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9/29/2004
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Lightning Strikes Linux Servers

Linux server hardware and software makers are targeting new markets--and creating new controversies.

The Linux server world has been humming with activity this month. From IBM to Novell to a startup called Furthermore, Linux server hardware and software manufacturers are targeting new markets and, of course, finding themselves embroiled in controversy, even in litigation.

First off, IBM debuted its eServer OpenPower family of entry-level Linux servers. Aimed squarely at Sun's Solaris boxes, the eServers start at an attractive price point of $5,000. The line is a direct assault on the entry-level market, which is currently dominated by Sun.

Big Blue is also arming itself for a confrontation against HP, by positioning Linux as a preferable alternative to proprietary versions of Unix (read that: Solaris and HP-UX). An IBM statement noted: "As Sun loses sleep over the growing perception that Solaris is anti-Linux and HP brings PA-RISC to an end, IBM is introducing an entirely new server line."

That's pretty harsh language, accusing Scott McNealy of losing sleep! Sun has shot back though, informing IBM that the eServer is a "feeble attempt" to make good in a market Sun dominates. Now, now, people, sticks and stones.

In reality, recent figures from IDC showed not only that IBM was number one in market share in the overall server market, but also that Sun had regained its top spot in Unix servers. (The Linux server market numbers were not available.) The battle now is heating up for dominance in the $1.6 billion entry-level Linux server market.

Simultaneously, Novell Open Enterprise Server is currently undergoing closed beta testing by the largest beta testing pool in Novell's history. That follows the largest beta application response for a single Novell product, according to the company. Novell found that of the beta applicants planning to implement Linux in the next 18 months, 48 percent are looking to Linux as a replacement for Windows 2000/2003. Why? Top motivators were: stability (33 percent), to take advantage of open source (30 percent), and cost savings (25 percent).

With Linux becoming increasingly popular for just those reasons, litigation, too, is becoming de rigeur. We all know about SCO vs. The World (and in particular IBM), but the newest kid on Judge Wapner's case load is Furthermore, a startup service provider that offers an online service resembling a newspaper. Two open source developers created the service. One of those was Mambo. According to Furthermore, when the project was finished, "code was taken without our permission by a lead member of the Mambo Development Team and put into Mambo's core program." Ooops.

But wait! Mambo says it has done nothing wrong. Mambo forum activity has turned quite nasty these days, and Furthermore claims huge amounts of code have been downloaded from its servers. In the end, we'll have to see how the courts resolve this dispute. But until then, we can be sure that stories like that one, as well as product introductions such as Novell's and IBM's, will keep Linux servers in the news for days to come.

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