Over at InfoWorld, Tom Yager has posted a fascinating article titled Linux will get buried.

It’s Not About Apple
He proposes that Apple’s Unix revenue will overtake commercial Linux factory-install revenue by mid-2008. Which seems reasonable: Apple sales growth is on a roll. Apple OS X revenue per user is twice that of Windows. And Apple ships several million units a year. But StorageMojo.com doesn’t have a dog in that fight, so whatever.

The Linux Backplane
What did catch my eye is Yager’s take on what Linux really means:

. . . Linux is . . . a kernel, not an application platform. Linux is a backplane for device drivers, file systems, protocol stacks and low-level programming interfaces. It is a substructure for application services. The Linux kernel is . . . commercial quality and familiar. It crosses architectural boundaries cleanly. It bulks up and strips down in the time it takes to recompile. . . . It’s a standard. . . . Push a button, you’ve got an enterprise database, configured, loaded with sample data and listening for connections. Want a J2EE server with that? Flip this switch, it’ll unpack itself, sniff out that database you installed and mate with it.

There are a number of enterprise software backplane companies, such as Tibco and webMethods. Backplane Linux isn’t in their league, yet the ability to create specialized and optimized appliances from free software sounds very promising. Especially for SMBs and the VARs who serve them.

I got a taste of that wonderfulness with the one-click WordPress and MySQL installation at DreamHost (note: I get a commission if you use the handy “stomojo” coupon under the blinky ad – go ahead, it’s a good deal) which is Linux-based. I have no idea what goes on under the hood at DreamHost, but easy software installation and configuration is very attractive to this “knows all this stuff is there and still doesn’t like messing with it” guy.

The Really Cool Part
Then Yager goes one step further: the freeze-dried appliance on a flash drive.

Imagine that your server room has a bank of USB ports, and that every enterprise application you want to run exists, pre-installed on a stripped, standardized Linux, and in a freeze-dried state, on a flash drive. Plug in a drive, and within a few milliseconds you have a self-contained instance of an enterprise application. If you need more database instances, put in a blank flash drive and tell the existing database instance to replicate itself.

Tom is thinking of a datacenter, yet I could see this working with SOHO/SMB networks as well. The VAR has a variety of freeze-dried apps, like CRM, VoIP phone systems, job-shop resource planning, etc. plugs it into a cheap server and voila, the app is up and the VAR knows exactly how that system is configured for ease of maintenance. User-land configuration, like GUI options, accounts and ACLs get stored on the flash drive. Need application security? Unmount the flash drives and lock them up in a safe.

Please, Pick Holes
in Tom’s or my scenarios – or better yet, extend them with other ideas about applications. It sounds cool, but maybe it is one of those things that sounds cooler than it is. Your comments welcome.