols.

This system was in the AMD booth section and contained a massive beowulf cluster of AMD Opterons and Athlon MPs. Under the software management system the cluster could be broken up into several different clusters. The software was designed for fail-safe operation so that if a single server in the cluster died it would not bring down the whole cluster. Something wasn’t working quite right on the system when I saw it so the exhibitor is keeping the monitor down.

This Appro is a dual-processor Opteron 242 workstation with 1.6 gigahertz CPU’s supporting up to 16 gigabytes of RAM. The system had an 8X AGP PRO slot. The system was running SuSE Linux Enterprise edition for AMD-64 service pack 2 showing off Tachyon ray tracing software.

Close up of previous photo.

This system is a Linux setup designed to take the place of a proprietary UNIX system. At the heart of the system is SuSE Enterprise Server specially modified by Computer Associates to support z/VM management.

There were many Opteron systems at the Linuxworld Expo. This just so happened to be the largest system running 4 Opterons. The box ran the AMD reference design motherboard with support for up to 32 gigabytes of memory. SuSE Linux Enterprise Edition for AMD 64 was running on the system.

This is an AMD Opteron system rendering a chessboard.

These systems were running PYX’s iSCSI on Red Hat. iSCSI is an Internet Protocol (IP) based storage networking standard for linking data storage facilities. PYX’s software acts as a middle ware between the computer and the SCSI devices, generating the appropriate SCSI commands and data request and sending them along plain CAT 5 cabling. No additional hardware is necessary. iSCSI encapsulates data and, if necessary, encryption procedures. The protocol is bi-directional and can also return data requests.

This was in the AMD booth. The screen shot tells everything.

Microsoft had a couple of these large posters advertising Windows Services for UNIX. Somehow I don’t think many of the attendees of LinuxWorld will be looking at this real seriously.

At the Red Hat booth there was a beta of the next generation Red Hat OS, possibly to be named 10 (when I asked why it would not be 9.1 the exhibitor explained that Red Hat was getting away from fractional releases for the desktop software). Some of the new features in the next generation Red Hat OS will be support for multi-monitor setup both with dual head video cards and with multiple video cards in one system. The graphical utility for configuring multiple monitors looked quite good but was not finished yet. The RPM package manager is also in for an update. Some of the things that will be improved are more control over the installation, upgrading, and removal of software. The graphical utility will support downgrading to previous versions as well. Using the RPM configuration program to upgrade or install programs will be more flexible because there will be the ability to have multiple servers to download updates from, rather than from a single source.

Free software has come full circle. At this show it was Sun that was giving away lots of software such as Solaris 9, and Star Office. I didn’t find nearly the number of freebies at Red Hat or SuSE’s booths. But, if one sat through their entire presentation, SuSE was giving away a stuffed beanbag toy resembling an iguana, (their mascot). Perhaps Sun thought they could emulate the success of the Linux distros in popularizing their software by giving it away. Sun gave out raffle tickets to get a copy of their new Linux desktop software code-named “Mad Hatter” when it comes out. The expected release date for Mad Hatter is by the end of 2003.

Dell had an unexciting presence at the expo. I inquired as to whether there would be a desktop release of Dells running Linux any time soon. Their first response was that there was not sufficient demand to warrant selling Linux boxes for the desktop. Their second response was that Microsoft was putting sufficient licensing pressure on Dell to make it less economical to sell Linux boxes than to just bundle Windows.

SuSE gave a presentation in which they displayed their latest OS running plenty of applications that are usually found on a Windows PC. Some of the applications being emulated on SuSE were Microsoft Internet Explorer, Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Excel, Apple QuickTime, and Quicken. Internet Explorer was shown playing a QuickTime movie preview in a browser window.

In addition to all the software vendors at the show, there were loads of vendors showing off their new servers and mainframes. IBM had a Z series 990 mainframe on the show floor. Appros, HP, Dell, IBM, and Rackable systems all had servers on the show floor.

After spending hours on the show floor and talking to lots of exhibitors and attendees alike, it looks to me as though Linux has a very rosy future. During an IBM keynote speech, the speaker gave a figure of 28% compound growth rate in servers. The hardware support is out there and more and more tier one vendors are shipping Linux on their servers and workstations. There is plenty of exciting new software programs for Linux relating to server management, database, programming, and the core OS itself. Linux has proven itself a stable, secure, and high availability OS to the people that make the major buying decisions. I look forward to next year’s LinuxWorld Expo.

Olin Wread is a student at Humboldt State University
studying Computer Information Systems. He has been a
Linux user since 1998. In his spare time he enjoys
single track mountain biking.


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