Archive for Linux

Linux Comes Through Once Again

From a hobby to a computer geek favorite to a major operating system, the trajectory of Linux has been nothing short of amazing. Major companies, especially Red Hat, Canonical, and SUSE, exist because of Linux. The ecosystem that grew up around Linux eclipses all other software.

There are a number of reasons why Linux has become such a force in IT but the one that really stands out for me today is it’s building block design that creates incredible flexibility. There is a Linux for every purpose, every taste, and all types of hardware. One of the best things about Linux flexibility is that it allows us DIY types the ability to repurpose old, perhaps ancient, hardware. Here’s an example.

I have a 14 year old PC that has, for years, been attached to my stereo so that I play digital music from a real amp. My relative new desktop PC has decent sound, owing to a good pair of speakers plus a sub-woofer. Even so, compared to the sound of my 25+ year old stereo system, it sounds terrible. Nothing beats a real amplifier with speakers that have their own woofer and tweeter combos for sound. Even when the source of that sound is a 14 year old sound chip in a laptop, the sound is so much better. In addition, my desktop computer sits in my office, not my living room where I have (or had, pre-pandemic) parties and like to hang out.

The weak link has not been the stereo, it’s been the PC. It ran Windows Vista, which hasn’t had a release since 2008 and went end of life in 2012. Even worse, modern software including the Spotify application and Firefox browser, no longer could be updated on it and ran poorly. In a nutshell, the PC OS was pulling down the whole system.

I could have substituted another PC that I don’t really use any more, one somewhat newer, but I had a feeling that this old workhorse still had some usefulness. So, I decode to update the operating system. I thought that finding a recent 32-bit OS was going to be a chore but not at all because – Linux!

I settled on Lubuntu 18.04 LTS, a Ubuntu distribution for low resource PCs. I knew that the Spotify Snap App for Ubuntu wouldn’t run on it (there was no 32-bit version) but Firefox ran like a dream. I was able to use the Spotify Web Player in Full Screen mode, presenting the appearance of a Spotify kiosk. The sound is great, and network connective works like a charm, so no drop outs. The system run perfectly. I could have run Plex as well, if I wanted a more thorough digital media experience.

Any other OS would have no option for a modern experience with such old hardware. Instead of heading to a landfill, this old PC has new life and can continue until hardware failure over takes it. I’m betting it can last until the 20 year mark. All thanks to Linux. Linux to the rescue of my sound system and the environment.

Looking at Microservices, Containers, and Kubernetes with 2020 Vision

Kubernetes Icon

Some years are easy to predict than others. Stability in a market makes tracing the trend line much easier. 2020 looks to be that kind of year for the migration to microservices: stable with stead progression toward mainstream acceptance.

There is little doubt that IT organizations are moving toward microservices architectures. Microservices, which deconstruct applications into many small parts, removes much of the friction that is common in n-Tier applications when it comes to development velocity. The added resiliency and scalability of microservices in a distributed system are also highly desirable. These attributes promote better business agility, allowing IT to respond to business needs more quickly and with less disruption, while helping to ensure that customers have the best experience possible.

Little in this upcoming year seems disruptive or radical; That big changes have already occurred. Instead, this is a year for building out and consolidating; Moving past the “what” and “why” and into the “how” and “do”.

Kubernetes will be top of mind to IT in the coming year. From its roots as a humble container orchestrator – one of many in the market – Kubernetes has evolved into a platform for deploying microservices into container clusters. There is more work to do with Kubernetes, especially to help autoscale clusters, but it is now a solid base on which to build modern applications.

No one should delude themselves into thinking that microservices, containers, and Kubernetes are mainstream yet. The vast majority of applications are still based on n-Tier design deployed to VMs. That’s fine for a lot of applications but businesses know that it’s not enough going forward. We’ve already seen more traditional companies begin to adopt microservices for at least some portion of their applications. This trend will accelerate in the upcoming year. At some point, microservices and containers will become the default architecture for enterprise applications. That’s a few years from now but we’ve already on the path.

From a vendor perspective, all the biggest companies are now in the Kubernetes market with at least a plain vanilla Kubernetes offering. This includes HP and Cisco in addition to the companies that have been selling Kubernetes all along, especially IBM/Red Hat, Canonical, Google, AWS, VMWare/Pivotal, and Microsoft. The trick for these companies will be to add enough unique value that their offerings don’t appear generic. Leveraging traditional strengths, such as storage for HP, networking for Cisco, and Java for Red Hat and VMWare/Pivotal, are the key to standing out in the market.

The entry of the giants in the Kubernetes space will pose challenges to the smaller vendors such as Mirantis and Rancher. With more than 30 Kubernetes vendors in the market, consolidation and loss is inevitable. Expect M&A activity in the Kubernetes space as bigger companies acquihire or round out their portfolios. Kubernetes is now a big vendor market and the market dynamics favor them. There’s plenty of value in the smaller firms but it will be too easy for them to get trampled underfoot.

If there is a big danger sign on the horizon, it’s those traditional n-Tier applications that are still in production. At some point, IT will get around to thinking beyond the shiny new greenfield applications and want to migrate the older ones. Since these apps are based on radically different architectures, that won’t be easy. There just aren’t the tools to do this migration well. In short, it’s going to be a lot of work. It’s a hard sell to say that the only choices are either expensive migration projects (on top of all that digital transformation money that’s already been spent) or continuing to support and update applications that no longer meet business needs. Replatforming, or deploying the old parts to the new container platform, will provide less ROI and less value overall. The industry will need another solution.

This may be an opportunity to use all that fancy AI technology that vendor’s have been investing in to create software to break down an old app into a container cluster. In any event, the migration issue will be a drag on the market in 2020 as IT waits for solutions to a nearly intractable problem.

2020 is the year of the microservice architecture. Even if that seems too dramatic, it’s not unreasonable to expect that there will be significant growth and acceleration in the deployment of Kubernetes-based microservices applications. The market has already begun the process of maturation as it adapts to the needs of larger, mainstream, corporations with more stringent requirements. The smart move is to follow that trend line.