Major Linux vendors are aggressively reshaping their enterprise product offerings in the name of differentiation as the battle for corporate customers heats up.
Red Hat Inc., with its focus on the enterprise server market, is shuffling its lineup and changing its pricing model to attract more business customers. The Linux distributor announced last week Red Hat Enterprise Workstation and Red Hat Enterprise Linux Entry-level Server, which is aimed at department applications and other entry-level environments. They are expected to be available this month, priced from $180 to $800.
Officials for the Raleigh, N.C., company said the moves followed complaints from corporate users that its Advanced Server pricing was too high for low-end uses such as edge servers, Web servers and so on.
SuSE Linux AG, based in Nuremberg, Germany, is focusing on the corporate desktop market and working on an enterprise version of its SuSE Linux Office Desktop product, due in the first half of this year. The product will offer better administration and manageability, said officials for SuSEs North America division, in Oakland, Calif.
Despite these shifts, some users say Linux still has a way to go. Jason Greenwood, business development manager for a Web development company in Christchurch, New Zealand, said his company runs a mix of Windows, Linux and Mac OS platforms because it must—not because it wants to.
"Much of our graphic design software and Web development tools, like [those from] Macromedia [Inc.] and Adobe [Systems Inc.], are written to only run on Windows or the Mac, not Linux," Greenwood said. "We will expunge all non-Linux systems once they port or [once] there are viable open alternatives."
The Linux vendors also are ratcheting up sales and support offerings. SuSE last week announced a new global sales partnership strategy, designed to reward business partners by giving them part of the revenue generated from new business they bring SuSE.
In addition, Hewlett-Packard Co. last week announced its support for the new Red Hat Entry-level Server.
Some enterprises such as multinational conglomerate Unilever N.V. are pleased with the positive moves around Linux. Unilever intends to move off the two versions of Unix it runs on proprietary hardware to Linux.
"But we will not move our large-scale, mission-critical applications onto Linux until we are confident we have the scalability, robustness and security that we have on our current platforms today," said Martin Armitage, a Unilever senior vice president, in London. "We intend, over the next three years, to move across to a single, supported Linux environment."
Recent research reports also show that Linux server adoption is rising. Last month, International Data Corp., in Framingham, Mass., released Server Tracker numbers for the fourth quarter of last year, revealing that the Linux server market grew by 41 percent, to $607 million, from the same quarter the year before.
Gartner Inc., in Stamford, Conn., last month released server sales and shipment figures for last year, which showed HP holding the lead for both IA-32 and IA-64 Linux servers in terms of revenue and units shipped.
Judy Chavis, director of HPs Corporate Linux Program Office, in Houston, said HP is focusing its energies in the IA-32 and IA-64 space. IA-32 and the applications that are driving Linux today "are a whole new paradigm," Chavis said. "Were talking about edge-of-the-Net applications, Web servers and real-time data access, information at your fingertips. And you have to add capacity immediately. You cant just add a mainframe overnight."
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