LinuxWorld Is Wall-to-Wall Good News

by Don Marti

SGI's Altix 3000 drew a lot of attention and a "Best of Show" award at LinuxWorld this week, but you've already read up on that so we took a look at some other interesting stuff happening here. First of all, NEC is second on the list of "big Linux boxes" at 32 Itanium processors, and they offer up to 256GB of RAM. NEC also showed off an impressive midrange server with dual redundant everything, from power supplies to network interfaces.

On the AMD side of the struggle, several vendors offered Opteron-based evaluation and development hardware. A running 1U system at the Angstrom booth had processors that were cool to the touch, with two small fans per processor. Although Angstrom can't release numbers and Linux Journal didn't have a thermometer, the Opterons feel cooler than current Athlons.

The level of hardware integration around the Opteron already is substantial. Newisys has a motherboard that supports two Opteron processors, up to 16GB of ECC-registered DDR333 SDRAM, an Ultra 320 SCSI controller, two PCI-X expansion slots (one 133MHz, one 66MHz). Most innovative of all from the administration point of view is a PowerPC "Service Processor", running MontaVista Linux, that has its own front panel LCD and buttons and its own network interface. If the rest of the system is dead, you still can get to the service processor over the Net.

Angstrom CEO Lalit Jain said the Opteron systems are "in many cases, faster than Itanium", but he isn't allowed to mention performance numbers yet--not even BogoMips.

"We're working on getting LinuxBIOS support", Jain said. He anticipates the dual Opteron system will boot in 3-5 seconds with LinuxBIOS.

Another vendor offering Opteron systems is RackSaver. The RackSaver form factor is vertical, with fans mounted in the rack, not on the individual system. That means better cooling, fewer fans and less noise, said RackSaver's Gene Kim.

Cyclades console access servers, which support OpenSSH, are great for logging into your boxes (those without on-board service processors) remotely, but until now the company didn't have an easy way to remotely power-cycle them. New at the show is the PM8, a power strip with a serial port. You won't know you need this device until you're sitting in front of a blank xterm wishing you could power-cycle a faraway system.

Over at the dot-org area, Linux's Lord of the Dance, Brendan Becker, demonstrated PyDDR, a free Dance Dance Revolution clone written in Python. "I'm not actually dancing. It's a dance simulator simulator", he said. Also in dot-org land, the GNOME Foundation was happy to announce Bitstream's contribution of a font family under a freedom-compatible license. The fonts, called Vera Sans, Vera Serif and Vera Sans Mono, are good-looking at a variety of sizes and work with any free software, not just GNOME.

How do you put Linux on the desktop without touching the computer? Put in voice-over-IP (VoIP) phones that run Linux, and while you're at it, put a Linux-based VoIP PBX in the phone closet. Todd Esposito, CEO of Alescere, pointed out the ROI advantages of rolling out a Linux VoIP solution--half the hardware price of conventional office phones, no tolls for interoffice calls over the VPN and no charge for phone installs--just plug the phones into the network.

Linux-based VoIP phones, such as the Snom 200, have a built-in Ethernet hub, so you can easily connect the phone between the Ethernet jack and the user's PC.

If you want to break into a fast-growing IT market fast, look for products that people will sue you for sexual harassment if you don't have. That's becoming the case for spam filters, said Chris Kraft of ActiveState. Just think of the rudest spam you ever received going to your most litigious employee.

ActiveState's PureMessage uses SpamAssassin-like pattern matching and scoring but runs faster than SpamAssassin, making it suitable for more users on a server. It works with Sendmail's milter interface and ships with a copy of the free version of Sendmail, or it can be plugged into your existing Sendmail server.

Unisys, the last large server hardware vendor to maintain a Linux-free set of product offerings, will be supporting the United Linux-based SCO Linux 4.0 on its high-end ES7000 series servers. The servers have up to 32 IA-32 processors and 64GB of memory, and they can be split into up to eight partitions.

SCO currently is qualifying Linux on next-generation, Itanium-based Unisys servers. The SCO announcement represents a significant course correction from the company's earlier, unsuccessful efforts to promote the ES7000 series as a solution for only Microsoft Windows in the data center. "We're always keeping an eye on things. We're not stupid", said Derek M. Rodner, Senior Manager, Enterprise Server Marketing.

Don Marti is editor in chief of Linux Journal.

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