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Big business is showing increasing interest in Linux and free software. Consider, for a moment, Some of this week's events:
  • IBM released their "Jikes" Java compiler under an open source license. OK, it has a few hitches to overcome before it can be truly called "open source," but they seem to be working on fixing those. Jikes is a high-quality product, and a real win for the open source world. (See also: IBM's press release, the Jikes license, and the Jikes download page).

  • IBM also made the beta version of their DB2 database product available for free download. DB2 is certainly not an open source product, but its availability still shows that IBM sees a future in this platform. (See also: the DB2 announcement, and the DB2 download page).

  • Sun opened up the licensing terms on its Java implementation. They have some ground to cover before the term "open source" could be applied to this product (see, for example, the comments from O'Reilly), but it's a step in the right direction. (See also: Sun's press release, and David Miller's 14 UltraSparc processor bootup sequence).

  • Sun announced their support for Linux on the UltraSparc processor, and stated that they plan to add "Linux compatibility" to Solaris. In this case, what they really mean remains rather unclear. According to David Miller, the support from Sun comes in the form of "access to documentation, loaner systems, communication with Sun engineers, access to 64-processor Enterprise 10,000 systems for testing." The changes to Solaris remain undefined at this point. (We tried to get a clarification directly from Sun on both UltraLinux support and Solaris, but without success). That Sun is willing to recognize and encourage an alternative to Solaris on their hardware is significant.

  • Silicon Graphics has joined Linux International.

  • SGI also has announced official support for Samba on their servers. It starts shipping this month as an official product. (See also: SGI's Samba for IRIX page).

  • Last but not least: Ericsson has released a new version of the "Eddie" high availability cluster system and the "Erlang" language in which it's implemented under an open source license. Eddie does a lot to fill in some of the gaps in current Linux cluster implementations; this is an important contribution.

This is quite an array of announcements for one week. It is time to say that the industry has not only discovered Linux and free software, but it is beginning to actively embrace them.

Mitsubishi and Compaq have received an order for a 130-processor Beowulf cluster from the Japanese Institute of Physical and Chemical Research, according to this brief Nikkei Net article. That's 130 Alpha nodes, of course; this is going to be one fast machine. [Update: this article no longer claims that the machine in question will run Linux; it has been changed to Digital Unix instead. Oh well.]

An electronic petition is being "circulated" which requests that the U.S. government more strongly consider the use of open source software. In particular, the petition asks for "...evaluation of Open Source applications and operating systems by the Federal Government, and especially by the Federal Technology Service of the General Services Administration (GSA), whenever they are procuring or upgrading operating systems for personal computers, workstations, servers, microcomputers, or minicomputers..."

Linus Torvalds was a guest at the Finnish presidential palace for their Independence Day celebration. For some pictures, see this article (in Finnish), and (especially) this picture. Finally, this article (in Swedish) in Hufvudstadsbladet talks a bit about the Linux connection: "Everybody wanted to talk to Linus Torvalds. In the crowds, heat, and noice at this year's independence ball, our Finnish computer genius in Silicon Valley was one of the most popular persons." (Translation courtesy of Thomas Widman; this article, unfortunately, will probably go away after Monday, December 14).

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December 10, 1998



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