I adapted the title of this post from an article that appeared this week in PC Welt, entitled “Linux is optimal OS for grid computing, says Oracle.” (I found it through the diligent grid coverage provided by Greg Nawrocki in Grid Meter — thanks Greg!)
The article is primarily coverage of a presentation by Guy Cross, director of Business Development for Oracle’s Asia Pacific Linux Business Unit; the article is a little sketchy, and one hopes Mr. Cross did a better job of linking the platitudes with the conclusions. For example:
To leverage on Linux and the grid, Cross advised enterprises to take the following steps:
1) Standardize. Take inventory to find out what you are running, and ask if the vendors will be around in 10 years, he said. “Do research and find out what the vendors are rallying behind.” The answer, he said, lies in the “O3 zone’ ” open source, open standards and open systems.
2) Consolidation. Have a 360 view of your business and start to migrate to do more with less, so that there is less cost to manage. Start at the hardware layer and then move to the database and then applications, to higher levels of abstraction.
3) Automate. Take advantage of grid computing by deploying groups of small, cheap servers, or leverage on Oracle on demand to have software delivered as a service, so that the enterprise can focus on its core business.
1. Standardize. OK, and you do that by trying to guess who will be around in ten years?? Maybe industry giants like Compaq, or Digital Equipment, or Silicon Graphics, or Lotus… Get serious. Any tech purchase made today based on a 10-year analysis is doomed; any grid project that doesn’t pay for itself in one or two years isn’t worth funding — something far better will be along in less than two years. This is typical big-company FUD, nothing more. By the way — what’s the over/under on Oracle’s continued independent existence? If it’s ten years, please excuse me, because I have to call my bookie.
And as for the “rallying” of vendors — vendors are rallying behind two separate banners. First (yes, first — go check), there’s Microsoft and .NET. Second, there’s the “O3” banner that Mr. Cross identifies, with dozens (or thousands) of sub-banners that permit vendors to claim to be rallying while they’re actually feuding. And who advocates rallying behind a big, established company working (a bit) with open source? Why, it’s the head of bizdev for Oracle’s Linux group in Asia.
2. Consolidation. Rubbish. Absolute rubbish. The tech industry was born fragmented, and has been fragmenting ever since. Over and over I hear people say “oh, big enterprise IT departments are consolidating — they want to do more business with fewer vendors, because it’s easier to manage. They want to have fewer platforms, fewer “special projects,” more focus, simpler systems, more control. Time to standardize and consolidate — you’ll sleep better.” Guess who I hear it from? Not from CIOs, who understand where innovation comes from. Not from department managers or application owners who are in pain and need a solution instead of platitudes. No — I hear it from big incumbent vendors (and occassionally the analysts they employ). Every few years we hear about a new giant wave of consolidation, and when the dust clears there are more platforms, not fewer; more vendors in more categories, not fewer; more new technologies to master and monetize, not fewer. Note to Mr. Cross — that’s a tech trend called “innovation.” It’s a tech trend frequently resisted by big incumbents too accustomed to comfy margins.
3. Automate. Automate? What does building a grid using “small cheap servers” have to do with automation? And where does Linux come into it? More small cheap Windows servers are sold every day than small cheap Linux servers. You lost me. Again. And as soon as we’re lost, who advocates for just handing everything over to Oracle so we can focus on, um, something else? Why, it’s the head of bizdev for Oracle’s Linux group in Asia.
To leverage on economics and the grid, Powers advises enterprises to take the following steps:
1. Standardize. Take inventory of your computers — what OS do most of them run? Take inventory of your applications — on what platform do most of them run? Take inventory of the skills in your architecture and development group — on what platform are they most productive? Then choose a grid technology that leverages those resources and skills.
2. Embrace fragmentation. Empower departments and application owners with control over resources and development direction. Support them — don’t ignore them. Start with the applications, not the hardware. Hardware is cheap and getting cheaper! Deploy applications on your grid in rank order of greatest benefit/cost ratio.
3. Simplify. Stay away from grandiose visions that require ten years. Acheive value now by reducing complexity in grid design and implementation, and by keeping the solution focused on where deploying applications to the grid provides the highest benefit/cost ratio.
For each of these steps, Windows dominates Linux in most enterprises as the right OS for grid computing. With a few exceptions, enterprises have more Windows hardware, more Windows software, and more Windows development expertise than anything else. Grid computing is important — but not important enough to overturn platform decisions already in place. “Tear everything out so you can do grid computing?” I don’t think so.
In the end, a grid is for applications, and applications are written in .NET for the Windows operating system. (You may want to check out the latest figures if you don’t believe me — kudos to Darryl Taft of eWeek.) Are there exceptions? Sure. Enough to make Linux the “optimal OS for grid computing?” Check back with me in ten years and let’s see.