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Volume 2, Number 17 -- May 3, 2005

But Wait, There's More

Microsoft Cringes, Readies Support for Linux in Virtual Server 2005

Microsoft's CEO, Steve Ballmer, hosted the Microsoft Management Summit in Las Vegas right after we went to press with the prior issue of The Linux Beacon, and at that event, he said Microsoft would finally deliver full support for non-Windows operating systems within its Virtual Server 2005 virtual machine partitioning middleware for the Windows platform. Virtual Server supported Linux when it was created by Connectix several years ago, but when Microsoft bought the company, it initially tried to position the product as a Windows server consolidation tool and did not offer installation or technical support for Linux even though the software clearly did support Linux.

With Virtual Server 2005 Service Pack 1, which has just been put into beta and will be delivered later this year, Microsoft is conceding that it cannot just support Windows with this product. "We've added support for non-Windows virtual machines being hosted on top of our Virtual Server product, including support for Linux," explained Ballmer. "We know folks are going to want to run Windows systems and Linux systems and other systems together on top of our Virtual Server and Windows. You'll see support for that later in the year." Later in his presentation, when Microsoft demonstrated Virtual Server running Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server 3 running on Virtual Server, Ballmer got a laugh. "As much as that hurts my eyes, I know that's an important capability for the virtual server technology for our customers." Part of what Microsoft needs to do to improve Linux support is tweak its Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) system management tools such that it can gather information from the Linux instances and make them more manageable from this Windows tool.

Orion Multisystems Debuts 96-Node Linux Cluster Workstation

Is it a clustered workstation or a personal supercomputer? We're not exactly sure. But the machine that Orion Multisystems has brought to market is a 96-node personal, deskside Linux cluster that plugs into normal 120-volt wall socket.

Last year, Orion gained some fame for launching a 12-node desktop Linux cluster workstation, appropriately enough called the "Cluster Workstation DT-12," that was based on the 1.2 GHz Efficeon processors from Transmeta. This workstation delivered 28 gigaflops of peak performance and about 14 gigaflops of sustained performance as measured by the Linpack Fortran benchmark, and it had room for 12 GB of main memory, a dozen 2.5-inch disk drives, and a hard-coded Gigabit Ethernet switch fabric connecting all of the nodes in the box. It came equipped with an MPI library, plus the open source Grid Engine grid software and Ganglia cluster monitor. Perhaps equally importantly, you turned the DT-12 on as if it were a single machine. The whole shebang ran the Red Hat Fedora Core 2 implementation of Linux, which is based on the Linux 2.6.6 kernel with extensions created by Orion.

The DS-96 version of the Cluster Workstation is really eight of these boxes clustered together into a deskside unit. It has all the same software, and spans up to 192 GB of main memory, 192 disk drives, and about 230 gigaflops of peak performance (which equates to about 110 gigaflops of sustained Linpack performance). Fully loaded, the DS-96 weighs a mere 150 pounds and consumes about 1500 watts of electricity. Orion is being cagey about prices, but says a base machine (presumably with only one 12-node processor card and base memory of 6 GB) costs under $100,000.

Xandros Puts SMB Server Linux into Beta

Desktop Linux distributor Xandros has announced that its first foray into the server side of Linux--SMB Server--is now in beta testing. At the heart of this Linux is the Xandros Management Console, which the company says is more akin to the management programs used in the Windows environment. For Unix shops, Linux is very familiar in that the same file structures and management tools are often used; if you know Unix, Linux is a relative snap. But if you don't know Unix--as many Windows shops do not--then Linux is a pain in the neck. The differences between Windows and Unix/Linux are a barrier to Linux adoption, and SMB Server is about breaking through that barrier by making Linux look more like Windows as far as management of servers is concerned. SMB Server 2005 will be released in late 2005, and Xandros is looking for shops with Windows NT 4, Windows 2000 Server, Windows Server 2003, and various Unix backgrounds to sign up for the beta program. You can do so at this link on the Xandros site.

Xandros, which is based in New York and which was founded in May 2001, created its desktop Linux based on the former Corel Linux V3.0, which was a commercialized version of Debian Linux that Corel sold off in August 2001 to Xandros. Xandros still does its development in Ottawa, where Corel is also located.

Egenera Gets $35 Million in VC Funds, Supports Dual Core Opterons

Blade server maker Egenera has raked in another $35 million in funding as it seeks to grow its business.

To date, the Marlborough, Mass., company that was founded in March 2000, has raised $159 million in capital of various kinds. Egenera was founded by Vern Brownell, the former CIO at brokerage house Goldman Sachs, and it rolled out its first BladeFrame blade servers in October 2001. This most recent funding consists of $15 million from Horizon Technology Finance and an extra $20 million on an existing credit line at Silicon Valley Bank. Egenera raised $20 million in first-round venture funding in October 2000 from Kodiak Venture Partners, Spectrum Equity Investors, Goldman Sachs, CSFB Private Equity, and YankeeTek Ventures, and brought in another $30 million from these same investors plus Austin ventures in July 2001. A year later, in June 2002, Egenera raised another $44 million in third-round financing and brought in Crosslink Capital, Lehman Brothers Venture Capital, UBS Capital, and Mizuho Bank. A fourth round of funding of $30 million was raised in December 2003, and Technology Crossover Ventures led this round. In June 2004, Egenera filed to take itself public, but has not yet priced its shares or said when it will do so. The extra cash the company has secured are intended to help it expand its sales and distribution channels, which it clearly will want to do before it shows its books to the public.

Egenera has also said it will support the new dual-core Opteron processors in its BladeFrames. The company first announced that it would sell Opteron-based blades alongside its existing Xeon-based blades back in February. Since then, Egenera has also announced it will support Solaris 10 as well as Linux and Windows Server 2003 on its blades. The dual-core 2.2 GHz Opteron 875 will be available in a four-socket blade that supports up to 32 GB of main memory, while the dual-core 2.2 GHz Opteron 275 will be available in the two-socket blade that supports up to 8 GB of memory.

SGI Launches Linux-Itanium Deskside Workstation Line

Seeking to expand its sales opportunities as its technical server business has hit a bumpy patch in the road, Silicon Graphics has returned to its roots in a way by launching a deskside workstation that is a chip off the Itanium-based visualization servers it has been peddling. The new Prism workstations also include emulation software that allows key applications written in the Irix Unix created by SGI to run on these Linux-based workstations.

The Prism deskside workstation supports up to two Itanium processors running at 1.3 GHz (with 4 MB of cache) or 1.6 GHz (with 9 MB of cache) and from 2 to 24 GB of main memory. The workstation can be equipped with one or two ATI Fire GL graphics cards (which come in flavors with 128 MB or 256 MB of graphics memory). With two cards, SGI says the machine can drive simulation visualizations of nearly 10 million pixels. The full Prism visualization server line ranges from 2 to 256 Itanium processors and from 2 to 16 ATI FireGL cards all ganged up. The top-end machines cost hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars, depending on the configuration. The Prism deskside workstation starts at $8,500 and tops out at $39,000.

The most interesting aspect of the workstation announcement may be the support for Transitive's QuickTransit hardware virtualization and emulation software, which allows binaries compiled for Irix on MIPS, binaries for PowerPC or Power, or binaries for IBM mainframes to be run in emulation mode on top of Itanium, Xeon, or Opteron platforms without any changes to the source or binaries. You heard that right. We'll be looking into this software in a future issue. In any event, the 800 MHz R16000A MIPS processors in the SGI Fuel and Tezro workstations just don't have the oomph of the Itanium boxes, but Irix shops have a lot of custom-tailored applications they can't run on Itanium-based boxes because SGI did not port Irix to Itanium. QuickTransit, if it works as advertised, is a way to meet Irix shops half way.

HP Outlines Transition to Small Form Factor Disks in Servers

A few weeks ago, Hewlett-Packard said it would be nailing down the transition from parallel SCSI Ultra320 disks to Serial-Attached SCSI (SAS) and Serial-Attached ATA (SATA) drives as well as the concurrent transition from 3.5-inch to 2.5-inch disk drive form factors in its ProLiant servers. So here is the deal.

Paul Perez, vice president of storage, networking and infrastructure for HP's Industry Standard Server unit, which creates and sells X86 and X64 ProLiant servers, says it will have ProLiant servers and Modular SAN Array disk enclosures available with the new 2.5-inch form factors and with SATA and SAS interfaces starting in June. Fujitsu, Seagate Technology, and Hitachi (which bought IBM's disk drive business last year) will supply 3.5-inch SAS drives to HP, while Hitachi alone will supply 2.5-inch SAS drives. The current ProLiant G4 generation of servers will support the 3.5-inch SAS drives, while the future "Blackford" platforms from Intel, using the Xeon dual-core "Dempsey" processors, will have 2.5-inch drives as a default. HP will ship 36 GB and 73 GB 2.5-inch SAS drives and 36 GB, 73 GB, and 147 GB 3.5-inch drives, and all of them will spin at 15K RPM. HP does not plan to ship 10K RPM SAS drives. A 300 GB, 3.5-inch SAS drive is expected in the second half of 2006, and a 147 GB, 2.5-inch SAS drive is expected either in the fourth quarter of 2006 or the first quarter of 2007. HP ships over 4 million disk drives a year, so when it starts shifting to SAS and small form factor disks, it can speed up the industry transition to SAS significantly.

In terms of pricing, Perez says HP is trying to keep the cost of Ultra320 and SAS drives more or less the same at the same capacity and RPM, because HP doesn't want price to be a barrier for customers who want to move ahead. By using small form factor SAS drives, HP will be able to put a proper RAID array with four drives inside its 1U, two-socket ProLiant DL360 servers and will be able to boost the drive count from six to nine in its 2U DL380 platform, which is the workhorse of the ProLiant line. HP will also be allowing customers to mix and match SATA and SAS drives in disk arrays, and will give customers the option of SATA drives in ProLiants as well.

World Community Grid Reaches 100,000 Devices

The World Community Grid (WCG) grid computing initiative started by IBM last November has added 100,000 PCs, workstations, and servers. IBM says thus far more than 64,000 people have donated over 8,250 years of aggregated runtime to the grid, which is being made available to the Human Proteome Folding Project, a kicker to the Human Genome Project that is trying to understand the mechanisms by which proteins fold and unfold themselves in our cells as they do the things that keep us alive or, if they don't work properly, kill us with diseases. Marist College, a liberal arts school located in IBM's Poughkeepsie, N.Y., stomping grounds, has donated the processing capacity of its 7,000 PCs and laptops to the WCG project. Marist is also where Linux on the mainframe was created, incidentally, and despite its self-proclaimed liberal arts bent, Marist offers bachelor's and master's degrees in computer science. IBM Pokie is where Big Blue has designed and manufactured mainframes since there were mainframes.

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Editor: Timothy Prickett Morgan
Contributing Editors: Dan Burger, Joe Hertvik, Kevin Vandever,
Shannon O'Donnell, Victor Rozek, Hesh Wiener, Alex Woodie
Publisher and Advertising Director: Jenny Thomas
Advertising Sales Representative: Kim Reed
Contact the Editors: To contact anyone on the IT Jungle Team
Go to our contacts page and send us a message.


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