Intel's 64-bit Itanium chip is still months way, but the Trillian open-source consortium will have its native Itanium Linux ready to roll the second it comes off the fabricator line.
The Trillian project on Wednesday released its code to the open-source community. While only a developer's beta, it is a remarkable beta from an even more remarkable group. Trillian is made up of Caldera Systems, CERN, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Red Hat (Cygnus division), SGI, SuSE, TurboLinux and VA Linux Systems.
So what do you get when you get so many typically adversarial hardware vendors in one project? Amazing enough, a cooperative group that worked smoothly together -- at least according to the participants. The companies' representatives, who ranged from CEOs to engineers, were universal in their agreement on this point. Representatives from all of the companies appeared together at the Trillian announcement at LinuxWorld Expo in New York Wednesday.
For potential IA-64 customers the good news was that the Trillian Project, founded in April 1999, is well on its way to meeting its goals of porting and optimising Linux for IA-64. Its final main goal, making it open source under the Gnu Public License (GPL), has been -- for all practical purposes -- accomplished.
VA Linux is heading the effort, but in no way, shape or form is VA, or any of the other Trillian companies, trying to create a distribution-specific Linux. While all the major Linux distributors will sell 64-bit Linux, each will be based firmly on the Trillian code. There will, however, be no Trillian Linux per se.
Just like Linus Torvald's Linux operating system is the basis of all current Linux distributions, Trillian Linux will be a strong branch in the standard Linux development tree.
Trillian is just one of a number of 64-bit operating systems that will target the Itanium processor family. Sun Microsystems' recently introduced Solaris 8 will run on Itanium. IBM and SCO are working on Project Monterey. And Microsoft is claiming it will have a first public beta of 64-bit Windows, which is based in large part on the Windows 2000 base code, available by mid-2000.
Given that Itanium is a server-class chip, Trillian Linux will include facilities for clustering, SMP, large memory, large file systems and performance monitoring. Sixty-four-bit Linux will be enterprise-ready Linux from the get-go, claim the Trillian companies. But at Wednesday's press conference, some of the participants did acknowledge that a number of these high-end facilities are only now entering rudimentary beta test. Two-way SMP support for 64-bit Linux is "working mostly," say Project members; four-way and 16-way support is further behind.
Trillian members promised 64-bit Linux will be backward compatible, so that it will run unmodified 32-bit Linux applications. Just like SMP support, however, this promise has a way to go to gel.
Users will not be stuck with 32-bit tools in a 64-bit operating-system world. Instead, almost all major software programs -- from development tools such as Java, Perl and Python, to enterprise applications like Apache, Samba and SendMail -- are either already ported to Trillian or are far advanced on their road toward 64-bit application status.
With all that done, Trillian is now turning its efforts to the open-source community at large to harness its power for working on the last gaps in the system and bug fixing. Specifically, the existing group is looking to extend the OS's functionality, kernel-code optimisation and the gcc programming environments, and driver and application porting. Development tools will be released at the forthcoming Linux Development Forum and the mid-February Intel's Developers Conference, and will be available online shortly thereafter.
So far, Itanium system prototypes number only in the hundreds, making it a challenge for open-source and other software developers to begin playing with 64-bit code. But the Trillian Project plans to address this by giving away Itanium systems, thousands in the second quarter of 2000 and tens of thousands by the third quarter to both old and new Trillian developers. The group also is working on ways to make the systems sharable.
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