Firing Back at Red Hat, Coalition To Unveil Linux Version

Four major Linux players, who teamed up earlier this year to produce a common Linux version, are preparing to release the first public distribution of their software.

Linux vendors SuSe, the SCO Group — which just changed its name from Caldera — Connectiva and TurboLInux teamed up in May to produce a common version of Linux called UnitedLinux.

A beta version of the software, which is based on Linux kernel version 2.4.9, will be available for download at beginning Monday. A commercially ready version is due in the fourth quarter.

The product appears to be targeted at Red Hat’s Advanced Server, which is a premium-priced version of Linux tailored for the enterprise market. Like Red Hat’s Advanced Server, the UnitedLinux distribution is a commercial product. UnitedLinux has not yet announced pricing for its product. Red Hat’s Advanced Server ranges in price from $799 to $2,499.

UnitedLinux’ software is based largely on SuSe’s distribution of Linux, along with high availability features culled from Connectiva’s Linux, and Asian language capabilities from TurboLinux.

Going Global

The four companies hope to take advantage of their combined strengths in different regions of the world to tackle the might of Red Hat. That could be a challenge, says International Data Corp. Analyst Dan Kusnetzky, since the four UnitedLinux vendors combined claim about 21% of the worldwide commercial Linux market share. Red Hat’s market share is about twice that.

There is “tremendous demand from global corporate clients for a single version of Linux which can be supported all over the globe,” says Gregory Blepp, a SuSe vice president and member of the UnitedLinux board.

UnitedLinux hopes to satisfy that demand by drawing on the experience of its members in tailoring Linux to particular geographic regions. Germany’s SuSe is strong in Europe, while Connectiva, which is based in Brazil, is the leading Linux version in Latin America. Despite being headquartered in San Francisco, TurboLinux is the leading distribution in Asia. SCO, based in Orem, Utah, has a large network of resellers and consultants in the U.S. as well as other countries.

Taking Heat From the Open Source Community

In producing its Linux distribution, UnitedLinux may have run stepped on a few toes in the open source community. For one thing, it restricted the availability of an early “closed beta” version of its software, which was available only after signing a non-disclosure agreement. That, say open source advocates, may violate the GPL, or GNU Public License, under which Linux is released.

In addition, while users can get UnitedLinux’ software for free for development or non-commercial use, the group says it will not make the software available for commercial use for free. Red Hat does not restrict the use of its Advanced Server.

While most commercial users probably will not mind paying for either companies products, both of which include support as well as compiled, ready-to-use versions of Linux, members of the open source community are likely to object to any restrictions on Linux.