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"Linux Gazette...making Linux just a little more fun!"

Linux for small players? Compaq sees important market opportunities ahead

By Fernando Ribeiro Corrêa
This and other interviews are on the OLinux site

OLinux: Tell about your career: college, jobs, personal life (age, birthplace)

Russel Pavlicek: I was born and raised in New York state in the US. I grew up in a town called Ossining that is known for a few things, including Sing Sing Prison (a favorite reference in American gangster films in the 1940's), Peter Falk (who played Lieutenant Columbo in the long-running US TV series of the same name), and Martha Quinn (who was one of the original VJ's on MTV). I received a Bachelor's Degree from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.

I joined the consulting team at Digital Equipment Corporation in 1987 and remained in place through the acquisition by Compaq. I now live in Maryland with my wife (Maryann) and children (Stephanie and Christopher) and numerous pets. We have hosted numerous exchange students over the past few years, including students from France, Italy, and Brazil. Professionally, I spent years as a VMS consultant for Digital. I had little Unix experience or interest. In 1995, I had the need to develop some Unix skills. I came across Linux (Yggdrasil Plug-and-Play, Fall 1994 edition, for those who care about such things) and started using it for training purposes. Within 2 years, it became my preferred desktop system.

OLinux: You told us that you are writing a book. What is the subject of this work? Have you published any other books? Don't forget to ship us a copy, ok ?:)

Russel Pavlicek: The book is entitled "Open Source Software Development: Adding Clarity to Chaos." It is meant to give people outside of the Open Source world an introduction to Open Source development and the people behind it. It should be useful for many people who use Open Source software, but do not necessarily understand why the community behaves like it does. I think it will also have value for people within the movement who know how the movement works but have not spent that much time considering why it works the way it does. This is my first book. And, yes, I've asked the publisher to send you a copy.

OLinux: What's your position at Compaq?

Russel Pavlicek: My current job is to help build up our Linux consulting expertise worldwide. Compaq recognizes the potential opportunity we have in the Linux consulting arena and is working to prepare our workforce. I am also a frequent speaker at Linux and Open Source trade shows and technical conferences, as well as an occasional author of articles for various Linux websites. The two topics I speak about the most are Linux Advocacy and a perspective on understanding the Open Source movement called, "Welcome to the Insane Asylum."

My speaking schedule and bibliography can be found at

OLinux: Do all Compaq's systems run the Linux OS? Can you list or indicate a url where our users can find detailed technical information about those products/drives/patches?

Russel Pavlicek: Almost all Alpha systems and Proliant systems can run Linux. A few of the very early Alpha boxes used a bus called Turbochannel which is not yet supported on Linux (NetBSD apparently works, though). But just about everything else works. Some options (some video cards, for example) do not have drivers, but there are other supported options that can be used instead.

Compaq's main Linux website can be found at

We host a site about Linux on handheld units (including the iPaq H3600) at

That site includes links to information about Linux on both Alpha systems and Proliant servers. In addition to this, there is good information about Linux on Alpha at the following non-Compaq sites: Alpha Linux information, peer-to-peer support.

OLinux: What is Compaq's marketing strategy for Linux?

Russel Pavlicek: Compaq sees room for many operating systems solutions in today's computing environment. Some customers want Tru64 Unix or OpenVMS. Others want Linux. And others want Windows 2000 or Windows 98. Compaq tries to meet the needs of customers across the board.

Compaq sees Linux being very important in a number of markets today. It is a key component for customers needing low cost but highly effective webservers. It is absolutely critical in the high performance technical computing arena, thanks to the excellent price performance value of Beowulf clusters. Linux is also making excellent progress in the handheld market (we recently released information on how to load Linux on the latest of our iPaq handheld units).

OLinux: What are Compaq's key alliances & investments with Linux companies and organizations to support this platform?

Russel Pavlicek: Compaq has partnerships with a number of key Linux companies including Red Hat, SuSE, TurboLinux, and Linuxcare. We are the only top tier solutions company that can claim to be an original member of Linux International.

Compaq realizes that we must work with the community, and we are doing just that.

OLinux: How does Compaq analyze Linux growth for past few years? Is it consistent growth in your opinion? To what extent does Compaq want Linux to succeed as an alternative operating system on the server and desktop?

Russel Pavlicek: From my personal perspective, the growth of Linux over the past few years has been nothing but spectacular. I started using Linux in 1995 and actively tracking the Linux community in 1997. By the beginning of 1997, I was entirely convinced that there was a viable industry growing out of the Linux community.

I attended the Atlanta Linux Showcase in 1997. It was held on a weekend with about 500 attendees and about 20 vendors on the expo floor. Even though it was a trivial show by computer industry standards, I walked away from the show totally energized. I knew without a doubt that Linux was going to be big -- very big. There was enthusiasm and passion I had not seen in years coming from the attendees. The reports of the new work in progress was exciting. None of the industry analysts were paying attention to Linux, but I could see that something of significance was happening here.

In 1997 I began suggesting to coworkers that we should be developing a Linux strategy. There was a fairly small group of us who understood what was going on, but before too long it became apparent to everyone that Linux was not just a hacker's project. It was turning into an exciting operating system.

Today, we have an Linux Program Office focused on the success of Linux on Compaq's platforms. There are many people working hard to make sure that Linux works well on both our Proliant systems and Alpha systems. We have had engineers working on Linux Alpha since 1994.

OLinux: What is your role representing Compaq for Linux International? How does Compaq support the project? Are there any special funds direct to

Russel Pavlicek: I just recently took the position of Compaq's representative to Linux International. I am still getting acclimated to the task. Jon "maddog" Hall had been our representative for years until his departure last year to become the full-time Executive Director of Linux International.

OLinux: In you opinion, how much has the Linux/OS community has grown and how do you see its future?

Russel Pavlicek: Since 1997, when I first joined the community, it has changed in many ways and stayed the same in others. Obviously, the number of people using Linux these days has grown dramatically. The community used to be almost exclusively programmers, but that is no longer true. In my experience, the average Linux user still has some technical background, but most are not actively contributing code to the community. I am active in a local Linux User Group and there are a number of people involved in the community these days who are technical, but not working on projects. The community is changing from primarily code hackers to technical users.

The number of non-technical users has grown significantly, as well. Even my wife and daughter, who are not technical people at all, use Linux on a daily basis without problem. This is the growing frontier.

OLinux: What are the main internet technologies that you consider extremely interesting or relevant advance for technology information?

Russel Pavlicek: I think clustering technologies will be critical on the server side in the near term. There are many things in development and more things planned, but a full, rich clustering solution will be a key development for Linux when it arrives. Linux on handheld and embedded processors will be vitally important in the near future, I believe. That is why I am proud to see that our people have worked so hard to port Linux to our new iPaq handheld. Also, system installation procedures have come a long way in the past five years, but we need to continue on to make installation incredibly simple. This is especially true on laptops.

Copyright © 2000, Fernando Ribeiro Corrêa
Published in Issue 56 of Linux Gazette, August 2000

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