VMware to Buy Novell’s Linux Business?

This is very interesting indeed. VMware and Novell just announced that VMware would sell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server on VMware’s vSphere product (with full support by VMware) – and now there is a report by the Wall Street Journal that Novell’s Linux business could be bought by VMware. Talks are continuing, but this is intriguing to say the least.

The focus is on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, but Novell’s Linux “businesses” also include GNOME and Mono; it should be interesting to see what happens next.

Novell has been through some very rough times – first WordPerfect, then Netware, then UNIXware, and now SUSE. When SCO (not The SCO Group!) was split up, what was left was a shell of its former self; I hope that does not happen to Novell.

If VMware buys Novell’s Linux business, then SUSE would join Zimbra and SpringSource in the fold.

Let’s not forget, too, that VMware is owned by the storage company EMC. This could make itself felt in superior support for EMC products in SUSE Linux.

Personally, I feel better about SUSE being in the hands of VMware than I ever did thinking about Sun (and Solaris) in the hands of Oracle. I would also be surprised if some other company got SUSE instead; with the recent cooperation between the two companies VMware is the natural choice.

There was also the rumor that Attachmate would take on some of Novell’s other businesses. Attachmate has been good to the Reflection Suite for X that I like and recommend; perhaps Attachmate could be a good match as well.

Programming Languages on OpenVMS

Looking at OpenVMS administration, and investigating the possible languages to use on OpenVMS, there are many options – some supported by HP and some community open source options.

One of the first options is Perl; apparently Perl was originally designed as a way to write scripts that worked under UNIX and VMS both. Bernd Ulmann wrote an article for OpenVMS Technical Journal 13 about Perl on OpenVMS and gave a presentation on it in the spring of 2009 at an HP Connect OpenVMS Meeting (English translation) in Germany.

The HP version of Perl appears to be tied to the Secure Web Server (SWS) but it can stand alone.

Another language that is growing on OpenVMS is Java. Jean-Yves Bourles and Thierry Uso wrote on Java and OpenVMS in OpenVMS Technical Journal 10. Netbeans is available from HP to facilitate Java development on OpenVMS.

With Java available, that opens up the possibility of perhaps using a language that runs on the Java JVM as well. That brings to mind JRuby, Jython, Groovy, Scala, and Clojure. Information on most of these is rather scarce unfortunately; only Scala and JRuby have ports (both by the aforementioned Thierry Uso). Personally, these two are the most interesting to me; Scala has unmatched integration with Java itself as well.

Python is also available. Python seems to be the new administration tool of choice; at least, Red Hat seems to think that way.

As part of the Secure Web Server (SWS), you also get HP’s version of PHP. However, this does not seem to be a separate product as Perl is, and there is no description of using PHP as a scripting language (which you can do by running PHP against a file from the command line).

Lua is graciously made available for OpenVMS by our friends over at Hoffman Labs. Lua is a fantastic scripting language that doesn’t get the cover that it deserves.

Lastly, Tcl/Tk is available as well.

So which do I recommend? Well, Perl, PHP, and Java are all HP supported products, so one could start there. With Java, I see Scala and JRuby being fantastic languages as well, although they are not supported by HP. Lua is also a favorite of mine; an OpenVMS version is wonderful; however, Lua is not as widely available for other platforms as is Perl and Java.

I should mention that PL/I is still active on OpenVMS; it is commercially sold and supported by Kednos. PL/I was an interesting language, but it doesn’t have modern capabilities.

At the German openvms.org site there is also a big list of OpenVMS ports (including languages).

Are you ready for programming on OpenVMS? I am!

Whither Sun Microsystems?

The recent fourth quarter reports from server manufacturers was dim, and Sun Microsystems was by far the worst (with a 35% loss compared to the same period last year). On top of this, Sun just announced in October (within their 8K filing for the SEC) intentions to lay off 3000 employees in the next 12 months. Infoworld also had a nice piece on this; according to Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, the company is losing $100 million each month the European Union regulators put off accepting the merger.

With the Oracle acquisition in progress, there are a lot of questions about the future viability of Sun Microsystems, and of some of its products.

I don’t think people realize just how important the Sun group of products are, and what an impact it would have if most – or even some – of the products were cancelled. Consider this list of Sun products:

Most of the most popular products were mentioned by Oracle in their Sun Acquisition FAQ (PDF), stating that they will increase money spent on each over what Sun spent. These products include: Java, Solaris, SPARC, StarOffice, NetBeans, virtualization products, Glassfish, and MySQL. Other products were not mentioned – such as Lustre, the Modular Data Center, and others.

The list above also does not list the technologies that were spearheaded by Sun – and some still are: ZFS, NFS, NIS (and NIS+), dtrace, containers, and smc.

It would be unfortunate – and materially significant – if Sun were to go under or if any of the majority of their products were to be cancelled. One can only hope this does not happen…

Subversion joins Apache

ApacheCon 2009 ended recently – and like other good conferences, there were a number of announcements of interest.

One of the interesting announcements was on 4 November 2009, when the Subversion project (currently hosted at Tigris.org) announced that they would become absorbed under the Apache Foundation umbrella as part of the Apache Incubator. (Subversion has an excellent online book available).

There doesn’t seem to be any licensing change. It should not affect other projects based on Subversion; most notably for this author is SVNKit, the Java-based client library – which, in theory at least, will run under OpenVMS with Java.

Scripting on the Java Virtual Machine

Now that OpenVMS has Java, and that HP-UX has Java, I started wondering about the possibility of running a scripting language on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) as a way of supporting all these diverse environments with the same code and tools.

Choosing a language can be difficult, especially when there are so many good ones to choose from. I’ll assume for purposes of discussion that one is already familiar with at least one or more computer languages already (you should be!).

So what are the criteria a system administrator should use to choose a language on the JVM?

  • Does the language have a strong and vibrant community around it? The language might be nice, but if no new development is being done on it, it will eventually fail and stop working on the newer JVM. Bugs will not be fixed if development has halted. It also helps to have a large variety of people to call on when trouble arises, or when your code has to be maintained in the future.
  • Does the language support your favored method of programming? If you have no desire to learn functional programming, then don’t choose a language that is a functional language. Find a language that thinks the way you do (unless you are specifically trying to stretch your mind…).
  • Is your preferred langauge already available for the JVM? There are implementations of Ruby (JRuby), Python (Jython), LISP (Armed Bear Common Lisp), Tcl (Jacl) and many others. A language that you already know will reduce your learning time to near zero on the Java Virtual Machine.
  • What are the requirements? For example, JRuby requires a dozen libraries; Clojure and Armed Bear Common Lisp have no outside requirements. Which is simpler to install onto a new machine?

So what languages am I looking at? I am looking at these:

  • Clojure – a LISP-like functional programming language which seems to be taking off handsomely.
  • JRuby – Ruby is my all-time favorite scripting language, and having it available whereever the Java VM is is a very tintillating prospect. It’s also directly supported by Sun, the makers of Java.
  • Groovy – this is a new language that takes after Ruby and Smalltalk, and it is growing in popularity at a dramatic pace.
  • Scala – this is a language with a strong developer base and an object-oriented and functional design. Don’t know much more about it yet.
  • Armed Bear Common Lisp – ABCL is a full Common LISP implementation for the Java VM, and is used as part of the J editor. Unlike ABCL, development on J seems to have stopped; development on ABCL has gone through a resurgence after not quite dying for several years. ABCL is the closest thing to LISP on the JVM, and is usually the first mentioned – even though its development community is not nearly as strong as Scala or JRuby.

These are only the ones I’ve chosen to focus on; there are many, many more.

Putting Linux on a Compaq nc4010

The HP/Compaq nc4010 is a business-class laptop with no CDROM, no DVD, and no floppy – but with network, modem, USB ports, SD slot, and PCMCIA slot. The system has a 1.7GHz Pentium M – snappier than a Pentium II for sure. It will also boot from the network with PXE or from the USB ports.

Booting this platform is the most difficult part. I didn’t try using PXE, because although I was once set up for PXE on my home network, I don’t have the distributions (Kubuntu and Fedora) set up for installing from PXE and it seemed like a bigger headache than try to make it boot through USB. USB booting is not (apparently) enabled by default; it requires setting USB to use Legacy in the BIOS settings – and in my case, it also required playing with the setting for Quickboot: I had turned it off, but upon re-enabling it the system booted from a USB key.

I tried using Fedora 9, but the Live USB version come up in a lower resolution and crashed upon exiting. I tried also Kubuntu Hardy (8.04.1) and it worked beautifully.

Loading Kubuntu was a breeze – and recognized all of the capabilities of the laptop (amazing!). USB works, network works (albeit with proprietary drivers), PCMCIA works – it just works. Even hibernate works (although suspend may not).

I’ve never quite liked Ubuntu, and I mostly chalked that up to its standard themes (brown and orange) and its use of Gnome and so on – never fully experiencing Ubuntu and always wanting to get a better feel for it. I’ve tried running Kubuntu (which uses KDE) before, but never as an “active” desktop.

Kubuntu made a believer out of me. Everything works in the laptop. Even MP3s, Adobe Flash, Java – it all installed cleanly (upon demand) and works out of the box. Installation was extremely simple. The available packages are quite extensive, and include Debian’s packages.

I attribute some of this ease of support (specifically, MP3 support, Flash, Java, proprietary drivers) to the fact that the company behind Ubuntu (Canonical) is not an American company, but a South African company – which has different laws. So they can make it easy to get proprietary “parts” that they could not sell or support otherwise.

I’m switching from my FreeBSD laptop to this one for the most part: this system is smaller, lighter, faster, and has more memory. It was good to build a FreeBSD desktop though – and took more doing than I thought. I wonder what PC-BSD would be like….. Hmm….

Writing Portable Administration Scripts

Writing portable scripts for UNIX and Linux is fairly easy – Korn shell is everywhere, and ksh scripts work the same and have the same basic tools available (sed, awk, pipes, etc.).

What about writing portable scripts to work on UNIX, Linux, and OpenVMS? UNIX and Linux are similar enough that things will work across the different platforms – the same holds for the BSD platforms and for Windows with the Cygwin utilities.  But radically different platforms such as OpenVMS require a different approach.

The first thing I did in looking at OpenVMS was to search out the languages and utilities that were available.  HP offers a number of open source tools, and has Freeware CDROMs available as well. SAIC has a large OpenVMS archive, including the contents of the HP Freeware CDROMs.

Under OpenVMS, I found these languages available:

  • Java (built-in)
  • GNU awk
  • Perl
  • Perl/tk
  • tcl/tk
  • Python

I doubt that Java would be used for scripting purposes, but it is becoming ubiquitous and if it is well-known by the scripter, it is possible that it could be used.

However, the other (add-on) alternatives seem to be much more likely.  Perl, Python, GNU awk, and tcl have extensive capabilities, and with tk visual displays are possible.  My main choice would probably be Perl.

The next step is to make sure that any coding that is done is truly portable.  Perl, with its extensive documentation, includes documentation specifically for portability and for OpenVMS as well.

The Perl portability documentation goes into complete detail about the various points that may trip a programmer up; in short, several of the main points cover:

  • Data representation (high-endian order? low-endian order? line terminator?)
  • File path representation
  • Character sets and encoding (including order)
  • Time and date representation

The best thing to do is to following the guidelines in the Perl portability document (even if using other languages) and to then test the portable code on all systems affected. Only in extreme circumstances should code be written specifically to the target system and selected based on target OS type.  Better to make it portable at its core.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 43 other followers