Former Red Hat Execs Start New Linux Company

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2004-07-14

Former Red Hat Execs Start New Linux Company

Former Red Hat Inc. and Cygnus Solutions Inc. technology executives Kim Knuttila and Erik Troan have founded a new open-source company, Specifix Inc., that produces tailored Linux solutions targeting enterprises, hardware OEMs and other Linux users.

Specifix Inc. will soon be delivering Conary—an open-source technology for building, deploying and managing a single Linux code base across an unlimited number of configurations and hardware platforms. With Conary, officials of Specifix, based in San Jose, Calif,. says users will be able to modify Linux source code to suit their needs, track and merge changes with the Specifix Linux reference implementation, and build their own tailored distribution. This cycle can be repeated through multiple versions of the users tailored Linux operating system.

The Specifix management team had more than 35 years of Linux, GNU tools and open-source development experience. Kim Knuttila, the companys co-founder and CEO, was most recently the vice president of Engineering Services at Red Hat. There, he managed the former Cygnus business unit to deliver open-source and embedded Linux solutions. Before coming to Red Hat, Knuttila was vice president of Engineering with Cygnus Solutions, a tools developer acquired by Red Hat in 1999.

Erik Troan, co-founder and executive vice president of Operating Systems, also brings extensive open-source and Linux development experience to Specifix. For the past decade, Troan was Red Hats chief developer and vice president of Product Engineering. In this capacity, Troan was responsible for specifying and building all products developed by Red Hat, including RedHat Package Manager, Linux operating systems, the Red Hat Network, high performance Web servers and the infrastructure for Red Hats Web site. Most recently, Troan was senior director of Product Marketing at Red Hat, where he was responsible for the marketing and positioning of Red Hats product lines, including software products and service offerings.

"We are extremely excited about having the opportunity to execute on a dream that Erik and I share to deliver open-source solutions designed for a companys unique needs," Knuttila said. "Weve built groundbreaking development and deployment technologies to enable OEMs, internal IT groups and device manufacturers to take advantage of the power and infinitely customizable nature of open source."

Next page: Relieving customers of the burden of operating system support.

Former Red Hat Execs Start New Linux Company - Page 2

In an interview, Troan explained, "Existing Linux companies focus on delivering high-quality binary builds of source trees [that] they maintain and then provide support services around those binary builds. While this model works well for many market segments, if customers need something other than those standard binaries, the customers end up supporting the entire operating system. The Conary technology Specifix has developed lets customers modify the Linux operating system without needing to support and maintain the complete operating system. It also allows customers to maintain those changes and have their system track changes to the underlying operating system, preventing them from being stuck on a Linux release [that] gets further and further away from the mainstream."

Other companies, like Progeny Linux Systems Inc., also offer customized Linux distributions, but they act more as systems integrators instead of actually putting the tools to maintain and evolve a customized Linux distribution into customers hands.

So it is, Troan continued, that Specifixs target audience is "customers who are already [running], or wish to run, customized versions of Linux. Our previous experience in the Linux market let us meet many customers who modify a base operating system for their internal needs and are then marooned with no way to move to a newer release or maintain those changes. We believe Conary offers the only good solution to these customers needs."

Specifix is already gaining some traction with industry partners. "Rackable Systems looks forward to working with Specifix to build Linux solutions that meet customer demands for high-performance systems on both IA32 and X86, [64-bit] platforms," said Tom Barton, CEO of Rackable Systems Inc., a leading provider of Linux-based, high-density computing systems, in a prepared statement.

In the meantime, their former company, Red Hat, is still reeling from the markets adverse reaction to its announcement of a new way of accounting for its licensing revenues. But the stock price of the Raleigh, N.C., Linux giant is no longer seeing the large drops that characterized Tuesdays stock trades.

Check out eWEEK.coms Linux & Open Source Center at for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.

Be sure to add our Linux news feed to your RSS newsreader or My Yahoo page:  

Rocket Fuel