Companies that sell software and hardware around the Linux open-source operating system have known for some time that they've tapped into a gold mine, an area of the IT market with plenty of customer interest and enormous growth potential. The growth will continue as long as Linux and other open-source software are considered secure and are sold and serviced as bundles rather than as individual products.
At LinuxWorld in San Francisco on Tuesday, Red Hat Inc. enhanced its profile as a provider of Linux-based security with its "Security in a Networked World" initiative, which is designed to deliver security technologies and policies, identity management, systems monitoring, and security software upgrades. The newly available Red Hat Certificate System is a major part of the initiative, as is the company's work with the Mozilla Foundation and the availability of systems monitoring as part of the Red Hat Network.
The Red Hat Certificate System, part of the Netscape Security Solutions technology the company bought last year from America Online, aims to ensure that only authorized users gain access to specific IT systems and data. The system now includes an integrated smart-card management feature. Red Hat also has worked with the Mozilla Foundation to enable smart-card detection in upcoming versions of the open-source Firefox Web browser and Thunderbird E-mail system. Red Hat Certificate System is a subscription that users have to purchase as part of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4, says Mike Ferris, the company's security-solutions marketing manager.
One of the more pressing uses of smart-card technology is in the federal government, where agencies are working to comply with Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12, signed a year ago. By late June, all federal agencies had to submit to the White House Office of Management and Budget plans for making electronic identity cards available to all employees and contractors. The federal government's push for extensive implementation of smart cards containing cryptographic keys and biometric data is expected to help bring such technologies closer to the mainstream. Since 2001, the Defense Department has issued an estimated 6 million smart cards as part of its Common Access Card program for facilities and computers.
Addressing security of a slightly different nature, Red Hat also said Tuesday that its Red Hat Network, created to provide a delivery mechanism for the company's operating system and software, has been expanded to include a monitoring feature that lets customers get information about the status of their systems, networks, and applications. In just one example of the partnering that's rampant at this LinuxWorld, Red Hat says the monitoring module has 60 pre-built probes, including many for applications from Apache, BEA Systems, MySQL, and Oracle. Red Hat also has moved to partner with Sourcefire Inc. to deliver that company's intrusion=detection appliance that's based on the open-source Snort intrusion-detection standard.
"No customer is interested in Linux per se or open-source per se," says Jan Hichert, CEO of Astaro Corp. The maker of security software and appliances said Tuesday it's part of Novell's Market Start program for partnering with Linux technology providers. "Linux is a business tool used to deliver cost-effective solutions to customers."
Linux's greatest impact has mostly been felt in Unix environments, where IT managers look to replace older proprietary operating systems from Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Sun Microsystems, and others. Red Hat on Tuesday took aim at companies running both its operating system and Sun Solaris by offering unified systems management capabilities through the Red Hat Network. The goal is to eventually get Red Hat customers to migrate fully from Solaris to Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
Linux also has made a strong impression in high-performance computing environments, where relatively inexpensive x86-based servers running Intel or Advanced Micro Devices Inc. microprocessors can be strung together to tackle the compute work previously dominated by monolithic multiprocessor servers. HP has identified Linux as critical to selling its BladeSystem server technology and this week revealed partnerships with both Red Hat and Novell. HP and Red Hat plan to make the latter's Global File System cluster-management software available with HP Serviceguard for Linux, a move expected to help users keep systems up to date with the latest security patches and updates.
Red Hat rival Novell has also disclosed several moves at LinuxWorld this week to partner with recognizable vendors that lend heft to Novell's SuSE Linux Enterprise Server. The latest Novell Validated Configuration Program, which debuted Monday at LinuxWorld, includes SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 and HP BladeSystem servers running a variety of relevant high-performance computing applications, including Scali's Manage/MPI Connect for infrastructure and ongoing management, Altair Engineering's PBS Professional for workload management and job scheduling, and PolyServe's Matrix Server and Cluster Volume Manager for NFS file serving.
Novell also used LinuxWorld as an occasion to unveil its services to resell and support the open-source MySQL database as well as VMware software for creating virtual servers on x86-based systems.