UnitedLinux Takes Aim At Microsoft, Sun, Red Hat

SCO and SuSE, two partners in UnitedLinux, will try to lure customers away from Microsoft and Sun Microsystems as well as Red Hat , while divvying up the UnitedLinux user base with different product and distribution strategies, officials said at Comdex on Monday.

Today, both vendors will announce new distributions based on United Linux. Also, SuSE is expected to name Arrow Electronics as its “master VAR” for the US market.

SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 and SCO Linux 4.0 will each use UnitedLinux 1.0 as their “core distribution layer.” UnitedLinux 1.0 will feature “automated installation, high availability clustering, large memory support, and memory expansion technology,” said Chris Sontag, senior VP of SCO’s Operating Systems Division, in an interview at Comdex in Las Vegas on Monday.

SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8, a distributon aimed at “large to medium enterprises,” will add “automated configuration” to the UnitedLinux core, said Holger Dyroff, Suse Linux’s newly appointed director of sales for North America, in another pre-briefing for Linux Today. SuSE’s configuration and installation tools include AutoYaST and YaST2.

For its part, SCO will target small to medium-sized businesses with SCO Linux 4.0, a distribution that initially adds remote management and “highly searchable documentation:” to the UnitedLinux base, according to Sontag The new distributions from SCO and SuSE Linux will both comply with Linux Standard Base (LSB), an emerging Linux interoperability standard.

For some time next year, though, Sontag said, SCO is eyeing a series of “solution stacks” that will package together smaller sets of componentry geared to businesses in markets such as retail and hospitality, for instance.

UnitedLinux 1.0 was “engineered 90 percent by SuSE, using ‘best of breed’ technologies from each vendor,” according to Dyroff. The four members of the consortium–which also includes Turbolinux and Conectiva.–are splitting the R&D costs.

Meanwhile, SCO has been training its army of UnixWare reseller–inherited through the merger of Caldera and SCO Unix–in SCO Linux. Many existing customers, however, are opting to stay with UnixWare, either alone or in conjunction with SCO Linux, Sontag acknowledged.

Sontag, though, also sees “strong opportunities” for SCO Linux in the existing Microsoft space, due to factors that include Windows security holes, the complexity of Windows 2000 and Exchange 2000, and user disgruntlement over Microsoft’s licensing policies.

For its part, SuSE plans to take on both Sun and Microsoft, according to Dyroff. “The Sun Solaris channel already has Unix knowhow,” he maintained. “Microsoft is becoming a commodity market. Linux expertise can be a big differentiator for both Sun and Microsoft partners.”

SuSE will concentrate on businesses of 100 employees or more, leaving smaller businesses in North America to SCO, according to Dyroff.

Both vendors took potshots at Linux rival Red Hat’s product, distribution strategies, and support mechanisms.

“There’s less of an overlap between SCO Linux and Red Hat than you’d expect,” Sontag said. “Red Hat has only a higher-end product for enterprises, and the shrinkwrapped product sold in retail stores.” SCO also towers over Red Hat in terms of worldwide service and support, he contended.

“We’ve been out there with enterprise Linux for a long time now. Red Hat is just coming into it,” according to Dyroff.

So far, though, SuSE has relied mainly on direct sales in the US market. US customers include Boeing, BMW, and Salomon Smith Barney, for instance.

SuSE now plans to buttress its direct sales force in North America, while also adding Arrow and other new VARs, according to Dyroff. Members of UnitedLinux are expected to benefit, too, from strong backing by IBM and HP, who envision the group as an alternative to Red Hat.

Speakers at Tuesday’s press conference at Comdex are expected to include Steve Solazzo, IBM’s general manager for Linux, and Rick Becker, VP, software CTO, Industry Standard Servers, at HP.

SCO’s Sontag also hinted that UnitedLinux will soon unveil a partnership with Oracle, a long-time ally of Red Hat’s. The consortium’s announcement of a deal with “a big database vendor, whose name starts with ‘O,'” will come “sometime over the next few weeks, possibly as early as this week,” he said.

UnitedLinux and its offshoots are already being supported on the database side by Progress Software and IBM’s DB2 Universal Database, Sontag noted. Other early ISV and IHV partners include Borland; Computer Associates; SAP; NEC; Intel; and AMD. SuSE Enterprise Server 8 and SCO’s Linux 4.0 are both

Expected to ship immediately. SuSE’s code base for Enterprise Server 8 supports 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.” Also in the works from SuSE are a desktop product and a new OpenExchange e-mail server.

By the second quarter of 2003, SCO plans to ship editions of SCO Linux for Intel Itanium 2 processors and for IBM z, i, and p series servers, Sontag said.

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