Foursome Stands United on Linux

Four Linux vendors announce that they will standardize on a single Linux distribution for the enterprise, to be known as UnitedLinux, in a move they say will streamline Linux development and certification.

Linux vendors Caldera International Inc., Conectiva S.A., SuSE Linux AG and Turbolinux Inc. today announced that they will standardize on a single Linux distribution for the enterprise, to be known as UnitedLinux, in a move they say will streamline Linux development and certification.

As was first reported by eWEEK on Tuesday, executives from the four companies said in a media teleconference on Thursday that UnitedLinux will address enterprise customer needs for a standard, business-focused Linux distribution that is certified to work across hardware and software platforms and that will accelerate the adoption of Linux in the enterprise.

While the four companies will collaborate on the development of one common core Linux operating environment for the enterprise, to be released in the fourth quarter, they will each bundle value-added products and services along with UnitedLinux, which they will still each sell and market under their own brands.

Gerhard Burtscher, CEO of German-based SuSE Linux, said his company will take on the role of product integrator. Its engineering team will also be responsible for the development and quality assurance of the final product release.

The base product for UnitedLinux will be SuSEs Enterprise Server, with technologies and business products from other vendors also being added in. Further details of this will be released going forward, he said.

However, Burtscher said there will not be a branded UnitedLinux consumer distribution at this point. "We want applications to be developed for the UnitedLinux platform, and this starts at the server level," he said.

Caldera CEO Ransom Love said his companys core German Linux development team has already been merged with SuSEs engineers working on UnitedLinux.

But, while the UnitedLinux source code and access to it will be freely available as is the case under the existing open-source licenses, the binaries will not be made freely available "for support and business reasons."

"The business model around UnitedLinux is based on the open-source principle of collaboration, but is also based on making profits and driving enterprise adoption of Linux forward," Love said.

Asked about the fact that the leading business and consumer Linux distributors, Red Hat Linux and Mandrake Linux, were not involved in the announcement, Love said pulling together the diverse, cultural, business and marketing backgrounds of the four parties was a daunting task.

"We thought it would be inappropriate and counterproductive to bring more than four companies into developing the framework. But as soon as we had signed the agreement on Wednesday afternoon, I called Red Hat to discuss the matter, and we will be having follow-up discussions over the next few weeks as to how they can best support this," he said.

Mandrake Linux and Sun Microsystems Inc. were also approached about participating in the initiative going forward. Discussions around this will continue. Both companies were "receptive and interested," Love said.

Lee Pham, CEO of Turbolinux, stressed that UnitedLinux is not an anti-Red Hat move, but rather about satisfying the needs of its enterprise customers.

The move has received the support of a range of systems and software vendors like Advanced Micro Devices Inc., Borland Software Corp., Computer Associates International Inc., Fujitsu Siemens, Fujitsu Japan, Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM, Intel, NEC, Progress Software and SAP AG.

It is also expected to significantly reduce the number of distributions that independent hardware and software vendors are asked to certify and will provide a true standards-based Linux operating environment, the vendors said.

UnitedLinux will provide one unified Linux code base for IBMs complete eServer product line, AMDs current 32-bit and forthcoming 64-bit AMD Athlon and AMD Opteron processor-based platforms, as well as Intels X86 32-bit and Itanium processor family platforms.

While IBM stressed it will continue to support Red Hat Linux across its key hardware, software and services offerings, it will also fully support UnitedLinux, "which will make it easier than ever before to create a wide variety of Linux-based solutions for any size e-business," said Steve Mills, an IBM senior vice president.

UnitedLinux brings together the best technologies and capabilities of the four companies, delivering a single international Linux distribution that will make it simpler for solution providers to utilize and customers to deploy, Mills said.

UnitedLinux also supports the Linux Standards Base, Li18nux, and GB18030 standards. Calderas Love said the initiative goes beyond the LSB initiative as this will result in a standardized distribution that will allow Red Hat and others to still be compliant with that.

UnitedLinux will also enable installations in English, German, French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese languages.

The UnitedLinux offering will be targeting users of Microsoft Corp.s Windows and Suns Solaris operating systems. Peter Houston, senior director of Microsofts Windows Server Group told eWEEK that the move reflects the challenge facing independent Linux vendors of consistently delivering innovative products and quality support to customers while remaining viable business entities.

"They obviously see consolidation as the best chance for survival. What customers need to ask, however, is how much longer it will be before each major hardware manufacturer releases its own and different distribution of Linux to isolate themselves and their customers from the churn. At that point, is it really Linux anymore? Or, is it just like starting over with another flavor of Unix?" he said.

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