[Linux-aus] Scaling

Con Zymaris conz at cyber.com.au
Thu Jun 17 19:45:02 UTC 2004

On Wed, Jun 16, 2004 at 01:58:28PM +0930, Dan Shearer wrote:
> Leon,
> On Wed, Jun 16, 2004 at 11:27:45AM +0800, Leon Brooks wrote:
> > In a widely-reprinted article, you wrote:
> > > the Linux environment does not scale up as well as Unix
> > 
> > I'm wondering if you could qualify this statement for our mailing list. 
> I don't know the context of the original comment, but with a few
> qualifiers that statement is reasonable. 
> There are aspects of the rubbery term "scaleability" that are not
> addressed by the fine collection of case studies you brought forward.
> With appropriate qualifiers Linux cannot claim to be as scaleable as
> Unix (but Open Source Software can, of course, so we win both ways :-)
> For most enterprise uses there is no difference. For a small number of
> companies with big wallets Unix is indeed more scaleable.
> Examine the top-end SMP Unix machines from the major hardware shops and
> look for a Linux equivalent, and you won't always find it. Sure, Linux
> will run on a 64 processor uSPARC (I run it myself) but Solaris can
> still do some tricks that Linux can't quite match, especially with
> management and partitioning. That's changing, but Linux isn't at parity.
> There is also the issue of third party support, which has been slow
> coming to the very most expensive hardware and software. Buy a big
> PowerPC box, put Linux on it, then ask for Linux support from all the
> peripheral and software makers. Oracle have cracked but there are plenty
> of others who haven't. Now try that with Linux/HPPA or Linux/uSPARC...
> good luck even with Oracle :-) Large scale hardware has to have been
> engineered with Linux in mind for very large companies to be interested.
> Solaris, HP-UX, Irix, AIX and others can run most of the open source
> software found on a Linux machine, and in some cases faster or more
> reliably given the greater capabilities in some niche areas. In fact it
> is not that hard to be just about completely at home in freeware on
> these OSs if you put the right things in your path. Some people even
> create their own Solaris distro to more closely match the LSB layout :-)
> > How well does it stand up in the light of Linux being deployed in huge 
> > clusters, huge single-image servers, and huge enterprises?
> Your "huge single-image servers" argument looks a bit thin if you try to
> argue that it is also "general purpose". I'm all for world domination so
> long as we keep the record straight.
> Your strongest argument is that much of the time nobody really needs a
> single massive centralised server, which is almost the only area where
> Unix still has an edge over Linux.
> > A good reference for huge single-image servers is SGI's Altix:
> > 
> >     http://www.sgi.com/servers/altix/
> Search for "'Solaris 10' zones" or "HP-UX Partitioning Continuum" to see
> examples of things you can't do with an Altix, all things relating to
> scaleability.

Dan's points are both correct and well made. They do miss the key issue
which Leon was responding to in the original article however. This was, an
attempt to indicate a level of immaturity within Linux which, in the minds
of CIO-level decision makers, would remove it as a serious contender in
many areas where we know it scales 'well enough' to do the job.

It's all a case of intricate analysis and fine-grained gradation of
judgment, both often neglected in such articles. Yes, Linux is scalable.  
No, it's not as scalable as some proprietary Unix platforms. Yes it now
has broad, enterprise-level industry support. Yes, proprietary Unix
platforms do have better support (in terms of integration of
hardware/software) than Linux. Yes, Linux can do, in almost all
circumstances, what the proprietary Unix platforms can do. Yes, there are
scenarios where it can't.

The problem is, you can't quite encapsulate all this, nor do it justice,
in a sentence which reads 'the Linux environment does not scale up as well
as Unix'. Not without leaving many wrong impressions. This, however, is
what many trade journals want - one sentence retorts, which end up doing 
favours to no-one.

Con Zymaris <conz at cyber.com.au> Level 4, 10 Queen St, Melbourne, Australia 
Cybersource: Australia's Leading Linux and Open Source Solutions Company 
Web: http://www.cyber.com.au/  Phone: 03 9621 2377   Fax: 03 9621 2477

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