Linux Foundation: We'd love to work with Microsoft

In an interview, Jim Zemlin, the Linux Foundation's executive director, talks about desire to interoperate and discusses the desktop outlook for Linux

InfoWorld: I don't think their revenues are approaching anything close to say, Microsoft or Oracle.

Zemlin: Obviously not because they're an open platform that competes at providing customer value and doesn't have the luxury of high-margin monopoly numbers. But is that for the bad of mankind? I think not. Yes, the days of high-margin, vendor lock-in monopoly practices in the software business, yes, those are gone, and they're permanently gone.

InfoWorld: Is Linux on par with, say, Solaris or maybe some of the older mainframe systems, and even Windows Server in areas like virtualization and security and things of that nature?

Zemlin: Linux is ahead of them in many cases. There are three to four virtualization solutions on the Linux platform. In fact, the Linux platform in general has done a poor job communicating how effective virtualization technology is on that platform. I think that you'll see companies like VMware support a lot of virtual machines that run on Linux. You know, the Xen platform that's being offered by both Red Hat and Novell is incredibly compelling. You're seeing management tools on the Linux platform that are very similar to mainframe technology. You look at IBM's z10 mainframe, that's a Linux-based mainframe platform.

InfoWorld: What about the security?

Zemlin: So IBM, I mean, check out the z10. This thing is equivalent to 1,500 x86 boxes, and it takes 75 per cent less space and 75 per cent less power. And they've done a terrific job with a lot of the actually more mature mainframe technology that they've had in providing security across different virtualized instances, within that being able to manage those effectively.

InfoWorld: With the virtualization and security enhancements for Linux, are they owned by a particular vendor, or are they out in the open for anybody to get?

Zemlin: That's the best part -- the GPL requires that technology to be out there in the open. And the reason that that's been official, where companies can make money off of that, is they're innovating at a higher level. They're benefiting from the work that others are doing around making virtualization more secure in the Linux platform and then innovating on the management of that.

InfoWorld: What innovations are being eyed for upcoming versions of the Linux kernel, and when might we see those?

Zemlin: Well, I probably am not the best guy to go down the roadmap of the Linux kernel. Jonathan Corbet, who works with us and publishes something called The Linux Weather Forecast, would probably be the best person to talk about that. But I think you'll see improvements to the file system, you'll see improvements in power management, in virtualization technology coming out pretty regularly.

InfoWorld: What type of improvements?

Zemlin: More efficient power utilization, more efficient use of system resources. It matters in the context of -- does my battery last longer? Am I using less power in the data center? Do I have a file system that scales effectively? These are all things that are coming out and being improved. Is there a way for me to get performance information out of the kernel in an effective way so that I can monitor the platform? And those are all being improved continuously in the kernel itself.

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Paul Krill

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