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Linux Is Boring

Reporter's Notebook: There was a time when selling Linux (or even just writing about it) was an evangelical endeavor. Users needed to be sold on Linux's benefits and, more importantly, assured that it actually worked.

LinuxWorld after LinuxWorld, vendors upped the ante with new technologies and genuinely new initiatives.

Not so at LinuxWorld San Francisco 2007. This is the year that Linux is so mature, so stable, so tried and true, that it's actually, dare I say it? Boring.

Hey don't give me that snarky look and don't flame me. I'm not the one who first said it. None other than Linux kernel maintainer Andrew Morton expressed a similar sentiment on the very first day of LinuxWorld.

"The kernel is a very dull project and that's the way we want it to be," Morton said.

Linux itself is now so mature and stable that it is running mission-critical datacenters and applications around the globe. Linux is at the core of the Internet itself, it's the plumbing of the modern information economy.

No major new announcements or revelations came out of this event. Vendors like IBM and Novell announced partnerships and virtualization (as it has been for nearly two years) remained a buzzword.

Kevin Kettler, Dell's CTO, did a whole presentation with the only real purpose being to show that, "Oh yes, virtualization on Linux is a stable reality."

Yes that's a good thing, and, yes, it is something that many enterprises and end users will benefit from. As time progresses, the stability of Linux, as well as its favorable licensing terms, may well make Linux the big winner in the virtualization game.

Novell's CEO Ron Hovsepian got it a bit wrong in his keynote.

He argued that application availability is the key to the success of Linux, which is absolutely correct. He also argued that the Linux Standards Base (LSB) isn't enough to enable software vendors to write applications across various Linux distributions, which is also somewhat accurate.

But he strayed when he said he wanted to create some magical new effort or group for which he offered no concrete details or plans that would do what the LSB does not. That is, make a standard Linux such that an application vendor can easily develop for all Linux distributions.

The answer to Hovsepian's dilemma is simple. Virtualization is the key to wide application availability on Linux. It is also the key to the widespread use of Linux.

As virtualization becomes the dominant compute paradigm for IT, the question no longer is which operating system has more application support. The question becomes which platform is best for virtualization.

The role that Linux plays in the virtualization space is as the enabler, the plumbing, the operating system that lets applications run virtual machines on top. It is also the underlying operating system in the virtual machine appliances themselves.

So sure, the fact the no crazy news emerged from LinuxWorld may not be exciting. But having vendors push the merits of virtualization on Linux does make a point, though.

When it comes to Linux in the datacenter, boring is good. It's stable, mature and it works. And it's not going to surprise you.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor with internetnews.com.