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Linux inroads into storage continue

Kevin Komiega

In a Windows and Unix world, the Linux operating platform is the proverbial squirrel trying to crack the nut of networked storage, and according to research firm International Data Corp. (IDC), it is steadily climbing in the SAN market.

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"We definitely see more and more enterprises warming up to Linux," said IDC senior analyst Eric Sheppard.

Today, the operating system is found most often supporting less mission critical applications like Web serving, said Sheppard, but over the next five years Linux is primed to gain a foothold in the database markets, but the percentage of Linux arrays sold into such environments will continue to be smaller than that of Windows and Unix.

Framingham, Mass.-based IDC's latest disk storage system projections show approximately 64% growth in SAN revenue by 2005 with sales passing the $400 million mark. But Unix, Windows NT and OS/390, among others, will still garner the lion's share of the server operating system pie.

Storage vendors have made no secret of their affinity for Linux. A number of industry heavyweights have made recent announcements of Linux support.

Veritas Software Corp., announced that its Veritas Foundation Suite storage virtualization platform now supports Red Hat Linux; IBM Corp., announced the free licensing of the Linux-based source code for the software module that communicates with its Storage Tank metadata controller; and Dell Computer Corp., and Hewlett-Packard Co., have both given Linux the nod on their respective low-end systems.

Chris Wildermuth, director of strategic marketing for JNI Corp., San Diego, Calif., agreed that Linux will soon find a home in many enterprise-class infrastructures.

"Linux is going to be the alternative of Microsoft at the midrange," he said.

Linux has one of the lowest attach rates of any operating system for storage networks, but Wildermuth said that's about to change.

"A lot of enterprise data centers are filled with Unix guys. They tolerate Microsoft because the prices are so much lower [than Unix]," said Wildermuth. Linux approaches those types of while offering a much more flexible OS for building mid-tier databases.

Wildermuth said the power of Linux and its ability to provide clustering capabilities will fuel its push into midrange and high-end storage environments.

JNI made its own Linux play this week by announcing PCI and PCI-X drivers for its family of 2GB host bus adapters.

The drivers, which are open source, operate with Red Hat Advanced Server 2.0, and all versions of Red Hat 7, including 7.1, 7.2 and 7.3.

JNI is positioning the drivers for use with database servers using Oracle 9i and Red Hat Linux Advanced Server being sold by Dell, HP and other companies.

"We believe that with the support of database vendors such as Oracle and IBM, the movement of Linux into the enterprise and new cost-effective 2 Gigabit Fibre Channel products offer a unique opportunity for growth in this market," said Shaun Walsh, vice president of marketing, JNI.

He said that in the past, JNI's core user base of Global 1000 companies wasn't interested in Linux, but today they are beta testing the Linux-based products.

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