LINUXWORLD: Group plans sturdier 'carrier-grade' Linux

A group of major hardware and software vendors is expected to announce plans this week to develop a new version of Linux optimized for large servers used by the telecommunication industry, officials involved with the announcement said.

A coalition of vendors including Hewlett-Packard Co. will detail plans Wednesday to develop a new "carrier-grade" version of the open source operating system, said David Snow, product marketing manager for HP's carrier-grade server team. The announcement will be made at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo, which is taking place this week in New York.

HP earlier Monday announced two new servers for carriers based on an existing Linux distribution. The planned version to be detailed Wednesday is expected to be more finely tuned for carrier use than existing versions, possibly with support for emerging types of networks that converge voice and data services, although officials declined to discuss details ahead of the announcement.

Servers used by carriers traditionally have been based on Unix, and are required to comply with telecommunication industry standards such as NEBS (Network Equipment Building Standard).

"In the telecommunication industry there's a very strong presence of Unix," Snow said. "But many companies are interested in Linux as an alternative to Unix."

Linux software maker Red Hat Inc. will participate in the announcement with HP and others, according to Paul Cormier, vice president of engineering at Red Hat. The effort will be managed by Open Source Development Lab Inc. (OSDL), a nonprofit research lab backed by industry giants including Intel Corp., IBM Corp., as well as many of the top Linux distributors, he said.

An OSDL spokeswoman would not comment on the announcement but confirmed that the group plans to take part in a press conference Wednesday at LinuxWorld.

Separately this week, Red Hat said it will preview the Red Hat Linux Advanced Server, a new version of the operating system designed for large enterprise servers. Red Hat has been running the software on some systems internally for about three months, Cormier said. A public testing period is due to begin within 30 days, with the final version of the software due out by midyear, he said.

Red Hat Linux Advanced Server is based on the company's current implementation of the open source operating system, and will add additional multiprocessor support as well as improved fail-over and load balancing features, according to Cormier.

Multiprocessing is a feature of the current version of the Linux kernel. Red Hat Linux currently supports up to eight processors, according to Al Gillen, a systems analyst with analyst company IDC. Red Hat competitor Turbolinux Inc. has made advances in fail-over and load balancing support, he said.

Like other Linux distributors, Red Hat typically upgrades its distribution about every six months, when upgrades to the Linux kernel are made available. The Advanced Server version won't follow that six-month cycle, Cormier said.

"There's always a crunch from various distributors to get out the latest release," Cormier said. "Our goal here is to get the latest stable release out."

Many of the features to be included with Advanced Server are also requirements for the carrier-grade version to be discussed Wednesday, according to Cormier. "There's a big overlap in the middle between what enterprises need and what the telecommunication companies need."

(IDC is a division of International Data Group Inc., parent company of IDG News Service.)

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