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Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.7 adds OpenSCAP

By Sean Kerner   |    May 26, 2011

From the 'You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks' files:

With all the excitementaround Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.1 last week, it's important to remember that most RHEL users are still likely on RHEL 5.

RHEL 5 debuted in March of 2007 and has been updated with 6 incremental updates over the last four years. The last major update, RHEL 5.6 came out in January of 2011.

With RHEL 6.x now in market, I would have guessed that RHEL 5 at this point would be just about bug, stability and driver updates, but that's not the case. Red Hat is still adding FEATURES to this distro.

In RHEL 5.7, which is now in Beta, Red Hat is adding support for OpenSCAP which is a big win for security. OpenSCAP is an open source implementation of the Security Content
Automation Protocol (SCAP) framework for creating a standardized
approach for maintaining secure systems.

Red Hat's Fedora community Linux distro has included OpenSCAP since the Fedora 14 release in October of 2010. Typically it takes longer for a Fedora technology to land in RHEL, but OpenSCAP is just one of those things that makes so much sense (and clearly is already enterprise ready) that Red Hat is electing to get it into RHEL now -- at least in beta.

RHEL 5.7 also provides improved capabilities for the Xen Hypervisor, which is not something that Red Hat has continued into RHEL 6. 

According to the release notes for RHEL 5.7:

  • The performance of Xen guests in 32-bit domains is improved.
  • The maximum amount of disks that can be attached to a Xen guest has been increased from 100 to 256.
  • The time needed to boot Xen guests is reduced.
  • Xen guests now support up to 4 serial ports.
  • xz compression support is now available in Xen pygrub.

All good news for RHEL 5.x users that intend for whatever reason  to stick with the platform instead of moving to RHEL 6. That's not to say that RHEL 6.x isn't more robust overall, but hey big mission critical systems aren't things that are easily migrated from one version to another.

Why it's time for Linux 3.0

By Sean Kerner   |    May 25, 2011

From the '39 Kernels Later' files:

It seems very likely that the recent 2.6.39 Linux kernel was the last major release of the 2.6.x series.

Linus Torvalds made a remark on the Linux Kernel Mailing list at the beginning of the week that the voices were telling him that the numbers were getting too big... and they are..aren't they?

More than the numbers inside of 2.6, the time has come for change, for a number of reasons. Torvalds gives at least one good reason related to timing:

"So I'm toying with 3.0 (and in that case, it really would be "3.0",
not "3.0.0" - the stable team would get the third digit rather than
the fourth one," Torvalds wrote. "There's also the timing issue - since we no longer do version numbers based on features, but based on time, just saying "we're about to
start the third decade" works as well as any other excuse."

I have to admit that my initial reaction was NO, a version change indicates a binary compatibility change, but that's not really the case here is it, since it's time based.

Ximian Reborn as Nat Friedman becomes Xamarin CEO

By Sean Kerner   |    May 25, 2011

From the 'No Surprise' files:

Nat Friedman, the former CEO of Ximian and one time CTO of Novell's open source efforts is back in the game.

Friedman left Novell in January of 2010, where he had been since the company (Ximian) he co-founded with Miguel de Icaza was acquired in 2003.

Now De Icaza is out of Novell with a new startup focused on Mono and his old buddy Nat is rejoining him to become the CEO.

Who didn't see that one coming?

I first met Nat Friedman in 2004 when he was delivering his first keynote as a Novell staffer - talking at the time about the Linux desktop. No doubt he understand the tech and he has the skills to help lead Xamarin.

Xamarin however faces a number of key hurdles that Friedman will have to deal with rather quickly. Though SUSE Linux/Attachmate fired his buddies in the U.S, the President and GM of SUSE Linux told me very specifically that Mono is still part of SUSE.

Xamarin is supposed to be a company tasked with supporting and extending Mono.

Mozilla Firefox 5 Beta now out - that was fast!

By Sean Kerner   |    May 20, 2011

From the 'These Trains Run On-Time' files:

Mozilla is proving me and other naysayers wrong today, with the release of Firefox 5 Beta.

That's right Firefox 5. This is the fastest turnaround from one major release to the Beta of the next in the history of Mozilla (Netscape is another story though...).

While this is a Beta - it has a mountain of changes on stability and bug fix issues.

Clearly the days of a long list of BIG NEW FEATURES in each and every Firefox release are now gone, but that doesn't mean there aren't new features too. Though those new features just aren't as obvious as they were to me in say the transistion from Firefox 3.6 to Firefox 4.

In that way, Mozilla mimics Chrome where the difference between Chrome 10 and 11 is an evolutionary, not revolutionary improvement.

Video: The Future of OpenStack and Why Ubuntu Linux has come first.

By Sean Kerner   |    May 20, 2011

From the 'Great Open Source Opportunities' files:

I've been following the open source OpenStack cloud effort since it was first announced in June of 2010. I mean come on, how many times does a tech journalist like me get to interview NASA about enterprise open source tech?

Over the course of the last year, I've seen OpenStack grow from its NASA/Rackspace base, into becoming the most influential open source cloud project on Earth. I've seen IT vendors big and small including Cisco, Dell, Brocade, Citrix and Canonical all align behind the OpenStack vision.

There hasn't been such a gathering of tech titans for an open source effort since IBM launched the Eclipse Foundation. OpenStack is a multi-vendor group and make no mistake about it, OpenStack is the present and the future of the cloud.

OpenStack however has not been embraced by all open source vendors. In particular, Red Hat is going its own way and does not participate in OpenStack. The mantle of Linux in OpenStack instead has fallen to Canonical and its Ubuntu Linux.

I recently caught up with co-founder of the Rackspace Cloud and  member of the OpenStack Project Policy Board, Jonathan Bryce and I asked him about Linux and why Ubuntu has come first. I also got Bryce to reveal why he thinks that OpenStack is a once-in-a-lifetime open source opportunity.

Check out the video below for the conversation:

Video: What Keeps Cisco's CIO Up at Night?

By Sean Kerner   |    May 20, 2011

From the 'Operational Excellence' files:

Running the global IT organization for the world's largest networking company is likely no easy task. It's the role of Cisco CIO, Rebecca Jacoby and one that she handles without affecting her sleep.

I recently had the chance to sit down with Jacoby to get her insight into how she handles the role of CIO.

In my bag of standard interview questions for c-level execs, I tend to always ask the question - 'What keeps you up at night?'  Jacoby's answer to the question was one of the best that I've ever received.

Google Chrome 13 now in development

By Sean Kerner   |    May 19, 2011

From the 'Nothing to Look at' files:

Google has upped the version number for Chrome (again). We're now at Chrome 13.0.767.1 for Windows, Mac, Linux in the dev-channel.

Yes, that means the Chrome 12 is likely to be finalized become stable before Memorial Day.

Google has this bad habit of sharing very little in their initial dev release notes that indicate what is actually new or planned for the release. They seem to save most of the good bits until the release is a little further along.

At this point we know that one of the biggest changes in Chrome 13, is a change in Linux support.

"We are discontinuing support for Ubuntu Hardy for 13.0, in effect
matching that Ubuntu has officially stopped supporting Hardy (including
stopping security updates) as of May 12th, 2011," Chrome engineer, Anthony Laforge wrote.

There are also a lot of bug and stability fixes as well as fixes for regressions. One of the regressions that jumped out at me was the fact that Chrome 13 're-enables' DNS prefetch.

"This feature got disable accidentally in WebKit because it is off by default," Google's patch tree states. "In this patch, we explicitly turn the feature

Mozilla's New Firefox 5 Aurora to Beta plan is working out

By Sean Kerner   |    May 17, 2011

From the 'Train Schedule' files:

Count me among those that have been a bit skeptical about Mozilla's new rapid release cycle.

You can also (potentially) now tell me that I'm wrong too.

Part of the Mozilla Firefox 5 rapid release cycle involves a regular and routine merge of code from the Aurora development tree to the Beta tree at set intervals.

The first aurora to beta merge occurred today, on time and on schedule.

"Aurora->Beta merge for Firefox 5 is complete," Johnathan Nightingale, Director of Firefox Engineering at Mozilla tweeted. "These trains run on time."

As a guy that has worked as a developer and managed developers, I know full well that moving to a new dev cycle is no easy task. Sure the next step, moving from Beta to GA is an almost bigger step, but gotta start somewhere.

Beta doesn't mean feature or string freeze for Mozilla (not yet anyways), but it does mark the fastest nightly lockdown (aurora isn't quite the same as nightlies but..) to beta in the history of the Mozilla project AFAIK.

Now all of us sitting in the cheap seats get to watch as the train picks up speed and hits the release station. Then again, open source development doesn't need to be a spectator sport, we can all choose to get the beta (when available) and help Mozilla and ourselves improve Firefox 5.

Video: Inside the opengear Linux powered console server

By Sean Kerner   |    May 16, 2011

From the 'open source hardware' files:

Console servers are critical bits of infrastructure, that many of us tend to overlook. Not so for opengear - a company whose sole purpose is to build console servers leveraging open source software for both the OS and the underlying application.

I've been writing about opengear for the last 6 years or so, when they first introduced an open source KVM (Keyboard, Video, Mouse) solution. The company has since grown into bigger servers and broader monitoring capabilities.

At the recent Interop conference in Las Vegas, I got the chance to catch up with opengear CEO, Bob Waldie to see what his company has been up to lately.

Check out the video below for the full details:

Mono Reborn in Xamarin, thanks to Miguel de Icaza

By Sean Kerner   |    May 16, 2011

From the 'Truth Wants to Be Free' files:

Mono at Novell/Attachmate is Dead. Long Live Xamarin!

A few weeks back, Attachmate decided to gut the Mono team from its new Novell purchase. At that time, we didn't know what was going to happen to the developers or the project. Now we do.

Mono founder Miguel de Icaza has created a new startup called Xamarin - which is focused on Mono.

"We have been trying to spin Mono off from Novell for more
than a year now," De Icaza blogged. "Everyone agreed that Mono would have a
brighter future as an independent company, so a plan was
prepared last year.

Instead of a friendly spin-off, the #$#!! at Attachmate decided to fire the developer talent behind and leave Mono support customers, who knows where.

How does it make any sense to buy a company for $2.2 billion and then just shutdown operations that are generating revenue? (I'm assuming Mono is revenue generating...).

So instead of having a friendly startup that Attachmate could have had an equity interest in, they get NOTHING.

Video: A Look at OpenFlow, the future of networking? #Interop

By Sean Kerner   |    May 13, 2011

From the 'Programmable Networks' files:

 LAS VEGAS. One of the most interesting things to emerge out of the Interop conference this year was OpenFlow.

Sure, I know that OpenFlow was previously a research thing, but at Interop, OpenFlow came alive for me as I saw it demonstrated in the NOC and on the show floor.

OpenFlow, in my opinion, is the future of networking.

It is open source, open standards and it is connected.

The basic idea with OpenFlow is you can connect multiple switches and even networks together to create a flow - essentially VLAN on steroids. You can then manage an entire infrastructure, setting policies and managing traffic type accordingly.

There are alot of different way of doing the same thing today, nearly all of them involve some degree of vendor lock-in which is why OpenFlow is so very appealing to me personally.

One of the best explanations I got at Interop about OpenFlow came from HP, which is an active participant in the OpenFlow effort.

Check out the video below to get the full details:

Video: Inside the Linux Powered Xirrus Wi-Fi #Interop

By Sean Kerner   |    May 12, 2011

From the 'Linux Everywhere' files:

LAS VEGAS. Interop is one of the largest non-vendor conferences still around.

All those conference goers connect over the Xirrus Wi-Fi array network that is deployed at the show.

Have you ever wondered what's inside of a Xirrus Wi-Fi array?

Sure there are some Atheros chips, but there is also a grain of open source goodness. That's right Interop's Xirrus Wi-Fi deployment is based on a Linux 2.6.x kernel.

No, I'm not surprised, but it's still good to know.

I got the full details and an explanation of how the array works on the Interop show floor this week. Check out the video below for the details:

OpenFlow running on Ubuntu Linux #Interop

By Sean Kerner   |    May 11, 2011

From the 'Linux Everywhere' files:

LAS VEGAS. OpenFlow is a next generation approach to running flatter networks.

There is a LOT of chatter about OpenFlow at the Interop conference this year and there is even an OpenFlow lab as part of the Network Operations Center.

The majority of the demo clients running OpenFlow were --- yup Ubuntu Linux (see pic left) and that's very good news for Linux.

I've got another post coming soon on what OpenFlow will change, but at a high-level it makes large networks of multiple switches/routers look like one big network switch while enabling an incredible amount of control (for both QoS, policy and security).

In my view, OpenFlow IS THE TECHNOLOGY that will eventually emerge as the ultimate enabler for truly interoperable cloud and datacenter fabrics.

RIP Eucalyptus. Ubuntu Standardizes on OpenStack

By Sean Kerner   |    May 11, 2011

From the 'Not a Surprise' Files:

Ubuntu is moving away from the open source Eucalyptus platform in favor of OpenStack.

I'm not surprised.

OpenStack is now only a tech preview in Natty 11.04, but the massive momentum behind OpenStack is undeniable. OpenStack has a large ecosystem of over 50 contributing members including NASA, Rackspace, Dell, Cisco, Brocade and Canonical In its short life - the project is less than a year old - OpenStack has become a new Eclipse, an open working group for an open cloud.

Then there is Eucalyptus. Single vendor (hello Marten Mickos!) and with a narrow ecosystem of contributions.

Ubuntu was the company that first raised the profile of Eucalyptus by making it the foundation of the Ubuntu Enterprise cloud. Ubuntu will be the company that helps kill Eucalyptus by moving away from it.

Juniper VP leaves for Cisco - just before #Interop keynote

By Sean Kerner   |    May 10, 2011

From the 'Don't Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out' files:

For the last few weeks, I've been trying to lineup a meeting with David Yen EVP at Juniper and the man behind Juniper's Qfabric vision.

Yen was scheduled to deliver a 'visionary' keynote at Interop this afternoon, but he didn't make it.

Instead what happened is he quit and left Juniper - immediately.

Yen is now a Cisco employee.

Juniper didn't cancel their keynote instead they put in a replacement, and to be honest I'm not sure what the keynote was about. Yen's loss is a huge one for Juniper and a powerful win for Cisco.

I know there are trade secret items that Yen is likely not supposed to divulge, BUT don't you think that Yen will share his knowledge with his new employers at Cisco?

At Cisco, Yen will be the leader of the Server Access and Virtualization
Technology Group (SAVTG), the home of Cisco's Unified Computing System and Nexus server access data center switching

Ubuntu CTO Matt Zimmerman leaving. Good Luck and thanks for all the fish.

By Sean Kerner   |    May 06, 2011

From the 'Great Guys' files:

The very first person that I ever spoke with about Ubuntu was Matt Zimmerman.

Zimmerman happily helped a hapless journo (me) in IRC no less, when I first started to write about Ubuntu back in 2005. Ubuntu didn't have real PR at the time, but Zimmerman was there as CTO answering my questions without a PR/marketing filter with exceptional clarity. Last year (even with Ubuntu having real PR), I had lunch with Zimmerman in Boston, where we chatted about Unity and the future of Ubuntu.

Zimmerman is now leaving Ubuntu.

I for one am sad to see him go. Zimmerman has helped to lead Ubuntu's platform engineering efforts since the project's inception. He has been the voice of technical reason that has kept the project on track and delivering on its regular and predictable release cycle.

"Seven years on, the time is right for me to move on from this role,
where I enjoy so much support from my colleagues, and take a risk on
something new," Zimmerman blogged. "I intend to remain
involved in the Ubuntu community, retaining my elected position on the
governing Technical Board, and perhaps to make the occasional technical
contribution as a volunteer."

It's unclear to me who will take Zimmerman's role, but the Ubuntu community is not short of talented, capable people.

A Firefox Tor Fork? I don't think so

By Sean Kerner   |    May 05, 2011

From the 'Onion Router' files:

The Tor onion router, privacy project is planning its own version of Firefox.

Some people may call this a fork - I don't.

Tor as an onion router (or set of chained, private, maybe-anonymized proxies, if you're lucky) is implemented in Firefox by way of the Torbutton add-on.

According to Tor developers there have been all kinds of bugs and challenges with the way Torbutton toggles privacy in Firefox, which is why they're going their own way.

"Torbutton will be removed from, and the Torbutton
download page will clearly state that it is for experts only, Tor developer Mike Perry blogged. " If serious
unfixed security issues begin to accumulate against the toggle model,
we will stop providing Torbutton xpis at all.
I believe this shift must be done for a few reasons: some usability, some technical.The over-arching issue is that the set of bugfixes required to maintain
the toggle model is a superset of those required to maintain the browser

Ummm ok, but...there are a few problems with this plan IMHO.

Mozilla developers  aggressively patch Firefox for security issues on a regular bases. Most of those flaws are now in the category of use-after-free and stale pointer memory issues. Those types of issues are easily weaponized today by attackers.The flip side is that the root cause of the memory flaws is not so easy to fix, and will not be easy for Tor to track in their own browser implementation.

Attachmate lays off Mono employees

By Sean Kerner   |    May 03, 2011

From the 'But What About Miguel?' files:

Attachmate is moving swiftly to re-organize the Novell business it acquired for $2.2 billion.

Today Attachmate laid off an unknown number of U.S. based Novell developers that were working on the open source Mono project.

Mono is the Novell led effort to provide an open source implementation of the Microsoft .NET framework on Linux.

"We have re-established Nuremburg as the headquarters of our
SUSE business unit and the prioritization and resourcing of certain
development efforts - including Mono - will now be determined by the
business unit leaders there," said Jeff Hawn, Chairman and CEO of The
Attachmate Group in a statement sent to "This change led to the release of some US based
employees today. As previously stated, all technology roadmaps remain
intact with resources being added to those in a manner commensurate with
customer demand."

I've been following Mono since Miguel de Icaza started the project back in 2004. Yes, I know, there are lots of people that don't like Mono and its Microsoft styled technology. I also know a lot of people (including me) that rely on it as a way to run .NET on Linux.

Why is Firefox slower on Linux than Windows?

By Sean Kerner   |    May 02, 2011

From the 'GCC Rules' files:

Have you tried Firefox 4 on Linux and then tried Firefox on a friend's Windows 7 PC? The experience isn't the same and that's not good news for Linux users.

Mozilla is apparently aware of the issue and they are taking steps to improve Firefox 4's performance on Linux.

"We finally managed to get our Linux (and, obviously, Linux64) builds to
use GCC 4.5, with aggressive optimization (-O3) and profile guided
optimization enabled," Mozilla developer Mike Hommey blogged. "This means we are finally using a more modern
toolchain, opening opportunities for things such as static analysis.
This also means we are now producing a faster Firefox, now much closer
to the Windows builds on the same hardware on various performance tests."

The bad news is that the GCC 4.5 optimization aren't likely to land on the mainline until Firefox 6. Though with Mozilla new aggressively agile development path, Firefox 6 is likely to be released this year.

Still, the whole issue begs the question of why Linux isn't a bigger priority for Mozilla.

I've spoken with Mozilla staffers about Linux at multiple points over the last several years as issues of whether or not Mozilla cares about Linux have popped up. Long story short is that Mozilla does care about Linux and have since the beginning of Mozilla itself.