A number of Linux vendors will announce on Thursday that they have agreed to standardize on a single Linux distribution to try to take on Red Hat Inc.s dominance in the industry.
A media advisory issued on Tuesday said executives from Caldera, Conectiva, SuSE and Turbolinux on Thursday will make "a major announcement that will change the shape of Linux worldwide."
An executive at one of the companies, who declined to be identified, confirmed to eWEEK on Tuesday that the announcement will revolve around a single standardized Linux distribution, but he declined to elaborate ahead of Thursdays announcement.
Al Gillen, an analyst for International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass., said the move is probably an effort to balance out the industry because of Red Hats dominance. "It is clear that Red Hat is the 300-pound gorilla in this market, and the other vendors are all struggling from a revenue and shipment perspective to remain relevant on a worldwide basis," he said.
The vendors involved in Thursdays announcement are all highly relevant in local geographies. Conectiva is very important in Brazil and other parts of South America; SuSE is very important in Gemany and much of Western Europe; and Turbolinux has a big presence in the Pacific Rim countries and other parts of Asia Pacific, Gillen said.
"So youve got all the geographies covered without a huge overlap between these companies. Theyre probably all looking at this as a way of boosting their own relevancy without causing any real competitive friction between them," he said.
Stacey Quandt, an analyst at Giga Information Group in Menlo Park, Calif., said she expects the vendors to sell a standardized distribution that has the best of each individual distribution in it.
"They are also going to try and convince ISVs to target this one core distribution. As ISVs do not want to port to multiple distributions if they dont have to, this could be of benefit to the smaller Linux vendors," Quandt said.
But that will be a challenge as many ISVs already target Red Hat, and Sun Microsystems Inc.s partners will stick with Sun when it launches its own Linux distribution later this year, she said.
While a single standardized Linux distribution would give the companies involved a unified front and allow portability across their various distributions, "it doesnt deal with Red Hats market dominance or address the forthcoming impact of Suns own Linux implementation. It may be too little too late," Quandt said.
Suns initial Linux focus is targeted at the low-end two- to four-way systems at the edge of the network, where many users are deploying Linux, she said, adding that Sun could also expand its Linux focus to areas requiring greater scalability.
In addition, many global companies will not find the idea of multiple Linux distributions, even if they are standardized, appealing, particularly since they could simply deploy a single Red Hat solution, she said.
Also at issue is how one distribution will be differentiated from another. While configuration and installation features have traditionally been ways they differentiated themselves, it is unclear how this will be handled going forward, she said.
Chad Robinson, an analyst for the Robert Frances Group in Stafford Springs, Conn., agreed that enterprise partners will be the key to such an arrangement. "If they can leverage some partnerships to bring monitoring/management, deployment and other tools to their distributions in a standard way, the enterprise will benefit.
"I believe this type of move may benefit the enterprise in the long run. However, those benefits will depend on quick action by those involved in the deal to provide added value beyond simply standardizing products," he said.
One of the big issues for the enterprise is support. Many enterprises have expressed doubts about the abilities of individual Linux players to supply enterprise-class support, which range from solving problems to consulting on deployment and integration issues, Robinson said.
Consolidation among multiple vendors might help nudge the resulting alliance closer to the critical mass of experts needed to supply such support.
"Its also sometimes hard to tell the difference between the distributions and identify their advantages/disadvantages. For example, they all include Apache, and all claim to have decent deployment tools. So if Im an IT executive deploying Linux-based Web servers, which distribution should I pick? Whats the difference?" Robinson said.
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