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Twin Beaks

Twin Beaks

While recently reading through a leading national newspaper, I happened to notice a slick, full-page advertisement for a new enterprise-class server. Made by a leading hardware manufacturer, it was one of those N-way Intel Xeon rack-mount systems that are in a whole league by themselves compared to the machines you and I have at home. This baby was more like a mainframe with its ability to handle several operating system platforms at once, and can literally take the place of several machines in your server room.

Being somewhat of a hardware aficionado, I just had to study the ad and see what's new in the world of microprocessor and operating system magic. Then something caught my eye - or to be exact something was missing. The ad made no mention of the hardware manufacturer's native Unix-based operating system! I've heard that the major hardware vendors are embracing Linux in a big way, but when Linux and Windows are mentioned to the exclusion of their bread and butter OS, times are a-changing.

What I find most amazing about the Linux story, and its rapid adoption by the corporate world, is its humble beginnings and the power of a seemingly grassroots effort by hundreds, if not thousands, of programmers around the world. The operating system is, in a sense, made for the people by the people; or for those Unix purists, for the programmer, by the programmer.

Further, I firmly believe that the forces that govern the software we see today are best described as evolutionary in nature. Similar to the way it works in nature, the evolutionary process is hard at work in the computing field making certain software products succeed over time while relegating others to disappearing into the proverbial trash bin. When you really look at it, it is simply survival of the fittest.

One of the most famous research projects dealing with evolution was Darwin's study of finches on the Galapagos Islands. There, among other things, he discovered that certain species with long beaks were good at gathering certain foods (like nuts), while species with short beaks were better at gathering other types of food. If a species happens to have a long beak, and the only food available requires a short beak, the species with the long beak will eventually die out.

If you carry this analogy to the world of software, you can draw the same parallels. If I am a company charging tens of thousands of dollars per CPU for my operating system, and another operating system comes along with the same capabilities and can be purchased for nearly nothing, I am not going to make it either.

Moreover, the software evolutionary process may not necessarily be driven purely by economics, but also by new innovations, such as Java technology. Software engineers from Sun were looking for a “new new” thing in the interactive video space but ended up applying the technology to the Internet. And we still feel the effects of their work today.

It is difficult to say how Linux-based J2EE platforms will fare in the marketplace as time goes on, and whether corporate America will continue to embrace Linux when things become rosier from an economic standpoint. I believe that Linux is a great OS, and whatever the price, such decisions will hopefully be made with its capabilities and merits in mind.

As you may have already guessed, this month we focus on Linux as a hardware platform for WebLogic. I hope you enjoy reading this issue!

More Stories By Joe Mitchko

Joe Mitchko is the editor-in-chief of WLDJ and a senior technical specialist for a leading consulting services company.

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