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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Efforts to shore up the UnitedLinux effort continued yesterday, with big names joining SCO Group Inc to preach against fragmentation of the open source operating system,

Gavin Clarke writes

.

Lindon, Utah-based SCO wheeled out Computer Associates International Inc, Hewlett-Packard Co, IBM Corp and Intel Corp to argue UnitedLinux's case at SCO's GeoForum conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The theme: UnitedLinux will attract multinational customers who want a truly worldwide Linux distribution.

UnitedLinux's core is destined to be built on technology from Conectiva SA, SuSE AG, TurboLinux Inc and SCO Group. A first version of the OS is due in the fourth quarter, and version 2.0 is expected in the third or fourth quarter of 2003.

In bringing out the big guns, SCO sought to distance UnitedLinux from recent bad publicity and growing concern over the initiative's long-term viability. TurboLinux recently sold its Linux business to Software Research Associates, causing jitters.

SCO has palmed off its in-house Linux development to SuSE, with 30 Caldera International engineers changing company. SCO this week also dumped its Caldera name and resurrected products and branding of the old Santa Cruz Operation.

SuSE, meanwhile, has seen a number of senior executive changes during the last two years.

SCO product manager and member of the UnitedLinux board Andy Nagel said yesterday's roll call demonstrates growing support. "The message is clear: the hardware vendors are behind this initiative. Resellers can close a deal and they will have the hardware."

Nagel conceded the greatest difficulty has been in attracting ISVs. "Software vendors are going to take more work. We are going to be big on software vendors in coming months," he said.

Once reason for ISV reluctance could be perceived clash between the need for both Linux Standard Base (LSB) and UnitedLinux. UnitedLinux will be certified to the LSB for application portability. Pure ISVs were represented yesterday by Computer Associates.

Nagel said UnitedLinux provides ISVs a binary standard to write against. "It's possible that at the edge [of a distribution] you may find behavior that isn't covered [by LSB]," Nagel said.

He added Connectiva, SuSE AG, TurboLinux and SCO would differentiate distributions against each other by offering additional applications on top of the operating system. In SCO's case this may be Volution systems management.

Nagel attempted to further speak-up UnitedLinux, stressing Software Research Associates has given its commitment to continue TurboLinux's support.

The four companies have pledged both engineering resources and cash to drive UnitedLinux although Nagel refused to reveal how much money each vendor is contributing. He added UnitedLinux could drive harder once a general manager is hired - interviews have been concluded and an appointment is expected - and an advisory board is appointed to set future direction and strategy.

He claimed UnitedLinux would become so strong that even Red Hat Corp would join. Red Hat is the most notable UnitedLinux absentee and - while Nagel claimed the door is open to future discussion - there remains an uneasy tension.

"As the initiative continues to build it's going to be harder, and harder and harder to answer the question 'why not'?" He said Red Hat would become compelled to join as UnitedLinux's market share grows.

Computer Associates, HP, IBM and articulated their reasons for backing UnitedLinux. Pat Byers, IBM program director, said UnitedLinux means her company can offer two distributions - Red Hat and UnitedLinux - instead of four.

"Having a dual strategy is going to be fantastic for a lot of companies like IBM. We can consolidate our requirements and certification and get to market faster," she said.

Rick Becker, HP operating system alliances and software vice president, backed IBM. He added the combination of four distributions with presences in North America, South America, Europe and Asia simplifies support. "Our customers have asked us for a common distribution worldwide. They want localization and support - they want to be able to call support in their time zone," he said.

"Our goal is to increase UnitedLinux as another enterprise platform," said Computer Associates divisional vice president of strategic business alliances Al Burstiner.

IBM believes SCO's 16,000-strong North American reseller community will help the company sell IBM servers into small and medium sized businesses. SCO is renowned for its strong reseller and partner network, specialized in verticals.

"We need [SCO resellers]... to get in the small and medium business space," Byers said.

© ComputerWire

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