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Interop: More Net Management Products Move to Linux

Mainstream Support Grows

  • September 22, 2006
  • By Jacqueline Emigh

Citing a rise in customer demand for Linux, companies at this week's Interop show demo'd new Linux-enabled products running the gamut from multifunctional management appliances to specialized software for combatting viruses and administering UPS power devices.

By and large, but not always, the exhibitors rolling out Linux offerings at the network interoperability expo are already selling similar products for either other Unix environments, Windows, or both.

So why are networking vendors adding Linux to the platform mix, and why now? In one of a series of interviews at New York City's Javits Center, Nancy Nelson, MGE's marketing communications manager, said that the maker of power supply solutions is responding to a growth in popularity of Linux, which is perceived by MGE as particularly hot in Europe at the moment.

MGE also views its support for Linux as a competitive differentiator. "We were one of the first to announce 'full' UPS power management software for Linux," according to Nelson. "Power management is a real proof point for (the strength of) Linux." MGE's rivals include UPS giants such as APC and Powerware.

Known as Personal Solution-Pac (PSP) 3.0 for Linux, MGE's management software for rackmounted UPS devices supports Red Hat, SUSE/Novell, and Mandriva Linux, in addition to Debian Sid/Sarge and Debian distributions such as Ubuntu.

The software is meant to give the organization a real time graphical view of its on-site power management. Companies can configure automatic responses to events, such as computer shutdown at the end of the battery runtime, and transmission of alerts for notification about power supply problems.

Also, MGE worked with the open source community to develop USB connectivity between its UPS systems and Linux/Unix environments, releasing a "newhidups" communications driver into the NUT (Network UPS Tools) project. PSP is based on NUT, providing USB support.

Actually, MGE announced its software for Linux several months ago, in May. Panda Software also unveiled its first anti-malware solution for Linux prior to Interop.

But other Linux products shown off at the Javits were announced directly at the conference in New York. These included two new network management appliances based on embedded Linux: Wild Packets' Omnipliance Linux, plus a new edition of Network Composer, a smart gateway appliance from Cymphonix.

Network Composer is designed to solve problems around contention for network resources among users, applications, and security threats.

Geared to high bandwidth locations with HTTP throughput of up to 45 Mbps, the new edition, Network Composer CD40X, is based on the Dual-Core Intel Xeon processor, said Brent Nixon, executive VP, product management.

In a demo for LinuxPlanet, Nixon showed how Network Composer can analyze application usage by individual employees by tracking usage against their IP addresses.

One customer, for instance, had been perplexed over why its network bandwidth consumption tended to skyrocket between 5 pm and 9 pm, after the company had closed down for the night.

But by deploying Network Composer, the customer managed to isolate the issue to a single employee in the accounting department. "This guy in accounting had been staying late every evening, downloading tunes from the Web after hours," Nixon explained.

WildPackets' appliance, on the other hand, handles functions around distributed remote capture and analysis of Ethernet and Gigabit traffic, said WildPackets CTO Scott Haugdahl.

WildPackets' initial claim to fame revolved around centralized network-based traffic analysis software. The vendor's first appliance for distributed traffic analysis ran on Windows 2003, rather than Linux, according to John Bennett, VP of marketing.

The pre-existing Windows device is similar in functionality to the new Linux-enabled offering, Haugdahl said. Unlike the Windows appliance, the Linux product doesn't include wireless protocol analysis. However, either appliance can be used in conjunction with a separate portable handheld tool for detecting wireless protocols, also offered by WildPackets.

In initial customer implementations of the Windows appliance, WildPackets discovered that a built-in tool for wireless analysis wasn't really all that useful in a stationary appliance, Haugdahl suggested.

Meanwhile, also at Interop, Grisoft--a competitor of sorts to security vendor Panda Software--talked up plans for a Linux-enabled anti-malware suite called AVG Internet Security.

Grisoft issued the public beta edition this week. Operating on Linux and FreeBSD as well as Windows XP and Vista desktops, the suite incorporates firewall, anti-spam, and anti-phishing capabilities, along with antivirus capabilities.

Some vendors at Interop cited cost factors as something that's pulling customers to Linux, but others raised questions in that regard. With support costs from OS vendors figured into the equation, Linux isn't necessarily a less expensive solution for users, said WildPackets' Haugdahl.

Instead, platform choice seems to depend more on the skill sets and preferences of individual companies and users, according to the CTO. "Some places are Linux shops, and others are Windows shops," he elaborated.

Some vendors with new Linux wares are honing in on specific vertical markets. For WildPackets, the financial services space is one big priority, according to Bennett.

Cymphonix, in contrast, is gaining particularly strong traction in public school systems and other government environments, noted John Montrose, executive vice president of sales. Several vendors at at Interop said they're gearing their new Linux wares to SMBs only, as opposed to enterprises.

For that matter, Panda isn't considering a product that will run directly on Linux consumer desktops, either, according to spokespersons at the Panda booth.

Nevertheless, the new Panda Antivirus for Windows can be used to combat malware running not just on Linux servers, but on Linux, Windows and DOS workstations attached to Linux servers. The server-based software can be managed from either a console or the command line.

But other vendors--Cymphonix, for one--are indeed already taking a hard look at spreading their wings on Linux beyond the SMB sphere. "We're considering enterprises, the consumer market--just about everything, really," Nixon told LinuxPlanet.

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