Linux applications become mainstream

Linux applications become mainstream<@VM>Try one of these 11 packages to lower your systems support costs

OS' growing popularity attracts software publishers


Linux has quickly distinguished itself in business computing. The operating system has taken up to a 20 percent share of the network server market and is the only operating system outside the Microsoft Windows family to have sustained growth over the last few years.

It has had less impact at the desktop PC level, but it has its fans there. Improved graphical interfaces for Linux'including K Desktop Environment and GNU Object Modeling Environment, better known as KDE and Gnome, respectively'have made it easier to use than it had been. They give nontechnical computer users the features they expect from a desktop OS.

Meanwhile, Linux's technical strengths are increasingly attractive to systems administrators who want to lower the costs of systems management and support.

None of this would matter without software'the broad range of software and development tools for Linux is making possible the OS' advances on the server and desktop PC levels.

Commercial products scarce

A few years ago, there were relatively few commercial software products for Linux, which relied on a rapidly growing open-source, freeware and shareware community. The dot-com boom produced many new software companies built around open-source software projects, such as the Gnome desktop project and the PostgreSQL and MySQL databases. Meanwhile, established companies such as Corel Corp., IBM Corp., Informix Corp., Oracle Corp. and Sybase Inc. developed their own versions of products for Linux.

IBM and other companies also invested heavily in open-source projects such as the Apache Web server and incorporated open-source technologies into their products.

Ximian Inc.'s Gnome includes photo and graphics editing. It's priced at $25.
Recent efforts in Linux software have aimed to make the OS easier to use. Ximian Inc. supports the Gnome desktop environment and is in the process of creating office automation applications that mirror the capabilities of Microsoft Office.

Some companies aren't Johnny-come-latelies at providing Linux versions of productivity applications. Corel, for example, has for a while had a Linux version of WordPerfect, and now it offers a Linux office suite.

With the introduction of Java into the Linux OS in the last few years, the desktop PC application market has broadened slightly. There's ThinkFree Corp.'s ThinkFree Office, a Java application suite that is compatible with Microsoft Office files. ThinkFree's suite can be downloaded for offline use and takes up less than 10M of hard drive space. It also allows Web file storage.

Although there has been a great deal of speculation about Microsoft Corp. producing a Linux version of Office, there is no sign of this happening anytime soon. But future versions of Office based on Microsoft's nascent .Net platform could run on any operating system that supports .Net's Common Language Runtime. Microsoft officials also have mentioned the possibility of porting CLR to Linux as part of a reference implementation of the company's C# programming language.

Server OS greatness

Linux's greatest success has been as a server OS. Early in its rise, it benefited from open-source projects that allowed it to act in several capacities. It functioned as a file server for Windows networks using Samba, a freeware implementation of the Server Message Block protocol; as a Structured Query Language database server using PostgreSQL and MySQL, and as a Web server using Apache.

The Lowdown

' What is it? This guide offers a sample of applications that run on Linux. They include Linux versions of familiar apps, such as Corel WordPerfect, and apps developed for Linux that are similar to or compatible with software such as Microsoft Office.

' Why would I need it? If you're considering jumping on the Linux bandwagon, you'll need software programs for the ride.

' Price? A lot of Linux software is, of course, still free, but most commercial applications carry a price. Still, Linux applications are comparatively inexpensive and a lot of companies offer free or very inexpensive developer versions of their products.

' Must-know info? Improved graphical user interfaces and support from major software vendors is expanding Linux' appeal from open-source developers to the more general computing community. More widespread support is likely to follow.

It enjoyed widespread adoption by Internet service providers as a hosting server for user mail, Telnet shell and Web accounts. And Web application developers found Linux to be an ideal platform for development.

That popularity led to support for the OS from a number of vendors hoping to grab a share of the Internet application market. Many companies even offer free or low-cost developer versions of their Linux products to encourage developers to deploy their products on Linux and other operating systems.

IBM offerings

IBM offers Linux versions of nearly all its enterprise applications: the DB2 database, WebSphere application server, Lotus Domino groupware and messaging server, and various development and deployment tools. When it acquired Informix, IBM gained another database and an array of database access and fourth-generation development tools for Linux.

Java also is having an effect on enterprise application development and deployment for Linux. The Apache Group's Tomcat Java application server, which supports Java servlets and JavaServer Pages, is available on Linux'another reason Linux has become so attractive as a development platform.

Commercial application server vendors also have shipped their Java application servers for the Linux OS, including IBM's WebSphere and WebLogic from BEA Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif. Oracle, too, is shipping its high-end products for Linux, including its new Oracle9i Application Server.

As Linux rapidly improves its functionality and support, the OS will continue to attract new applications. And its cost-effectiveness also will continue to make it the most rapidly emerging server operating system in the marketplace.

Kevin Jonah, a Maryland network manager, writes often about computer technology.

Company Product Description Linux Distributions supported Graphic interface supported by client Open Source? Source code available? Price
Desktop Applications
Corel Corp.

Ottawa, Ontario

WordPerfect Office 2000 for Linux Office automation suite Kernel Release 2.2 or higher X Window No No Standard edition: $21-$34 per user or $4 per universal power unit (UPU)

Enterprise: $120-$189 per user or $18-$23 per UPU

Wireless: $58-$90 user or $91-$114 per UPU
ThinkFree Corp.

Cupertino, Calif.

ThinkFree Office Java-based application suite including Microsoft Office file compatible word processor, spreadsheet and presentation tool, and Web file storage Any Linux distribution that supports Java X Window (uses Java VM presentation) No No Individual licenses $40 per year; enterprise packages available

$25 for CD; unlimited installs
Ximian Inc.


Gnome Desktop environment for Linux and Unix Red Hat 6.0 or higher, TurboLinux 6.0, Mandrake 6.1 or higher; Caldara OpenLinux eDesktop 2.4, Debian GNU/Linux 2.2 (both Woody and Potato), SuSE 6.3 or higher Gnome Yes Yes $25 for CD; unlimited installs
Ximian Gnumeric Spreadsheet application that supports Microsoft Excel file formats, with Corba integration Same as Gnome Gnome Yes Yes Included in Gnome distribution
Server Applications
IBM Corp.

Armonk, N.Y.

IBM Small Business Suite for Linux Suite of server software, including the DB2 database, WebSphere application server, and Lotus Domino messaging and groupware server Red Hat, Caldera, others X Window No No $499
Oracle Corp.

Redwood Shores, Calif.

Oracle9i Application Server Mid-tier Web and wireless application server Intel Linux distributions N/A No No Standard: $21-$34 per user or $4 per UPU

Enterprise: $120-$189 per user or $18-$23 per UPU

Wireless: $58-$90 per user or $91-$114 per UPU
Red Hat Inc.

Durham, N.C.

Interchange E-commerce application All x86 Linux distributions, including Red Hat, Mandrake, Debian, Caldera; all Unix distributions, including HP UX, Solaris and Mac OS X; FreeBSD, OpenBSD N/A Yes Yes; download available at developer. No licensing fees; support available
Stronghold Secure Web server based on Apache and mod_sslk; supports encrypted and unencrypted Web transactions x86 Linux distributions, including Red Hat, Debian, SuSE and Slackware N/A Contains some open source, with non-open source components Yes $995
Sybase Inc.
Emeryville, Calif.
Adaptive Server Enterprise 12.5 Database server; provides support for XML data and integrated Java code

Automated Linux system management tool
Linux kernel version 2.2.14 through, and Glibc-2.1.3-15 N/A No No $369 (GSA)
Systems Management

Aduva Inc.

Palo Alto, Calif.

Aduva Manager, Aduva Director Automated Linux system management tool Red Hat and SuSE (with TurboLinux release this year) X Window Client software only Will soon be released $1,260 up per server; $750 up per client

Caldera Systems Inc.

Orem, Utah

Volution Linux software management system Caldera OpenLinux X Window No Yes $2,392 for 10 nodes; $565 for 5 additional nodes; $1,045 for 10 additional nodes; $1,928 for 20 additional nodes


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