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Posted by Richard Fichera on June 10, 2014
When the first Linux distributions based on the 3.0 kernel were released almost a year ago, I was struck by how far Linux had advanced. The latest turn of the crank for Linux, in the form of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 (RHEL 7), reinforces this opinion. Built primarily on recent versions of the Linux 3.0 et seq kernel available to the entire Linux community, including SUSE, Red Hat, Cannonical and others, RHEL 7 continues the progress of the Linux community toward an OS that is fully capable of replacing proprietary RISC/UNIX for the vast majority of enterprise workloads. It is apparent, both from the details on RHEL 7 and from perusing the documentation on other distribution providers, that Linux has continued to mature nicely as both a foundation for large scale-out clouds as well as a strong contender for the kind of enterprise workloads that previously were only comfortable on either RISC/UNIX systems or large Microsoft Server systems. In effect, Linux has continued its maturation to the point where its feature set and scalability begin to look like and feel like a top-tier UNIX.
In addition to the required low-level plumbing – schedulers, memory management and file systems capable of keeping up with both high-volume transactions and operating effectively in large distributed clusters – Red Hat has also focused on features to improve the installation and management experience, thus directly reducing cost of ownership, following in the footsteps of other modern OS development trajectories.
Among the enterprise technology that caught my eye:
Everything about the RHEL 7 announcement reinforces my earlier contention that modern Linux is, at this point, essentially a functional clone of available proprietary UNIX, with the latest round of additional capabilities in RHEL 7 giving parity with many of the high-end features that have distinguished enterprise-grade UNIX variants such as Solaris and AIX. While both Oracle and IBM have continued to invest, and have added further features to their UNIXs that offer differentiation from Linux, the difference continues to shrink and the number of workloads that cannot be effectively served by Linux on x86 systems also continues to shrink. This convergence is further catalyzed by the continual improvement in the underlying hardware platforms, with the recent announcements of systems based on Intel’s Xeon E7 V2 providing platforms for Linux that offer performance envelopes overlapping all but the very largest single RISC/UNIX system, and with better economics in most cases.[i]
Given time for the new Linux distributions to prove their stability, the future is bright for Linux to inherit the majority of the remaining RISC/UNIX enterprise workloads. UNIX will not die, but its absolute decline will continue, and its share of net new workloads will shrink even more dramatically.
[i] The performance advantages of the largest UNIX systems is largely unused in any event, since the majority of very large UNIX systems are run in a partitioned mode, with each partition being well within the performance envelope of even modestly configured 4- and 8-socket Xeon servers.
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