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Linux Tackles Old Foes With New Tools

Next in tech Internetnews.com editors provide an early roadmap for tech's direction in 2007.

Linux users have much to look forward to in 2007, beginning with the end of the SCO saga, which has raged on since 2003. The year will also mark the birth of a new GPL and a new flagship enterprise Linux distribution from the current enterprise Linux leader, Red Hat.

Put this together amid the release of Microsoft Windows Vista, the company's new operating system, and open and closed source developers are in for a big year.

The litigiousness of the SCO case increased with Novell's involvement. The IBM case was first expected to go to trial this February, with the Novell case to follow.

But recent legal wrangling may well result in Novell going first. It's hard to tell given the number of appeals in progress. Regardless, SCO is scheduled to be in the courtroom with either IBM and/or Novell in a jury case in 2007.

Whether the company makes it is another story. Perhaps some other dramatic twist will derail its legal vigilance. The answer one way or another will reveal itself.

SCO has called the GPL version 2 (under which the Linux kernel is licensed) "unconstitutional." Linux kernel developers at the opposite end of the spectrum think that the GPL v 2 isn't broken and is still the best license for Linux.

But love it or hate it, the GPL will finally be revised in 2007.

The process for GPL version 3 began in 2006 with two drafts: the first in January and the second in July.

Among the topics tackled by GPL v3 include DRM and patents. According to the schedule published by the GPL's authors at the Free Software Foundation, the new license will be finalized in 2007 but not before one more discussion draft is released.

The third discussion draft was originally expected in 2006, but the Novell-Microsoft deal derailed that event somewhat and has added new impetus and context that a third draft is expected to include.

Novell-Microsoft deal fallout

During the press conference announcing the deal with Novell, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer wagged his finger at the Linux community warning them to get in line to sign deals with Microsoft. In 2006, no one other than Novell took the bait.

Novell faced the wrath of its employees and the open source community as the result of its deal.

And now it seems unlikely that any other Linux distribution will want to follow in Novell's footsteps in 2007.

The Linux kernel

In 2006, five Linux kernels were released, and there is no reason to suspect that 2007 will be any different.

The first new kernel of 2007 will be the 2.6.20 kernel, which will include the KVM Kernel-based Virtual Machine for Linux.

Real Time will also come to the mainstream Linux kernel in 2007. Real Time for Linux is being implemented by a series of patches integrated into the mainstream kernel.

Interrupt threads are expected in the 2.6.20 kernel and by the time the 2.6.22 kernel rolls around, all of the Real Time patches are expected to be integrated.

Linux distros

Without question, the Linux distribution event of 2007 will be the release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 (RHEL 5). The current version, RHEL 4, debuted in February 2005.

RHEL 5 will introduce a long list of new features to Red Hat's flagship product, which recently hit the beta 2 development milestone.

The new release from Red Hat will likely be followed at some point by a release of Oracle's Unbreakable Linux, which is based on RHEL.

In 2006, Oracle's Linux play had little to no measurable impact on Red Hat's financial performance. The question is whether that trend will continue in 2007.

Beyond RHEL, Red Hat's community Linux project Fedora will likely release both Fedora Core 7 and 8. One of those releases will be the first official Fedora Core Project release with a LiveCD enabling a user to run Fedora directly from a CD (or DVD) without the need to install it on the hard drive.

Novell will not be releasing a new version of its flagship SUSE Enterprise Linux Server (SLES) in 2007, having just released version 10 in 2006. Novell's community OpenSUSE project, however, is likely to release version 10.3 and possibly 10.4 in 2007. The most recent OpenSUSE release is 10.2, which debuted in December.

The Debian GNU/Linux Project is expected to release its next version, codenamed Etch, in 2007. Etch follows Sarge, which debuted in June of 2005 after a very lengthy delay.

Etch is already delayed as well, having first been expected before the end of 2006.

Vista's effect on it all

While Linux users are used to relatively frequent releases, Microsoft Windows users are not. With the release of Windows Vista for consumers in early 2007 and Windows Longhorn for servers at the end of the year, many enterprises will be evaluating their choice in operating systems.

Will Vista be a boon for Linux?. Considering that some, including Gartner, don't expect Vista adoption to hit significant numbers until 2008, the true extent of the Vista effect may not be known for certain in 2007.

Then again with the SCO case potentially being over in 2007, a new GPL, Real Time Linux and a new enterprise distribution from Red Hat, the Linux world has plenty to keep it busy in 2007 without worrying (too much) about Vista.