United They Stand; United They Fall

By John Taschek  |  Posted 2002-06-10 Print this article Print

Aligning the globe with a single Linux distribution is a great idea.

Some call it the gang of four. Some call it an attack on Red Hat. I call UnitedLinux a practical move to thwart Red Hats domination and to enable proprietary intellectual property to be added to Linux distributions. Oh, and, yes, its an act surely rooted in desperation.

For UnitedLinux to succeed, four requirements must be met: There needs to be a global presence and distribution channel, the technology must be adequately better than what was available before, there must be global services facilities, and there has to be grass-roots support.

When evaluated on the merits alone, theres nothing wrong with four companies defining and packaging a Linux distribution. It makes even more sense considering the players: Turbolinux has marginal control over the Asian markets, SuSE Linux has success in European countries, Conectiva is well- connected in the Latin communities, and Caldera has had moderate success in Linux management with Volution.

Aligning the globe with a single Linux distribution is a great idea. In fact, Caldera realized this more than a year and a half ago. In December 2000, Caldera CEO Ransom Love told me that "to be a major player, you will need global infrastructure. Its harder and harder to build companies. Its ... cost-prohibitive to build a viable company. Linux is somewhat regionalized."

It remains to be seen whether this technology will be substantially different from what is already available. It is clear, based on past conversations with Love, that proprietary intellectual property will be added to the distributions. This intellectual property will surely be enhanced further by IBM, HP, SAP and Intel—four UnitedLinux backers that have been struggling to find ways of getting patented technology into the mainly open-source Linux distributions.

Clearly, UnitedLinux has the technology and a worldwide base from which to work. But there are challenges. One of the larger problems in the enterprise space is support. Since UnitedLinux has rounded up some top-tier vendors as backers, its possible that itll pick up the support, but this hasnt been clearly defined.

In this economy, companies making purchase decisions need everything to be cleanly and comprehensively defined. Its not the 1990s anymore.

As for grass-roots support, thats up to you. What do you think? Write to me at john_taschek@ziffdavis.com.

As the director of eWEEK Labs, John manages a staff that tests and analyzes a wide range of corporate technology products. He has been instrumental in expanding eWEEK Labs' analyses into actual user environments, and has continually engineered the Labs for accurate portrayal of true enterprise infrastructures. John also writes eWEEK's 'Wide Angle' column, which challenges readers interested in enterprise products and strategies to reconsider old assumptions and think about existing IT problems in new ways. Prior to his tenure at eWEEK, which started in 1994, Taschek headed up the performance testing lab at PC/Computing magazine (now called Smart Business). Taschek got his start in IT in Washington D.C., holding various technical positions at the National Alliance of Business and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. There, he and his colleagues assisted the government office with integrating the Windows desktop operating system with HUD's legacy mainframe and mid-range servers.

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