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VMware posts an End of Availability Announcement for SUSE Linux Ent.

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June 26, 2014

VMware said earlier this morning that it has posted an End of Availability Announcement for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. In the past, VMware used to hand fully-supported SLES licences to some vSphere buyers. As Vmware's page describing the offering states, the licences came “complete with patches and updates”.

However, those don't come free-- SUSE's support pricing page lists prices starting at $349 per physical server and $529 for a virtual server.

That price is important because VMware uses SUSE as the operating system for its virtual appliances.

SUSE states that SLES is “integrated” with VMware's appliances. With free licences no longer on offer, future users running a VMware appliance may find it is more expensive to do so if they choose to subscribe to SUSE's support services.

Gartner's Michael Warrilow says that a deal with SUSE to cover the cost of providing patches and updates to users is in the works.

The EOL announcement is at pains to point out that nothing changes for current users, at least in terms of being able to use SUSE licences handed out in the past.

If you like the idea of getting your hands on the licence, that is still possible provided you do so before July 25, 2014. You have a bit less that a month left.

In other IT news

Linus Torvalds has taken issue with the often repeated assertion that in today's world, everybody and his grandmother should learn computer programming, saying he just doesn't believe in it. And Torvalds has been outspoken lately.

In an interview with Business Insider over the weekend, the Linux kernel creator added that even though he grew up with computers at a relatively young age, and that he enjoys tinkering with them, not everyone is be the same, and added that there are some that in fact hate computers.

"Additionally, I don't believe that everybody should necessarily try to learn to code either," Torvalds said.

"I think it's reasonably specialized, and nobody really expects most people to have to do it. It's not like knowing how to read and write and do basic math," Torvalds said.

In this, he differs with people like Rohan Silva who, as chairman of the British government's "Year of Code" initiative, has championed using public funds to promote the idea that "getting to know code is really important" and that "not just rocket scientists" should learn computer programming.

Torvalds – who also developed the Git source code management system, which powers GitHub – is also known for his high standards when it comes to code contributions. He's a bit of a perfectionist.

He has occasionally even lashed out at other developers with profanity-filled rants in public forums when he thinks their work seems amateurish or unprofessional.

In 2013, he even threatened Linux kernel developers that if they didn't shape up their acts he would be forced to "come up with new ways to insult you, your mother, and your deceased pet hamster."

Despite his objections to cramming coding down people's throats, however, Torvalds said that he felt making basic programming education available in a more relaxed way is still valuable.

"That said, I think people should have some way of getting exposure to it, just so that people who find that they enjoy it and have the aptitude know about the possibility," Torvalds said.

"Not because everybody will want to or need to learn, but just because it is a great vocation, and there may well be lots of people who never realized that they might actually like telling computers what to do."

In other Linux and IT news

Yet another critical security hole has been discovered and patched after researchers worked out malicious servers could hijack Linux users of the cryptographic library.

Red Hat engineer Nikos Mavrogiannopoulos, who issued a security patch for the flaw (catalogued as CVE-2014-3466) Saturday, shortly after it was reported May 28 by Codenomicon researcher Joonas Kuorilehto.

Users of other affected software will have to sit tight until their open source developers incorporate the fix.

Until then, they'll remain open to potential malware attacks. The security vulnerability places GnuTLS back in the spotlight three months after Mavrogiannopoulos discovered the dangerous bug affecting the Linux platform that allowed hackers to self-sign certificates which would be gobbled up by targeted sites.

That critical security vulnerability affected more than 350 Linux software packages on various distributions including Ubuntu, Debian and Red Hat/CentOS which depended on the GnuTLS libraries for secure sockets layer and transport layer security.

The new security hole was described on the Red Hat bugtracker as a flaw in the way GnuTLS parsed session IDs from Server Hello packets of the TLS/SSL handshake.

"A malicious server could use this security flaw to send an excessively long session ID value and trigger a buffer overflow in a connecting TLS/SSL client using GnuTLS, causing it to crash or worse, potentially execute arbitrary code," the description read.

"The security hole is in read_server_hello() / _gnutls_read_server_hello(), where session_id_len is checked to not exceed incoming packet size, but not checked to ensure that it does not exceed maximum session ID length.

A deeper analysis including proof of concept was published on the Radar.Today blog. Users should update the latest GnuTLS versions (3.1.25, 3.2.15 or 3.3.4).

In other Linux and open source news

Red Hat wants to increase its market share in the storage software market, and has announced this morning that it has agreed to acquire Inktank, a privately held developer of storage software.

The deal was done for $175 million in cash, and Red Hat expects to close the acquisition sometime in May.

Red Hat's fiscal 4th quarter earnings and outlook late last month proved a mixed bag, sending shares falling about seven percent.

This latest acquisition comes nearly three years after Red Hat snapped up storage software provider Gluster for $136 million.

Inktank is driving the adoption of Ceph, an open-source software-defined storage system designed to run on commodity hardware. Software-defined storage and networks give software, rather than hardware, the leading role in network and storage management.

Red Hat's announcement of the Inktank acquisition included an assessment of the software-defined storage market from Ashish Nadkami, an analyst for market tracker IDC says -- "Software-defined platforms will continue to grow faster than any other market segment in the file and object-based storage market. This growth will primarily be driven by a rich and diverse set of data-intensive use cases across multiple industries and geographies."

Overall, Intank will help Red Hat in expanding its storage capabilities, said Brian Stevens, Red Hat's chief technology officer.

"Inktank has done a very good job assembling a strong ecosystem around Ceph and we look forward to expanding on this success together," he added.

"The strength of these world-class open storage technologies will also offer compelling capabilities as enterprise customers move to software-based storage systems," he said.

In other Linux and open source news

Since the recent discovery of the serious Heartbleed bug issue, members of the OpenBSD project have forked the popular OpenSSL library with the goal of creating a new version that they say will be a lot more trustworthy.

And even though OpenSSL is still open source software, for a full two years its entire development community managed to overlook the crucial bug that eventually triggered a global panic in the internet community.

The OpenSSL library has since been patched to address the security issue, but some fallouts from the crisis are still being felt, and the single programmer whose error caused all the problems says there just aren't enough people scrutinizing the OpenSSL code to clearly indentify difficult-to-find bugs such as Heartbleed.

However, the LibreSSL project wants to change all that, and fast. An actual fork of OpenSSL, LibreSSL was created by members of the highly security-conscious OpenBSD operating system community, including its founder Theo de Raadt, who has publicly criticized OpenSSL as a project "not developed by a responsible team." And we sure agree with him 100 percent.

The group's ultimate aim is to provide a drop-in replacement for OpenSSL that has been substantially rewritten and audited for potential security vulnerabilities. The API won't change, they say, but much of the current code will, and in a rather drastic manner, according to de Raadt.

But it's early days for the project yet, however, the group is moving rapidly. Its homepage says its contributors are currently "too busy deleting and rewriting code to make a decent web page."

Much of the early work involves refactoring and cleaning up the OpenSSL code so that it's more readable and easier to maintain. A quick glance at the code commits so far reveals a lot of "KNF" work – meaning the individual source files are being rewritten in "kernel normal form," a standard C coding style used by BSD Unix operating systems.

Additionally, thousands of lines of unneeded and useless code have already been deleted as well. Much of that code was OS-specific, including workarounds for such ancient platforms as VMS, OS/2, NetWare, classic Mac OS, and of course, older versions of Windows.

The good news of all this, however, is that LibreSSL will be an OpenBSD-only library. The developers do plan to provide multi-OS support eventually, but only after they have rewritten enough of the code to make it stable and maintainable, and then find reliable developers to work on ports to other systems.

"Now we all know that you all want this tomorrow," the project's homepage states. "We are working as fast as we can but our primary focus is to deliver good software that we trust to run ourselves. We don't want to break your heart..."

As things stands now, the first version of LibreSSL is planned for inclusion in OpenBSD 5.6. If all goes according to plan, that iteration should get here by sometime in November 2014. The upcoming version of the OS, OpenBSD 5.5, is due to ship on May 1st, 2014.

In other Linux and open source news

Linux and open source vendor Red Hat is hoping it will make a lot of money out of its OpenStack project near the end of next year, and says it won't need the help of anybody to keep the project on track.

The company's remark as it refers to 'anybody' was meant as a jab to Linus Torvalds.

Red Hat said on Wednesday at its OpenStack summit that it will turn the data center management cloud technology into serious money toward the end of 2015.

Red Hat recently re-organized its business units to help it bring OpenStack to the next level in the enterprise segment, with the hope of creating the same lucrative market for the data center management and provisioning technology as it did for Linux five years ago.

"The next 1 1/2 year is paramount," explained Red Hat's general manager for OpenStack Radhesh Balakrishnan. "We already started ringing the cash register on OpenStack. What do we see on the horizon? A ten to fifteen x scaling potential."

For the most part, the majority of Red Hat's OpenStack deployment has been for testing and development so far, Balakrishnan added, but he expects major production, and with that major money, deployments to come along by the end of 2015.

Just like Linux itself, OpenStack will take several years to make money and Balakrishnan seemed to feel that the expectations by the press for insta-profitability are a bit unrealistic.

OpenStack launched in mid-2010 with technology donated by the NASA and Rackspace, and since then has signed up a small list of contributors including Intel, HP, Red Hat, and others.

"It's a three-plus year old startup," explained Dave Cahill, Solidfire's Director of Strategic Alliances when asked about what he saw in OpenStack's future.

VMware, he pointed out, was founded pre-2000 and didn't start to make serious money till around 2009. A lot rides on OpenStack's success as it gives company's a potentially cheap way of managing thousands upon thousands of servers without having to pay for the basic software.

"People want an easy-to-use tool to solve this and wish to get out of the VMware so-called tax," he explained. And OpenStack may just be that tool. Time will tell.

One reason why OpenStack has failed to pull in as much cash as its various corporate backers hope could be a lack of focus within the project that has led to feature-creep in some areas and a lack of development on key features like networking and scheduling elsewhere.

When we ask cloud insiders what could be done to give the project more focus, many argue that OpenStack needs a 'benevolent dictator' who would lead OpenStack development in the same way Linus Torvalds uses his opinionated persona to steer Linux development.

Though this isn't a particularly pleasant way to develop software, having a single opinionated individual dictate the direction of a project can give it focus. After all, besides Linux, many proprietary companies have grown successful by being led by a strong leader like Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Bill Gates (Microsoft) or Larry Ellison (Oracle).

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Red Hat isn't convinced by this argument and argues that OpenStack's "Foundation" model of governance is sufficient. "We don't believe the need for a Linus figure," Balakrishnan said.

"Personally, if I had a choice between a reasonable set of customers and customer reasoning and someone who has a colorful personality, I'm more convinced by the other. There is also the other dimension-- Linux was just compute, now you're talking about storage and networking and compute and PaaS-- the scope gets really large for one single visionary," he added.

For OpenStack to be developed to the point of serious profitability "we need multitudes of leaders" Balakrishnan exclaimed.

For his part, Dave Cahill of Solidfire is optimistic as well, saying that the Foundation has "generally done a pretty good job" and that OpenStack won't suffer as long as the Foundation "doesn't become a standards body."

"The OpenStack Foundation gives the technical meritocracy and influencing ability to the ones driving it. If the best brains are driving it, then why worry about the personality?" argues Balakrishnan. And he might be right. We will see over time.

In other Linux and open source news

Canonical announced Wednesday that the latest long-term support release of its Ubuntu Linux distribution will be available Friday.

The South African company made the availability announcement of Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, codenamed Trusty Tahr yesterday, coincidentally alongside chief rival Red Hat holding its Red Hat Summit in San Francisco. And no, that's not a coincidence.

Source: VMware.

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