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VA Linux Stays Focused on Former Parent's Mission

VA Hits HA Market

  • November 24, 2004
  • By Brian Proffitt

VA Linux--that's right, we said VA Linux--has introduced a new LDAP Directory application early Wednesday to complement its new line of high-available software products.

If you're wondering why VA has suddenly returned to the business of Linux servers, perhaps it would be best to mention that this is not the US-based VA Software, but rather VA Linux Systems Japan--a company that was once part of the old VA Linux (ne� Software), but is now on its own, serving the Asian marketplace.

VA Linux shares more than a name with VA Software. Once a majority-owned subsidiary, the Japanese firm slowly began to pull away from the main US office, after VA Software shifted direction away from the Linux server business in the summer of 2001 to start focusing on collaborative software and online media interests.

VA Linux remained focused on its original mission, producing high-end Linux server applications. This was no doubt helped in part by the fact that two minority stakeholders in the company, NTT Data and NTT Commware, were very interested in using Linux and open source technologies in their own shops.

The NTT companies were so interested, according to VA Linux President and CEO Tetsuya Ueda, that in January of 2002 the firms decided to acquire VA Linux from VA Software. Today, the NTT subsidiaries own a good portion of VA Linux shares, while VA Software has only a very small stake in the Japanese firm. Ueda and some of his team spoke with LinuxPlanet earlier this week.

Today's announcement centers around VA Directory, a large-scale LDAP directory service solution for enterprise systems.

VA Directory uses open-source software, OpenLDAP, combined with VA's own UltraPossum. The combination sits atop a Debian GNU/Linux-based operating system known as VA Core.

This arrangement is very similar to VA's other new product, VA Balance, which was announced earlier this month. VA Balance, a high-availability load-balancing server, uses open source LVS combined with VA's UltraMonkey software sitting on the VA Core OS. With the integration of the operating system, VA Linux plans to offer full support for VA Balance and VA Directory.

According to Alexander Reeder, an engineer at VA Linux, the UltraPossum toolset adds functionality to pre-existing OpenLDAP tools, such as SNMP monitoring and a better Web-based GUI.

"From the earliest stages, VA Linux has been working to develop OpenLDAP globally and to build-up LDAP technologies by promoting projects like UltraPossum, but today's VA Directory announcement marks the crystallization of those efforts," Ueda said in a statement to the press. "We will continue to build the technology, to strengthen enterprise and carrier-oriented functionality, to promote the development of applications and services based on VA Directory, and to strongly promote deployment of the product."

This statement defines VA Linux's current mission well, which is getting high-availability software out to telecommunications and other channels that need carrier-grade Linux. To do this, they are focusing their efforts on the kernel, and giving back to the community at the same time.

At least two engineers on VA Linux's staff are actively contributing to this community goal. Reeder and Simon Horman are both active contributors to the Linux kernel, and have attended the Ottawa Linux Kernel Summits in recent years. Horman is also active in the Debian Project.

This level of contribution gives VA Linux a definite edge in creating Linux applications, and influencing where some areas of the kernel development will go. They need every edge in the face of stiff competition from other software vendors, even with the strong backing of their NTT partners.

Basing their software on Debian should also be a tremendous help. Reeder emphasized that Debian's international appeal has led to the formation of a strong Debian community in Japan. Using Debian also allows them to pass significant savings on to customers, as opposed to using something like Red Hat.

VA Linux will be developing VA Directory sales efforts mainly oriented towards communications infrastructure providers, data center businesses, ISPs, and ASP providers. These are the markets, Ueda said, that VA Linux will specifically create their products for.

While he was not able to name specifics, Ueda said that the solutions these channels need would provide the roadmap for VA Linux's near-term future.

"Now that we are a separate company," Ueda said, "we are trying to make an open source company work in Japan."

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