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IMAP server co-founder offers three rules for open source success

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September 3, 2014

A co-founder of the widely-used IMAP email server Dovecot has outlined his three rules for open source success, and that's something that the open source community can certainly relate to in a big way.

“The first rule is don't sell your company to Oracle if you want to keep your product alive,” he told World Hosting Day in Singapore yesterday.

“The second rule is again, don't sell your company to Oracle.” Linnanmaki's remarks were, of course, made in reference to Oracle's acquisition of MySQL, a transaction he feels was a “fiasco” but has turned out “not that bad because the only one suffering is Oracle.”

To say that Linnanmaki doesn't like Oracle is an understatement. Which brings us to his third law, namely that the open source community routes around obstacles and re-groups on the other side.

“Most of the main MySQL developers are doing MariaDB based on the open source version of MySQL,” he observed. “The community is moving to MariaDB. They are back on the good side.”

Linnanmäki wasn't just taking a swipe at Oracle or extolling the virtues of open source. Dovecot is open source, a large number of telcos and hosting operators are among its many users.

He says it runs on about 2.7 million servers and operates hundreds of millions of mailboxes. The MySQL situation is therefore of interest to its users.

Linnanmäki said users need not worry that Dovecot will befall the same fate as MySQL. For one thing, it's not for sale. Author Timo Sirainen is also just 32, has plenty of plans for the tool and the company's management team have no plans to head for the beach.

And even if they do, or the software became a bit boring, Linnanmäki is confident the open source community would build on Dovecot.

Meanwhile, the Dovecot program is keen to build on Google's recently-announced decision to permit access to data within Gmail inboxes without needing to have IMAP present in client software.

Linnanmäki said he feels this approach “makes sense” and that Dovecot has dabbled with similar approaches in the past.

The team will therefore tweak its servers to allow Google's new APIs to work. “We will be supporting this evolution of access to email”, Linnanmäki said.

The co-founder also had some unkind words – and a familiar dose of bad news – for conventional array vendors. Dovecot can run natively inside AWS or Azure, or use those services' cloud storage facilities, a feature he feels is critical for service providers.

Linnanmäki cited the case of a Dutch Dovecot service provider who wished to greatly increase the size of the mailboxes it offered to users. During the scoping process, the service provider found that the cost of maintenance alone for new NetApp arrays more than covered the cost of migrating away from old arrays to a cloudy replacement, and the operations of the new system.

“If you do storage with NFS and appliances, your email services will not be very profitable,” Linnanmäki said.

In other open source and Linux news

The Linux Foundation said earlier this morning that it has introduced two new certification programs aimed at connecting companies and prospective recruiters with qualified Linux system administrators and engineers.

"The supply of labor in the Linux community has been far outpaced by the overall demand for the Linux operating system," said Linux Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin, addressing the audience at the annual LinuxCon event in Chicago.

"In the past three years, Linux has grown faster than any other computer or server operating system in the history of the IT industry and the supply of labor just isn't keeping up with it."

Zemlin pointed out to a recent study commissioned by the Linux Foundation in which 93 percent of IT managers said they were looking for Linux talent, yet 90 percent said it was very difficult to find the qualified candidates.

The Linux Foundation already provides Linux training in various forms, including white papers, online courses and other similar programs.

Zemlin said one introductory online Linux course the Foundation co-created with Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has enrolled 250,000 students so far. But a lot more is needed, he added.

With the launch of the Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator (LFCS) and Linux Foundation Certified Engineer (LFCE) programs, the group will now offer employers a way to verify that prospective hires have the proper skills they need.

"When you take and pass the Foundation's exams you can really prove that you know what you're doing," Zemlin said.

But while other organizations have offered Linux certification in the past, the Linux Foundation's approach is different in that Linux professionals can become certified from anywhere in the world, with exams conducted entirely online. Enrollees need never travel to a testing center.

The certification exams require an internet connection, a web browser, a microphone, and a webcam, but they are entirely performance-based.

Rather than solving multiple-choice problems or answering trick questions, as Zemlin put it, exam-takers are asked to complete real-world tasks with a time limit.

At launch, enrollees can take the certification exams on their choice of three Linux distributions, including CentOS, OpenSuse and Ubuntu.

However, neither Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) nor derivatives like Fedora are included in the program so far.

Candidates who pass the exams will be issued a graphical emblem to display on their CVs, websites, LinkedIn pages, or other job-search tools.

As an added bonus for LinuxCon attendees, the Linux Foundation issued everyone at the Chicago event coupons entitling them to one free chance at the Linux certification.

Certification ordinarily costs $300, but for a limited time the Linux Foundation is offering a discounted rate of $50 for the first 500 people to sign up for the exams.

The group said that it plans to announce additional discounts and promotions via its official training Twitter feed.

In other Linux and IT news

Red Hat derivative 'The CentOS Project' has announced the general availability of Linux CentOS version 7, the first release of the free distribution based on the source code for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 7.

It's also the first major CentOS release to ship since the CentOS Project entered into a new funding and co-development partnership with Red Hat in January of this year.

Because CentOS ver. 7 is built from the freely available RHEL 7 source code tree, its feature set closely mirrors that of Red Hat's latest operating system, which shipped last month after a six-month beta period.

"CentOS conforms fully with Red Hat's redistribution policy and aims to have full functional compatibility with the upstream product," the OS release notes explain.

"CentOS mainly changes packages to remove Red Hat's branding and artwork," it added. Like RHEL 7, CentOS-7 is now powered by version 3.10 of the Linux kernel, with advanced support for Linux Containers and XFS as the default file system.

It's also the first version of CentOS to include the system D management engine, the firewalld dynamic firewall system, and the GRUB2 boot loader.

Additionally, the default Java Development Kit has been upgraded to OpenJDK-7, and the system now ships with Open VMWare Tools and 3D graphics drivers out of the box.

Also like RHEL 7, this is the first version of CentOS that claims to offer an in-place upgrade path.

Eventually, users will be able to migrate from CentOS-6.5 to CentOS-7 without reformatting their systems, but unfortunately, the tools needed to achieve this are still being tested and won't be made available until a later date.

For this release, the CentOS team launched a new build process, in which the entire distribution is built from code hosted at the CentOS Project's own Git repository.

Source code packages (SRPMs) are created as a side-effect of the build cycle, however, and will be hosted on the main CentOS download servers alongside the corresponding binary packages.

"For the CentOS-7 build and release process we adopted a very open process," CentOS contributor Karanbir Singh said in a mailing list post announcing the release.

"The output of the entire buildsystem is made available, as it's built, at We hope to continue with that process for the life of CentOS-7, and attempt bringing CentOS-5 and CentOS-6 builds into the same system," he added.

Disc images of CentOS-7 – including separate builds for the Gnome and KDE desktops, a live CD image, and a network-installable version – are available beginning on Monday from the main CentOS download site and via BitTorrent.

Plans are already underway to also make the OS available in other forms in the near future, including Docker images; images for major cloud vendors, including Amazon, Google, HP, and RackSpace; images for use with on-premises cloud platforms such as OpenStack and Eucalyptus; and possibly an image for doing a minimal install.

In other Linux and IT news

This week's most recent release of the Top 500 list of supercomputers reveals to us what many had already suspected: that the Linux operating system almost dominates all systems when it comes to super computing and complex math applications. Not only does Linux power all of the top ten machines on the June 2014 list, including China's winning Tianhe-2 supercomputing node, which stole the show once again with its performance of 33.86 Petaflop/second on the Linpack benchmark, but it also now accounts for a full 97.2 percent of the full set of 500.

A mere fifteen supercomputers on the list do not use Linux, including 12 using Unix and just two using Windows.

In June 2013, Linux's share of the Top 500 was 95.2 percent. At this rate, it's only natural to speculate that Linux could claim a full 100 percent very soon.

Other highlights from this latest Top 500 list include a new entry in the No. 10 spot-- a 3.14 Pflop/s Cray XC-30 installed at an undisclosed U.S. government site, and an increase in the total combined performance of all 500 systems to 274 Pflop/s, up from 250 Pflop/s six months ago and 223 Pflop/s one year ago.

A full 37 systems on the list now offer performance greater than one Pflop/s, compared with just 31 six months ago.

Yet, while there's still some performance growth going on, these days it's not happening at the same rapid rate that it used to be, the Top 500 list creators noted.

"The battle up to petascale supercomputers was driving more change," said Meike Chabowski, senior product marketing manager at SUSE.

"Now that petascale has been reached and is kind of a new standard, the list calmed a bit," he added.

The next goal will be exascale supercomputers, but "there is no real hurry for it, as there are no real workloads yet for exascale computers," Chabowski pointed out.

"The means of hurrying and driving performance now to a bigger scale is not really useful."

Exascale computing might be possible by 2018, "but currently, trying to get massively more computing power would probably not really help for the use cases," she said.

"And there is a bit more sensitivity also towards green computing," she added. Meanwhile, the fact that supercomputing is still primarily driven by government and academia has also played a role, as economic challenges have led to less investment during the past year or two.

Nevertheless, in general, high-performance computing (HPC) is growing, and this growth is driven by the private and commercial segment, Chabowski said.

"Overall, HPC technology isn't just used anymore for research and government-- nearly every industry is using HPC technologies nowadays," she explained.

"These can be seen in CAD modeling for car manufacturing and building aircraft; online gaming; movies, animation and entertainment; and ultrascale Internet computing," she added.

Will Linux inch closer to 100 percent domination in November's list? Only time will tell. In the meantime, you can see the latest list in its entirety on the Top500 site.

In other IT news

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.

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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.

Source: The Dovecot Initiative.

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