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RealTime IT News

SUSE 9 Hits American Shores

SUSE, until now known mainly as 'that European flavor of Linux' with many Americans, is getting ready for a big push with businesses and government organizations, with the introduction of SUSE Linux 9 with 64-bit processing and 2.6 kernel enhancements to the Americas Thursday.

The product has been available online since Oct. 24, but has just now reached U.S., Canada and South American retailers.

Analysts expect the various Linux vendors to expand in coming years outside their mostly territorial niches (Red Hat in the U.S., SUSE in Europe and Mandrake, a Franco-American product) and go global.

The goal: capturing big-dollar accounts for the increasingly-popular open source operating system; while commercial versions of the Linux kernel aren't free, they are significantly more inexpensive than today's proprietary systems.

While SUSE already has 64-bit processing capability in its enterprise version 8, which has gained a lot of attention with American companies, SUSE Linux 9 Home and Professional versions are tailored towards the consumer and workstation users.

"We believe that 64-bit applications will rapidly become the standard, and that's why we had an operating system for the AMD Athlon 64 processor available at the time of its introduction (in 1999)," said Juergen Geck, SUSE Linux chief technology officer.

Although research at their research firm shows 32-bit processing is still the standard with many mainstream companies and that only 29 percent of companies are using Linux in the enterprise, Laura Didio, an analyst at the Yankee Group, said offering the latest technology on software is a good strategy.

"They want to distinguish themselves from the horde of Linux vendors," she said. "Looking at Linux today, it reminds me of the Oklahoma land rush, where people lined up, someone fired the gun and everyone made a mad dash to claim land.

"It's a mad dash right now to stake your claim in Linux," she continued. "Everyone has a Linux offering, an open source strategy, etc. By having (64-bit processing) first, they're looking to go after the high end of the market."

The Nuremburg, Germany, Linux company is trying to shed its image as a European player by expanding into the global market: other vendors of the open source are doing the same.

Didio said all of the commercial Linux vendors are going to be making a huge push to break into the global market, so you'll see a lot of competition and a lot of consolidation as the losers fall behind.

This commercial side of Linux, which is a marked contrast to the image of Linux as a beneficent community of developers, will be similar to the consolidations like the networking and ISP industries in the 90s.

"You're going to see the dogfight commence in earnest among companies like Red Hat, SUSE and Mandrake," she said. "This is not a little love-in, they're going to compete and that's what it's going to come down to. Networks don't know geographic barriers; when the data traverses the network, it doesn't care that it might be London communicating with New Zealand."

SUSE, for its part, has been making inroads with U.S. companies this year to expand globally. In June, the company signed a deal with Hewlett-Packard to run its enterprise server version 8 on HP ProLiant machines running on Itanium-based servers.

Earlier this month, they inked an agreement with Sybase subsidiary iAnywhere to let SUSE enterprise server customers run SQL Anywhere. The deal was brokered to provide a database/OS matchup on par with Red Hat and Oracle own agreement.

The deals are an end-result of the major reorganization the company went through two years ago, and completed last year, to streamline their products and sales channels and become a legitimate global player.

To pitch the benefits of SUSE Linux 9 and Enterprise Server 8, SUSE's Geck will be touring the U.S. and Canada, speaking with analysts and convincing corporations and government agencies to make the switch to SUSE.

The company is selling four types of SUSE Linux 9 in the stores: Home Edition - $39.95, Professional Edition with 32-bit processing - $79.95, Professional Edition with 64-bit processing - $119.95 and Upgrade edition - $49.95.

In addition to 64-bit processing, SUSE Linux 9 comes with improvements that are still under development with the Linux 2.6 kernel. They include: an advanced Linux sound architecture, power management support and improved scheduling.

In a nod to the popularity of the Microsoft OS, SUSE Linux 9 has expanded its support for the NTFS file system found in Windows, allowing users to repartition the hard drive and access both operating systems.

The OS comes bundled with OpenOffice.org 1.1, an upgraded version of instant messaging client Kopete, CD/DVD burning software (k3b) and KDE 3.1.4.