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8/2/2005
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Making Open Source Play Nice In The Data Center

Novell pledges to certify applications running in high-performance computing environments on Hewlett-Packard servers and to offer technical support for users of JBoss Inc.'s Enterprise Middleware System.

Now that Linux and a variety of open-source applications have reached a high level of credibility among some business-technology managers for use in data-center environments, vendors of open-source products are trying to convince more IT shops to give serious consideration to implementing open-source technology. The latest moves came Tuesday when Novell pledged in separate announcements to certify a number of software applications running in high-performance computing environments on Hewlett-Packard servers and to offer technical support for users of JBoss Inc.'s Enterprise Middleware System.

Novell now offers a high-performance computing option as part of the company's Validated Configuration Program, which the company unveiled in March. When companies in the electronic-design-automation, financial-services, life-sciences, manufacturing, and oil and gas markets are looking for a highly tuned package of high-performance operating system, server, and applications, Novell and HP want Linux on x86-based blade servers to be a no-brainer.

As such, the companies have tested and certified SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 and HP BladeSystem servers running a variety of relevant, high-performance applications, including Scali's Manage/MPI Connect for infrastructure and ongoing management; Altair Engineering's PBS Professional for workload management and job scheduling; PolyServe's Matrix Server and Cluster Volume Manager for NFS file serving; TurboWorx's Suite Builder, Enterprise Hub, and Cluster Manager for workflow management and application performance; Meiosys's MetaCluster HPC for application virtualization and checkpoint restart; and Axceleon's Enfuzion for parametric scheduling and job management. Other industry-specific components include DataSynapse Inc.'s GridServer for resource management in the financial-services market and United Devices Inc.'s grid software for life-sciences applications.

Novell in May launched its first Validated Configuration Program option, which included SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9, JBoss Application Server 4.0, Oracle Database and Real Application Clusters, and HP BladeSystem servers. Novell created the program to help companies figure out how different types of open-source and proprietary hardware and software fit together. The company and its partners "take on the challenge of putting together frequently used components in a test environment, validate that they all work, and then provide configuration and testing information," a Novell spokesman says.

Novell, long a fan of JBoss' open-source application-server technology, also said Tuesday it will provide support directly to customers of JBoss' Enterprise Middleware System, which includes JBoss Application Server, the Hibernate object/relational mapping engine, the Apache Tomcat JSP/servlet engine, and JBoss Portal.

Novell's push to provide IT decision-makers with a greater measure of confidence in Linux comes just one day after SpikeSource Inc. introduced two services to help companies better understand how open-source software can fit into their existing IT environments. SpikeSource, a startup that specializes in open-source software testing, certification, and support, Monday released an updated SpikeSource Core stack, which includes made-to-order installations that are fully configured. The company also introduced its Business Readiness Ratings, developed in conjunction with Carnegie Mellon University and Intel, to provide a standardized way for companies to evaluate the maturity of different open-source applications.

Developers can visit SpikeSource's Web site to create fully configured made-to-order stacks by selecting components from a list of SpikeSource-supported applications, libraries, Web servers, and tools. SpikeSource assembles the selected components, and all dependent components, and configures them into a fully integrated and certified open-source stack. The company includes Network Installer to reduce installation time and a Configuration Manager to make future stack and component reconfigurations easier.

The updated Core stack now supports Red Hat Enterprise Linux v.4 and SuSE Linux Professional 9.2, in addition to the Fedora Core 3, Red Hat Enterprise Linux v.3, and SuSE Linux Professional 9.1 open-source operating systems. On the application side, SpikeSource added PostgreSQL database; the phpPgAdmin PostgreSQL administration tool; pgsql JDBC drivers; Xalan for transforming XML documents into HTML, text, or other XML document types; and the Xerces Java parser to its list of supported components.

Companies using open-source applications are likely to set up some sort of governance board or incubation center to make sure these applications operate properly in their IT environments. "The problem is, this is a lot of overhead for IT," SpikeSource CEO Kim Polese says. With SpikeSource's made-to-order operating-system and application configurations, companies check off the components they want on the vendor's Web site and then click on a build button. Within 20 minutes, the user should know whether their configuration is possible and can download the components from SpikeSource's site, Polese adds.

Recognizable vendors such as Novell and HP, as well as startups such as SpikeSource and SourceLabs Inc., have identified application compatibility as a major hurdle to widespread open-source adoption. It's no longer enough for open-source advocates to proclaim that Linux and other open-source components are ready for the big sandbox of the data center. They now have to prove that open source plays well with others, especially software that companies have invested in heavily over the years.

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