New Linux Kernel Still Lacks Pop

Despite user praise, slow adoption likely

At last week's LinuxWorld show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center here, the release of the new 2.4 kernel of the Linux operating system won praise from IT managers. But that won't win Linux a place in their desktop deployment plans.

Bob Ruddy, owner of Inc., a Web hosting and networking firm in Doylestown, Pa., said the new expanded kernel on its own won't convince many smaller and midsize companies to make the jump from Microsoft Corp.'s or other vendors' operating systems.

"It just wasn't mature as a desktop [operating system] until the last year or so," he said.

One of the greatest deficiencies in Linux for companies contemplating any migration has been the lack of a feature-filled software suite compatible with industry-standard Microsoft Office file formats, Ruddy said. While Sun Microsystems Inc.'s StarOffice and Ottawa-based Corel Corp.'s WordPerfect for Linux suites are available, the lack of default file compatibility with Microsoft Office leaves many companies unable to fully consider Linux as an alternative to what they are now using, he said.

Derek Burney, CEO of Corel, said he believes the new kernel will have little to do with any rise in market share for Linux for a related reason.

"I don't think it's a kernel issue at all," since it's deeply hidden from the user's view and has little direct impact on the user, Burney said. Instead, he said, Linux stumbles in the enterprise because there's little incentive for developers, since the business model that makes the source code free makes it difficult for companies to make a profit and stay in business.

"That will dog Linux until there's a way around it," he said. For Corel, it's been such a challenge that last month it announced a possible spin-off of its Linux operating system; it will continue to develop Linux applications.

On the other end of the spectrum, Robert Young, chairman of Durham, N.C.-based Linux vendor Red Hat Inc., said the new kernel is "very important" to new marketing of Red Hat 7.

For the first time, he said, the new kernel, which received major technology contributions from industry stalwarts such as Intel Corp. and Red Hat, can be looked at by formerly skeptical corporate CEOs and be seen as a mature system that's getting the attention of some of the most advanced companies in the IT industry.

And that has John Grana, vice president of software engineering at Performance Technologies Inc. in Rochester, N.Y., excited about the new release. He said the new kernel could be just what some businesses have been waiting for. It will have a major impact on his Internet infrastructure, he said, if it brings needed features to expand the capabilities of his company's T1 and T3 network controllers, software and other components.

His company uses Linux for about 50% of its telecommunications-based components along with the real-time VxWorks operating system from Wind River Systems Inc. in Alameda, Calif., and other proprietary systems. But Performance Technologies' Linux production could increase to 90% of its work if the new kernel actually delivers the high availability and fault tolerance capabilities it's touted as offering, Grana said.

2.4 Kernel Features

Released by Linux creator Linus Torvalds on Jan. 5, the 2.4 kernel brings a raft of new capabilities to Linux, including:
Increased symmetrical multiprocessing capabilities, up from four-processor support in the 2.2 kernel
Built-in logical volume manager to let system see all hard drives as one seamless drive
Power-management improvements
Expanded USB support

Copyright © 2001 IDG Communications, Inc.

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