At 20, the formerly underground, often dismissed, cult-worshipped, many-flavored, unusually stable, increasingly compatible open-source Linux operating system is getting ready for another big step into the enterprise with high availability features previously found only in commercial OSes.
The High Availability Working Group within the Linux Foundation is specc'ing a version of the OS stack designed for five-nines uptime when running on clusters of ordinary servers, rather than the highly redundant hardware HA operating systems have typically used in th past.
Clustering can give servers "a higher availability than any single one of them would achieve," according to Lars Marowsky-Bree, a Novell engineer who is the working group's architect.
The Foundation announced the new working group and new goal at its conference yesterday in San Francisco, where it also announced version 5 of its Carrier Grade Linux, which is designed with far higher reliability in its file systems, more data portability features, support for HA-enabling redundant hardware, better diagnostics, performance tuning and debugging.
CGL became available in 2002, three years after the development project was begun in 1999.
Linux has made a lot of progress since then in technical quality and capability. More importantly it's been accepted as a mainstream data-center OS rather than something to run on end-of-lifing hardware when the data-center crew needed another firewall or access or other single-function server but no budget to pay for it.
It's become accepted enough to let its public mouthpieces turn into smugly superior jerks – the antithesis of the modest, inclusive approach of Linux inventor Linus Torvalds. ("My life isn't glamorous," a recent blog entry begins.)
"I think we just don't care that much [about Microsoft] anymore," Linux Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin told Network World. "They used to be our big rival, but now it's kind of like kicking a puppy."
Linux has moved from the fringes of IT to the core of the clusters that run "70 percent of global equity trading," and many of the Internet's largest entities, including Amazon, Google and Facebook, he said.
Maybe so. It has certainly moved into a lot of areas no one ever expected – embedded devices, the kernel of smartphones, large data centers, small VMs that launch from USBs and everything in between.
It and the open-source movement from which it emerged and of which it is the most successful representative, have scaled to the point that Linux community partners, not commercial developers, are the ones at risk of having their intellectual property stolen, copyrights infringed and patents violated, Zemlin said.
The Linux Foundation is starting its celebration of the 20th anniversary of Linux, created by then-unknown coder Linus Torvalds, who published his kernel source code, then issued it under a General Public License.
In the ensuing 20 years it became the largest collective software development project in history and the scourge of commercial vendors including Microsoft and Oracle, that tried to suppress open source with as much FUD as they did products from commercial competitors.
They found out people like the price of Open Source, and the ability to change it to meet their own needs, especially if they can see that work picked up and advanced by others and feel as if they contributed something to a community that created a revolution just by existing.
Want to see the video? The Story of Linux: commemorating 20 Years of the Linux Operating System.