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UnitedLinux - Investment Security for Users and Providers


Printed in Computerwoche 29/2002

The four distributors The SCO Group, Conectiva, Suse Linux, and Turbolinux are planning to introduce UnitedLinux, a joint server operating system for enterprise deployment, in November of this year. The technical specifications have already been finalized.

"Standards, standards, standards!" The growing popularity of Linux as server operating system in enterprises has been accompanied by an urgent call for binding technical agreements. Especially international corporations were disconcerted about the multiplicity of Linux distributions - and many decided to postpone their strategic decisions in favor of the Open Source operating system, regardless of the fact that technical and operational aspects actually encouraged the use of Linux. No wonder! After all, the fractionalization of Unix into incompatible derivatives is still vivid in the minds of IT decision makers.

The UnitedLinux initiative now makes head against a repetition of this "historical" misdevelopment. UnitedLinux not only adheres to existing Linux standards such as Linux Standard Base (LSB) and Li18nux (internationalization and localization), it goes far beyond these least common denominators of the Linux world by defining an entire server operating system. Accordingly, the UnitedLinux initiative focuses on the professional segment.

This will prove to be beneficial for all. Software providers will have a uniform platform to which they can rapidly and efficiently port their applications. Their expenses for product compatibility checks and certifications will be reduced considerably. This, in turn, is expected to contribute to an expanded application portfolio, resulting in an increased acceptance of Linux in the enterprise segment.

Customers will welcome this development. Furthermore, companies operating at an international scale will appreciate UnitedLinux as the first truly "global" Linux which not only supports the European languages, but also Chinese, Japanese, and Korean - both during the installation and in the desktop environment. UnitedLinux is also suitable for deployment in heterogeneous IT infrastructure, providing one server operating system with a uniform Linux code basis for the 32-bit and 64-bit processors of AMD and Intel as well as for the zSeries, iSeries, and pSeries machines of IBM.

The schedule until the first release of UnitedLinux has already been determined. Following an alpha version for initial tests, all interfaces will be "frozen" in the beta phase as of mid-August; from mid-September until the first release of version 1.0 in November, the work will only concentrate on improving the stability. UnitedLinux 2.0 is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2003. Although UnitedLinux is developed by a multi-company team, the operating system as well as additional software solutions and services will be offered and marketed by the individual UnitedLinux partners using their own brand names.

UnitedLinux 1.0 will support the File Hierarchy Standard 2.2 which regulates the uniform order of the system files in the directory structure. The Linux Standard Base, too, is implemented, ensuring a uniform environment for Linux applications. For this purpose, the standard defines a directory structure, standard libraries, the boot process, and the file format of binaries. The LSB ruling explicitly draws on older standards such as the X11 protocol and the Posix 1 standard.

Li18nux 1.0 assists application developers in internationalizing their programs. The peculiar designation derives from the widely used abbreviation I18N: the letters "i" and "n" of "internationalization" are separated by 18 letters. Additionally, some Linux-independent standards are also adhered to, such as Extensible Markup Language (XML), Simple Object Access Protocol (Soap), and Web-Based Enterprise Management (WBEM).

To the extent that the official Linux kernel version 2.4 does not yet contain certain important functions, the Unix Linux team will port the existing implementations and make them available for UnitedLinux 1.0. This includes Memory Expansion Technology (MXT) for compressing the contents of the main memory as well as direct I/O and multipath I/O for access to mass storage media. Furthermore, PCI-X, USB floppy, and USB CD-ROM will be supported.

UnitedLinux will support three file systems with journaling functionality: Ext3, ReiserFS, and IBM's 64-bit file system JFS. A Logical Volume Manager (LVM) for managing hard disks will also be provided. Computing centers can look forward to performance gains through more efficient thread support with the help of NGPT (Next Generation Posix Threads), faster and more resource-friendly access to hard disks through asynchronous I/O and raw I/O as well as hyper-threading support. Additional central functions for administering large networks include the support of Storage Area Networks (SAN), Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), and LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol v3). Thanks to large memory support, the United Linux x86 kernel is able to handle up to 64 GB RAM.

The SuSE system assistant YaST2 (Yet another Setup Tool) will be used as installation and administration tool. By means of the fully automated installation with YaST2, UnitedLinux enables rational configuration management in company networks. The installation can be performed from the CD-ROM, the local hard disk, or by way of the network.

Apart from the operating system basis that was optimized for stability and security, UnitedLinux comprises all server services relevant in Linux, allowing the implementation of Internet services like WWW and FTP or proxy, mail, and news servers. The UnitedLinux standard equipment also includes proven Internet helpers such as DHCP, Domain Name Service (DNS), and Time Service (NTP). Moreover, all functionalities for file and print services in heterogeneous networks (Unix, Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP, Novell Netware, Mac OS) are included.

In addition to numerous firewall components such as the ipchains packet filter setting, the extensive range of security assets also provides encryption mechanisms like GnuPG and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). UnitedLinux supports the widely used authentication tools Kerberos 5 and PAM, and can be utilized for encrypted communication within a Virtual Private Network (VPN). OpenLDAP is used as directory service. The uniform Linux offers the graphical desktop environments KDE 3 and Gnome 2.

One of the main tasks of the integration team in the weeks to come consists of the standardization of the interfaces for the hardware and software providers, which will also include the installation of new hardware drivers. In order to facilitate and accelerate porting for application developers, developer versions of UnitedLinux that comprise compilers, libraries, and developer tools as well as binaries and the source code of the operating system will be made available at an early date.

In order to be able to operate their IT infrastructure permanently on the basis of a secure, powerful, and stable operating system, professional Linux users depend heavily on the manufacturer's guarantee. The system maintenance for UnitedLinux vouches for long-term investment security, as the certifications of leading hardware and software providers retain their validity even after an update. Within the scope of this system maintenance, the product integrator SuSE makes all all relevant patches, fixes, and updates available in a quality-assured and documented form.

Information on the status of the activities and UnitedLinux downloads is available at www.unitedlinux.com.

A 28-page white paper on the technical goals of UnitedLinux is presented at www.unitedlinux.com/pdfs/whitepaper4.pdf.



Conectiva S.A. The SCO Group SuSE Linux AG Turbolinux, Inc.

Conectiva S.A

The SCO Group

SuSE Linux AG

Turbolinux, Inc.

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