UnitedLinux Momentum Mounts--Who's Coming Along?
On the Hunt for Partners
During Comdex this week, UnitedLinux officials claimed growing industry momentum for their new Linux platform, which is aimed in large part at giving developers and customers a well-supported alternative to industry leader Red Hat. Red Hat ISV (independent software developer) partners Oracle, Novell, and BEA Systems have already received the "gold" code for UnitedLinux 1.0, along with a number of other ISV players, said Paula Hunter, general manager for UnitedLinux.
UnitedLinux, though, is signing contracts only with IHVs (independent hardware vendors), as opposed to ISVs, according to Hunter. On the hardware side, the four members of United Linux--SCO, SuSE Linux, Turbolinux, and Conectiva--are teaming with IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and AMD. IBM and HP are also contributing some financial support to the UnitedLinux organization. "But the amount isn't very large," Hunter maintained.
"Up to now, I've had to go out to ISVs like Oracle and SAP, and try to convince them to port their applications to multiple different Linux distributions," said Rick Becker, VP and CTO, Industry Standard Servers, at HP.
In the past, there were "lots of distribution alternatives, and this caused ISVs to hesitate," agreed Steve Solazzo, IBM's general manager for Linux, speaking during a press conference at Comdex.
BakBone Software is already working on porting its backup and recovery software solutions to UnitedLinux, said Peter Eck, BakBone's VP of marketing, in an interview with LinuxPlanet. BakBone currently supports several distributions of Linux--including Red Hat, SCO, SuSE, Turbolinux, and Conectiva--as well as HP-UX, AIX, FreeBSD, Windows, and other platforms..
"There are currently 168 different permutations of Linux on the market. One version of Linux is known as 'Slackware.' That's not exactly the kind of name that inspires confidence among corporate customers," said Eck.
"For Linux to become ultimately entrenched in the data center, there needs to be more than one viable alternative. It's a comfort to our customers that there are some very well recognized names associated with UnitedLinux."
Previously announced ISV partners for UnitedLinux include SAP; Ximian; Computer Associates; Progress Software; Borland; Computer Associates; and NEC/Siemens.
"Some ISVs plan to support only one Linux distribution, but others will be supporting multiple distributions," acknowledged Graham Lovell, director of marketing for Sun Microsystems' Operating Platform Groups, during another interview with LinuxPlanet.
Lovell declined to comment on industry rumors that Sun might be moving its own Linux distribution towards a Red Hat distribution. "Our hardware, though, is capable of running either Red Hat or UnitedLinux," he observed.
Meanwhile, Red Hat has been working closely with both Oracle and Dell on the enterprise-class Red Hat Advanced Server.
As some see it, though, UnitedLinux is going to need more than just ISV/HSV support to succeed in the market versus Red Hat.
"Red Hat has the biggest share of the market today--over 50 percent worldwide, and an even higher percentage in the US," said Bill Claybrook, an analyst at the Aberdeen Group.
"Red Hat is doing a great job signing up ISVs with large market shares in their market spaces. UnitedLinux can compete, but it has to do a very good job with the ISVs. UnitedLinux must also prove it has a support infrastructure that is dependable for customers of all four members," Claybrook said.
"UnitedLinux has to work on brand recognition, too. Even if the UnitedLinux distro receives good reviews, the four members need to be successful selling products with UnitedLinux underneath. If they are not, then support for UnitedLinux might start to erode."
SCO Linux 4.0 and SuSE Enterprise Server 8 are both "powered by" the UnitedLinux base. SuSE's enterprise server has been built to support the IBM eServer series--including 64-bit servers and SPARC processors--as well as Intel 32- and 64-bit processors and AMD's x86-64 "Hammer" processor.
SCO Linux 4.0 is geared to small to mid-sized businesses. By the second quarter of 2003, SCO expects to ship editions for Itanium 2 processors and for IBM z, i and p series servers, Sontag said.
Also, though, SCO and SuSE are both readying desktop products and messaging servers for future release. SCO plans to release both SCO Linux 4.0 Workstation and a Unixware counterpart in January, said Chris Sontag, senior VP of SCO's operating systems division.
A SCO spokesperson described SCO's upcoming messaging server as "a Microsoft Exchange alternative that will be specific to SCO Linux." The still unnamed product will use code from SCO's Volution mail server, but it will run on top of SCO Linux 4.0.
SuSE's upcoming OpenExchange messaging server will integrate Novell GroupWise, said Gregory Blepp, VP International at SuSE. "We needed to get the messaging piece right away," he noted. Other new products are on the drawing boards, as well, including a storage server, according to Blepp.
"UnitedLinux also needs a few of the MandrakeSoft types to become members," suggested Aberdeen's Claybrook.
Hunter said this week that UnitedLinux is talking with several other Linux distributors. She declined, however, to specify which ones.
Global reach is another factor that could be helpful to UnitedLinux, according to some observers. "Customers tend to buy the distributions of Linux that are predominant in their geographic areas. Red Hat and SCO been doing well in the US. Red Hat also has some traction in Europe. SuSE, though, is very popular in Europe, and Turbolinux is the market leader in Japan," said BakBone Software's Eck.
"Geographic factors may play a role in acceptance of Linux on the desktop. Migration costs might be lower in some other parts in the world that they'd be in the US," predicted Michael Silver, an analyst at GartnerGroup.
Silver also pointed out that SuSE's forthcoming desktop product will use CodeWeaver. "CodeWeaver supports some Windows applications, but not all of them," he said.