Red Hat release renews OS debate

Makers of "software appliances" are using the coming release of Red Hat Linux 5 to question the need for operating systems.

As Red Hat prepares to launch the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 operating system on Wednesday, the question is again being asked whether a robust and feature-laden operating system is really needed for some computing situations.

Makers of "software appliances" are using the launch as an opportunity to predict that the days of the monolithic OS are numbered. They say the future lies in a modular system in which software runs with only enough lines of OS code to make it work.

Some see promise in the appliance alternative to the OS, while skeptics think large enterprises will still need a general-purpose OS.

The same questions arose recently around the launch of Microsoft Windows Vista. A trio of Gartner analysts published a report in 2006 that said the increasing complexity of Windows makes it "unsustainable." Gartner predicted Windows will be broken up into modular components.

The same could be said for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 (RHEL 5), said Billy Marshall, CEO and cofounder of rPath, a software appliance platform vendor.

As new features are added to it, RHEL 5 has become just as unwieldy as Windows, Marshall said. "It's bigger and more bloated."

OS vendors add all sorts of functionality in the event some enterprise may want it, and the addition of these features is one of the reasons why both Microsoft and Red Hat have encountered delays bringing their products to market, he said.

Installing an OS could use as much as 1.82G bytes of space on a hard drive, he said. A software appliance with only the code to run one application would use just 300M bytes, he said.

"The general-purpose OS model is breaking," Marshall said.

Another software appliance vendor, Ingres, on Feb. 27 launched a database management software appliance it calls "Icebreaker" to compete against IBM's DB2 and Oracle's database software.

Software appliances may have a place in some niche environments in which a customer needs to run just a few pieces of software, said Jay Lyman, an analyst with The 451 Group. But a larger business would probably still need the various programs that are bundled into an OS, he said.

It might be possible to run an enterprise infrastructure without an OS, Lyman said. "But then again, you've already got people [in your IT department] running the OS, and it's a pretty critical part of the infrastructure."

Rather than seeing OSes fading, "I think we're seeing the trends going the other way," said Adam Jollans, director of worldwide strategy for Linux and open source at IBM.

At a time when IT administrators want to get more out of their existing hardware, isolating software applications and running them only with small pieces of code seems counterproductive, Jollans said.

"Many more people want to run multiple applications and do many different things. ... so I think we need the generic operating system to support all the different things people want to do," he said.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert Mullins

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?