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Firms Attempt to Defrag Linux

By Thor Olavsrud (Send Email)
Posted May 30, 2002


In January, at LinuxWorld Conference and Expo, Linux distribution firms Caldera International and Turbolinux were busy preaching a new strategy: businesses operating in the Linux space need to carve out markets in the proprietary space above the open Linux kernel in order to survive.

The two firms, together with Conectiva and SuSE Linux, took that idea one step further Thursday when they announced that the four would move away from development of their own respective Linux distributions to create a global, uniform distribution of Linux designed for business. By creating a unified Linux distribution for the enterprise, the vendors hope to destroy what they see as the two primary inhibitors of widespread business adoption of Linux: the sheer number of Linux distributions available (which leads to concerns over fragmentation), and the lack of business software available for the platform. The move also means that each of the firms can reallocate some of its resources, currently dedicated to extending its Linux distributions, to other projects.

In January, at LinuxWorld Conference and Expo, Linux distribution firms Caldera International and Turbolinux were busy preaching a new strategy: businesses operating in the Linux space need to carve out markets in the proprietary space above the open Linux kernel in order to survive.

The initiative, dubbed UnitedLinux, is intended to streamline Linux development and certification around the new distribution, making it attractive to ISVs and resellers that have had to train sales staff and certify each distribution it supports. Still, each of the firms retains the right to maintain its own, consumer-centric Linux distributions.

"UnitedLinux addresses enterprise customers'' need for a standard, business-focused Linux distribution that is certified to work across hardware and software platforms, accelerating the adoption of Linux in the enterprise," the firms said.

Ransom Love, chairman and chief executive officer of Caldera, added, "Caldera sees the formation of UnitedLinux as a tremendous benefit to the industry, to our customers, to our 16,000-member reseller channel, and to our IHV and ISV partners. Linux and Open Source have already changed the way software is developed in the new online world. UnitedLinux now offers a viable business model and creates a unified environment that will attract many more global business solutions to Linux enabling far greater adoption and use. Caldera plans to make Linux not just an alternative OS, but the dominant choice for businesses worldwide who are wanting to take advantage of the benefits of online services."

The four partners said they will each bundle value-added products and services with the UnitedLinux operating system, and each of the four partners will market and sell the resulting offering under its own brands. The four also said they each plan to offer their own server products based on UnitedLinux by the end of 2002.

Together, the four partners represent all four major markets for Linux-based enterprise solutions. SuSE, based in Germany, is very strong in the European market, Conectiva is strong in Latin America, Turbolinux has a very strong presence in the Asia/Pacific region, and Caldera is a strong player in North America. Collectively, the four players will lead in market share in Europe, Latin America and Asia/Pacific. In North America, they will be second in market share to the largest Linux player, Red Hat, which has made large strides in penetrating the enterprise market with partners like IBM.

While Red Hat is not initially a partner in the UnitedLinux initiative, the vendors said the initiative will be open to all Linux distribution companies.

"UnitedLinux is not a movement about anti-Red Hat," said Ly-Huong Pham, CEO of Turbolinux. "It''s all about satisfying the needs of our customers."

Caldera''s Love added that he contacted Red Hat about joining the initiative on Wednesday and spoke with Mandrake on Thursday morning. While he noted that neither firm has had enough time to come to a decision as to whether or not to join, he said Red Hat''s initial response was a desire to make a statement in support of the project.

"Too many distributions hamper the migration of applications to Linux, so if this effort by Caldera and others consolidates distributions it is a good development," said Mark de Visser, vice president of Marketing for Red Hat. "But in Linux, application support is everything. Red Hat Linux Advanced Server has it today. Time will tell if the Caldera group''s distribution will achieve the same level of support."

A host of leading enterprise system and software vendors immediately announced their support for the initiative, including AMD, Borland, Computer Associates, Fujitsu Siemens, Fujitsu Japan, HP, IBM, Intel, and NEC.

"IBM fully supports this new, UnitedLinux, which will make it easier than ever before to create a wide variety of Linux-based solutions for any size e-business," said Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive, IBM Software Group. "UnitedLinux brings together the best technologies and capabilities of these four companies, delivering a single international Linux distribution that will make it simpler for solution providers to utilize and customers to deploy. Our support for UnitedLinux spans our entire Linux software, hardware, and services portfolio -- already the broadest in the industry -- giving our customers and business partners what they need to move more business workloads onto Linux."

Scott Handy, director of Linux Software Solutions at IBM, also noted that while Big Blue will strongly support UnitedLinux''s efforts to create a more unified enterprise-centric Linux, it will also continue its partnership with Red Hat across its key hardware, software, and service offerings.

"We will continue to aggressively support Red Hat across that same portfolio," he said.


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