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OpenBSD releases the first portable version of LibreSSL

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July 14, 2014

The OpenBSD project said earlier this morning that it has released its first portable version of LibreSSL, the team's new OpenSSL fork, meaning that it can be built for operating systems other than OpenBSD (Unix).

The LibreSSL project, which its main goal is to clean up the security bugs and inscrutable OpenSSL code, was founded about two months ago by a group of OpenBSD developers, so it only makes sense that getting it running on that operating system would be their main priority.

But with the release of LibreSSL 2.0 on Friday, many of the dependencies on OpenBSD have been removed and the library can now be built for various flavors of Linux, Solaris, OS X, and of course, FreeBSD itself.

Note that this is still considerably fewer platforms than the original OpenSSL library supported. However, OpenSSL's portability approach had become one of extreme overkill, with the code incorporating numerous workarounds to make it run on such outdated platforms as VMS, OS/2, NetWare, 16-bit Windows, and even DOS.

By comparison, LibreSSL is focusing on Unix-like operating systems for now, although a Windows port may appear in the near future, we are told.

In a presentation given two months ago, LibreSSL developer Bob Beck explained that much of the initial work on LibreSSL involved deleting old code that only existed to provide support for oddball systems.

Between that effort and removing redundant and unused code, the LibreSSL group was able to shrink the size of the OpenSSL codebase by about 23 percent.

The LibreSSL developers have also worked to get OpenSSL's inconsistent source code into "kernel normal form" (KNF), a standard C coding style used by the OpenBSD project.

Additionally, although the goal of the LibreSSL project is to create a secure, drop-in replacement for OpenSSL, the developers have also tried to undo some of the OpenSSL developers' more ill-advised design decisions.

For example, the OpenSSL library relies on an odd custom memory-management layer that behaves in a few strange ways, which makes it impossible to audit the code with tools designed to flag memory management issues.

The LibreSSL team has been replacing that same code with new routines that make use of memory allocation routines from the standard C library, making it far easier to detect various bugs in the code.

The portable version of LibreSSL 2.0 is available now from the LibreSSL directory of the various OpenBSD mirror sites around the Web.

Meanwhile, work is continuing on a parallel initiative to clean up the original OpenSSL code base, a project that has been sponsored by the Linux Foundation.

The LibreSSL project, on the other hand, says it has yet to receive a stable commitment of funding.

In other IT news

Cray said earlier this morning that it has won a $174 million contract to supply a new supercomputer to the National Nuclear Security Administration to watch over its arsenal of nuclear facilities throughout the United States.

To be sure, the Cray XC supercomputer to be provided under the agreement will be hooked up to the company's Sonexion storage system.

Called “Trinity”, the powerful system is expected to have more than 8 times the capacity of the NNSA's current supercomputer, a Cray XE-6 unit dubbed Cielo, which the TOP 500 list says has 107,152 cores and a theoretical peak performance of just over 1028 Terra Flops.

Cray says that Trinity is a joint venture between “the New Mexico Alliance for Computing at Extreme Scale (ACES) at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories as part of the NNSA Advanced Simulation and Computing Program (ASC)”.

To be installed at Los Alamos, the Trinity supercomputer will be based on Intel Xeon Haswell processors, as well as the upcoming “Knights Landing” Xeon powerful Phi processors.

The storage system will start at 82 PB of capacity with a design throughput of 1.7 TB per second.

The computer's main task will be to conduct simulations of the U.S. nuke stockpile, helping it to understand how its weapons are holding up as they age, while avoiding the need for underground detonations of devices.

Cray says the new system will test “the stockpile’s safety, security, reliability and performance.”

In other IT news

IBM said earlier this morning that it's working on porting its mainframe platform onto the cloud, even as it continues to invest money into the rollout of its SoftLayer offerings.

SoftLayer, with its thirteen data centers, was acquired by IBM last year as the IT giant needs to accelerate its own public cloud presence.

To be fair, SoftLayer's European coverage has been sparse so far, with a data centre in Amsterdam and a single London point of presence.

But IBM is pouring $1.2 billion into turning SoftLayer’s cloud around, with another 15 data centres slated to break the company out of its North American heartland.

SoftLayer sales manager and co-founder Steve Canale said its data centres follow a fairly set pattern-- each consists of four pods, housing between 3,500 to 4,000 cores and hitting around 10,000 square feet.

They are scaled up, which presumably means that IBM will be holding its breath to see how quickly it fills the first room.

In a statement, Softlayer said the London centre will house more than 15,000 physical servers. Once a centre is full, Softlayer simply builds another.

In fact, none of these will be IBM servers by the way. IBM is selling off its x86 server business to Chinese giant Lenovo, and even if it wasn’t, Softlayer has a long-standing relationship with whitebox x86 server vendor Supermicro.

But there is still some hope for those who'd like to see IBM’s veteran brands scrambling onto the cloud, in the shape of its Power architecture and mainframe technology as well as its Watson AI platform.

Doug Clark, UKI cloud computing leader at IBM, confirmed at a briefing on the Chessington site, “We’re looking at Linux on mainframe as a platform.”

While there might be some nostalgia value in having “mainframe” technology offered via the cloud, opinion might be split on exactly how much value this offers to modern companies who haven't grown up with the big iron.

The president of the Open Data Centre Alliance, Correy Voo, recently advised against trying to “lift” legacy applications onto the cloud, and said the sort of constraints under which legacy systems had been built were alien to the new generation of technology executives.

But given some of the data centre consolidation programs being floated by major companies today, it seems possible that at least some would still appreciate the sheer transactional heft and robustness of an on-tap mainframe.

In other IT news

There appears to be a lot of people out there that are confused and uncertain as to which version of Windows should they choose for their main work computer, and for good reason.

News have already started to propagate about the next version of Windows 8.1, namely update 2 and even Windows 9 for that matter. So what will Microsoft call it anyway?

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Whether or not it bears the name Windows 9 or something else, the next major wave of updates, codenamed Threshold is due to land on our desktops and mobiles later in 2014. At any rate, we will try to help you with that confusion.

The upcoming refresh will probably see lots of new features aimed at the pre-Windows 8 – ie, the tradition desktop – crowd, who are more familiar with input using a mouse and keyboard instead of touch.

Threshold will have a Start menu, the ability to run Metro-style-Windows-Store apps in the normal Windows desktop and offer users the chance to shut off the Metro screen.

Before all that, in April, we had the Windows 8.1 Update 1, which can be seen as a step by Microsoft to convince enterprises that the operating system is really enterprise ready.

But not everybody is convinced that it is. The update doesn’t offer any real new features, but rather certain enhancements for the traditional desktop user – giving them a working experience similar to what they are used to.

If you’re using Windows 8.1 on a tablet or a touch-enabled device, you won't spot much in the way of difference.

But before we go any further, let’s be honest here. For people in IT who are already very familiar with Windows, Windows 8 has taken some considerable adjustment.

Switching between new-style apps and traditional desktop apps can be very confusing, and it takes some time to figure it all out, which can lead to a loss of productivity.

Traditional Windows functions are either missing or so hidden down that it takes three people to figure them out.

The last thing enterprise IT system admins want to do is deploy a new operating system that confuses workers.

For instance, what does Update 1 do? On the Surface Pro, it didn’t even provide a wow factor. At first, you don’t even notice when it comes to look and feel. However, if you look closely, you'll notice that there is a Power button on the Start page! What?

One of our biggest pet peeves with Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 was how to shut down the system. Seriously Microsoft, why did you make it so difficult to shut it down?

Shutting down and restarting a computer is a very basic function that should be easy to find and shouldn’t take more than 60 seconds or less to locate.

Source: The OpenSSL Project.

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