List:       tru64-unix-managers
Subject:    Digital and its support of Linux
From:       "Jon 'maddog' Hall, USG Senior Leader" 
Date:       1997-05-05 21:14:09

Dear Dr. Nagy,

Your letter to the Alpha OSF Managers group was forwarded to me eight times,
so I hope that the rest of the mailing list will not mind me answering to a
broader audience than just yourself.

First of all, I would like to define the word "support".

"SUPPORT", in the Digital world, means that we engineer, test, warrant and
otherwise sell support services (installation, problem resolution and
education) to our customers.  We do this for OpenVMS, Digital UNIX and
Windows NT.  To do this we have to follow certain procedures and guidelines
that might not fit into the Linux environment.

On the other hand, "support" might mean things like offering a system that
has no operating system license bundled, providing telephone call-handling
under contract to a third party, putting information out on the Internet that
might make it easier for end-user customers and OEMs to deliver Linux on our
platforms, or providing engineering expertise to the Linux community.  Some of
these things Digital already does, and others I would be interested in
  1. Is Digital considering supporting Linux as a Alpha OS option?

Currently we have no plans to do SUPPORT.

One of the reasons for not doing SUPPORT is that Digital might have to SUPPORT
one release of Linux or the other.  For example, does Digital SUPPORT Red Hat
Linux or Debian Linux?  Or does Digital create its own distribution of
Linux?  Digital would not want to discourage any distribution of Linux over
the other one, but by supplying SUPPORT for one, we might limit the deployment
of the others on the Alpha platform.

My observations of the Linux market is that people pick ONE distribution
over another.  Some people love Red Hat Linux.  Others swear by Slackware.
Others like Debian.  I want them all to be on Alpha, and I prefer that the
distributors and resellers work with the customer to help them select the
Linux distribution which is best for their needs.

On the other hand, Digital does support Linux by providing engineering
expertise on new systems, boot code, some hardware device drivers, and
other types of "encouragement".  We do this with a staff of four
full-time engineers, one half-time product manager and one *very* overworked
marketing manager. :-)

  2. If the answer to the above is yes (or maybe), do we assume that
     this only applies to workstation-class systems (or would Linux
     support SMP on Alpha)?

Alpha Linux is currently single CPU, although there is active progress to
supporting multiple CPUs on Alpha Linux.  Again, the bulk of this work should
be from the Linux community at large, with Digital "helping".  Quite frankly,
I don't think you would want it any other way.

Personally I think that a four-CPU Alpha 4100 with each CPU running at 500 Mhz
and 10 Gbytes of memory would make a dandy desk-side Linux workstation.  But
then again, my needs are somewhat unusual........

  3. In this context, wither Digital UNIX (once known as OSF/1)?

Digital's SUPPORTed UNIX system is (and will continue to be) Digital UNIX.  We
have over 600 staff working on Digital UNIX, with over 5,000 world-class
applications ported to it.  It has features and capabilities that Linux does
not have *yet*, and which our customers have come to depend on, particularly
in the server area.  Even if Linux were to have all the capabilities of Digital
UNIX, building the application base on Alpha Linux would take years.

  4. What about DCE (OSF Distributed Computing Environment) and
     DCE/DFS (OSF Distributed File System)?  Would Digital be likely
     to port DCE/DFS to Linux and support it?  (Note: we would be
     primarily interested in the client end but the server side
     might be of interest as well.)

I have seen discussion about DCE recently on the Linux International Technical
Board mailing list, but have not had time to digest it.  I would prefer
that the Linux community found some way of porting the code and supporting
it, but if it made market sense for a group inside of Digital to port and
license the code, I believe that Digital would consider it.  Then again, I am
not the Digital marketing manager responsible for DCE/DFS.

As I have commented on another mailing list today, the best way of getting
applications (or even middleware) ported to a system is for CUSTOMERS to first
contact the people in charge of that product, then vote with your spending
dollars to buy that product once ported.  All other known procedures usually
end in disaster.  From my perspective, all I can do is show your letter to
the proper person.  Hopefully that person will already have read your
request off the mailing list, or off the DCE mailing list.

I have been demonstrating the interoperability of Linux and Digital UNIX
(particularly Linux workstations and Digital UNIX servers) at several trade
shows recently, and the results of one of my demonstrations are going to be
in an article of an upcoming Linux Journal.  I hope that you will be interested
in what I have been doing.

Thanks for your time and interest.

Warmest regards,


Jon "maddog" Hall                     Internet:
Senior Leader, UNIX Software Group    Executive Director, Linux International

Digital Equipment Corporation         Linux International
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