Enterprise Unix Roundup: The Return of the Prodigal Distro

By Michael Hall (Send Email)
Posted Jul 14, 2005


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Progeny and friends are elbowing for a place at a table everyone assumes is set for Red Hat and Novell. Will it succeed, or will it be the next UnitedLinux? FreeNX is ideal those seeking remote access to a Linux machine for a graphical environment.

Michael Hall
Amy Newman

When we're not cranking out the best in enterprise Unix news, some of us at Roundup like to indulge in the occasional comic book. Our favorites, by far, are the special issues where the writers come up with some kind of contrivance to pair heroes like Wood Man and Bird Boy. Individually, they're not enough to stop the likes of Mr. Malign and his robot army, but together ... ?

To judge from a series of stories in the past several weeks, it seems like the enterprise Linux world is getting its own special team-up: Progeny and whomever cares to join it in its efforts to elbow a place at a table everyone else assumes has been set for Red Hat and Novell/SUSE.

When the story first surfaced, we found it a little more compelling.

Reports had Progeny getting together with Mandriva (formerly Mandrake and Conectiva) and Turbolinux to build a Debian-based enterprise Linux distribution with enough backing to have some heft with ISVs, which are presumably unwilling to support a panoply of Linux distributions but might settle on Red Hat, Novell, and some yet-to-be-named party.

If this has a slightly familiar ring, that's probably because two of the supposed players (Conectiva and Turbolinux) took a stab at this about three years ago, when they joined up with United Linux. One other name from that list should ring a bell, too: Ransom Love. Love, who is currently on Progeny's board, drove United Linux until it faded from view.

Reports had Progeny getting together with Mandriva (formerly Mandrake and Conectiva) and Turbolinux to build a Debian-based enterprise Linux distribution with enough backing to have some heft with ISVs, which are presumably unwilling to support a panoply of Linux distributions but might settle on Red Hat, Novell, and some yet-to-be-named party.

The story changed in pretty short order, though: It seems Turbolinux and Mandriva aren't really participating. Instead, the likes of Linspire (formerly Lindows), Xandros (what's left of Corel's Linux distribution), and a few others are all "involved" in something, though what that "something" is remains nebulous, except to the extent that it would seem to center around Debian distributors of some stripe and compliance with the Linux Standards Base (LSB).

That last part, compliance with the LSB, is what makes this worth watching. When we reviewed SUSE 18 months ago, we noted its LSB compliance: a leftover of the United Linux effort, but a useful leftover designed to stave off fragmentation into assorted not-quite-compliant distributions.

By making sure to hew to the LSB, Progeny's efforts to put together an enterprise consortium are less of another doomed attempt to pry support out of ISVs by stitching together a market presence and more of a reasonable effort to stress compatibility with the closest thing the Linux world has to an "industry effort."

We'll make no predictions on this one. If Novell/SUSE maintains LSB compliance, then Progeny's effort will surely have some benefit, if only to convince ISVs that 95 percent of the work of porting key enterprise applications to compliant distributions has been handled with no extra effort. If nothing else, that makes Debian viable in a way it hasn't been thus far. Whether that viability will mean a loosening of Red Hat's grip, or a dampening of Novell/SUSE's hopes to grab more than its current share, is anyone's guess.

In Other News

» Holding true to its word that it would free up additional code, Sun this week announced it is freeing up code from its Java System Access Manager software to let developers create single sign-on over the Internet. The project, Open Web Single Sign-On project, will include source code for authentication and single domain SSO. The source code will be available under the Common Development and Distribution License in spring 2006.

» Open Source Vision,A report released Wednesday by Evans Data, finds technical requirements, not price, to be the decision driver when it comes to open source software. The survey does note, however, that cost is among the top-five decision criteria for both SMBs and enterprises.

» On Monday, SGI brought the midrange to the low end with a sub-$7,000 offering to expand its reach beyond its traditional vertical sweet spot. The Itanium-powered rack-mounted Altix 330 server is a pure Linux play, with support for both Red Hat and SUSE. Future bug fixes, optimization, and various performance advancements for Altix 330 customers will be distributed to customers via the SGI ProPack.

» Open-Xchange, which sells a product similar to the one its name sounds like, got a boost this week when it inked a deal with Novell to sell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server bundled with its open source Open-Xchange Server. The deal also frees up the ISV to sell its products on other distributions. The vendor quickly took advantage of the clause with the release of a version of Open-Xchange Server 5 for Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

» An ongoing poll on ServerWatch reveals that the Solaris love may not be universal. When asked if they were counted in the 1-million-plus downloads of version 10 of the operating system, 44 percent of readers said they had no intention of downloading it. On the flipside, 9 percent of respondents claim version 10 is powering their mission-critical systems.

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