VA Linux moving on infrastructure front

ITworld.com –

With its emphasis on hardware-software integration, VA Linux stands out from a pack of software-oriented Linux start-ups. But, as Linux continues to grow, VA Linux will come into the gun sights of some other players. These potential rivals are very well established and can call upon the resources in their very full coffers to counter the hardware-software upstart.

VA Linux Founder, President, CEO and Director Larry Augustin addressed this issue in a conversation prior to a forum focused on ecommerce. Augustin led a panel, which focused on Linux's readiness for ecommerce, at the Internet Commerce Expo in Boston.

Augustin was asked how VA Linux will fare when IBM, Compaq, and others tout themselves as born-again Linux adherents. "It's easy for anybody to say they're whatever company they want to be, whether it's truly a 'Linux' company or not," said Augustin. "For our part, we're the only company offering the full level of Linux services to customers with one point of contact."

He continued, "When we build systems, we build them for Linux, and for the markets where Linux is strong."

While Augustin started his business with the purpose of building inexpensive workstations, he said that today servers account for the main share of VA Linux business.

"We're selling into the developer [ranks]," he said. "In the ASP [application service provider] and ISP [Internet service provider] markets, those people look at using Linux first. Among the dot-coms, they are looking to Linux first, but that may not be the case for traditional business customers yet."

An important hurdle for Linux in the enterprise is the database. While the operating system has quickly found use as a Web server platform, the database is an important part of today's ecommerce system mix that may have for the most part eluded the Linux touch.

"Our very large databases still primarily run on Solaris," said VA Linux user Al Holmes, CTO of New York City's Promotions.com. Commercial tools and databases are still largely a Solaris game, said Holmes, whose firm specializes in integrated Web-based marketing promotions.

The benefit of systems like those from VA Linux at the moment lies largely in the realm of return on investment, said Holmes. "I can get three or four Linux boxes for the equivalent of some [Sun] SPARC boxes," said Holmes. He said that he was running over 100 VA Linux servers.

Said Augustin of VA Linux, "Oracle [databases] on Linux are now proving to be a very stable basis on which to build Internet commerce sites."

For VA Linux, the path to the enterprise has lately led to acquisitions. While the company was already producing rackmount systems, Augustin noted that it beefed up its offerings recently with the purchase of rackmount house TruSolutions. Storage capabilities, he noted, were boosted with the recent purchase of Netattach. Consulting, too, will continue to be a focus as VA Linux seeks to become an enterprise computing player.

Said Augustin: "We want to be able to provide consulting services to help users build the needed architecture. Then we will deliver to the customers a compete system, all as one pack." Factory-built-to-spec systems are a major VA Linux focus, he said, the goal being to overcome niggling integration details that, for some Linux implementers, can become burdensome.

Linux servers accounted for just under 25 percent of server software units shipped last year, according to Dan Kusnetzky, program vice president, system software, IDC, Framingham, Mass. That does not translate to very much in revenue at this point, he said.

"Most of the data shows Linux is used to run Internet infrastructure. Quite a bit down the list we find it being used for applications, data bases and things like that," said Kuznetzky.

Among issues that Linux must face in the enterprise, said Kusnetzky, is lack of high- availability commercial fail-over software. Enterprise management framework tool support is also short today, he said. "We are seeing some solutions come into being but there is work to be done," said Kusnetzky.

Among recent large-volume enterprise sales for VA Linux is NetLedger. The company, a financial application service provider, or ASP, based in San Mateo, Calif., claims the largest Linux installation of Oracle apps worldwide. VA Linux Professional Services provided NetLedger with additional expertise in resolving kernel and NFS issues as they arose, NetLedger CIO Dave Durkee told Internet Commerce Expo attendees.

"We had two problems with Linux, but got them fixed very quickly," said Durkee. "One was addressing Oracle file sizes that caused Linux to choke. VA Linux had a kernel patch in two days."

"The other was NFS [network file system] issues. VA Linux solved these in about two weeks," he said. Durkee and others suggest that the massive Open Source community effort is resulting in surprisingly dependable software.

"My experience with the fervor of Linux has been quite positive. There aren't any weird meltdowns, Durkee said, who noted that the ability to address large files is something the Linux community must still work on.

Linux servers accounted for just under 25 percent of server software units shipped last year, according to Dan Kusnetzky, program vice president of system software for the International Data Corporation (IDC), based in Framingham, Mass. That does not translate into very much in revenue at this point, he said.

"Most of the data shows that Linux is used to run Internet infrastructure. Quite a bit down the list we find it being used for applications, databases, and things like that," said Kusnetzky.

Another issue that Linux must face in the enterprise, said Kusnetzky, is a lack of high-availability commercial failover software. Enterprise management framework tool support is also short today, he said. "We are seeing some solutions come into being, but there is work to be done," he concluded.

Among recent large-volume enterprise sales for VA Linux is NetLedger. The company, a financial ASP based in San Mateo, Calif., claims the largest Linux installation of Oracle apps worldwide. VA Linux Professional Services provided NetLedger with additional expertise in resolving kernel and NFS issues as they arose, NetLedger CIO Dave Durkee told Internet Commerce Expo attendees.

"We had two problems with Linux, but got them fixed very quickly," said Durkee. "One was addressing Oracle file sizes that caused Linux to choke. VA Linux had a kernel patch in two days.

"The other was NFS [network file system] issues. VA Linux solved these in about two weeks," he said. Durkee and others suggest that the massive open source community effort is resulting in surprisingly dependable software.

"My experience with the fervor of Linux has been quite positive. The system is as good as Unix. There aren't any weird meltdowns," Durkee said. He also noted that the ability to address large files is something the Linux community must still work on.

Includes material from IDG News Service

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