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Distributors to form UnitedLinux

[WEEK OF JUNE 3, 2002] - Four distributors of the open-source Linux operating system have announced their intention to join in the formation of a single version of the OS, which they are calling UnitedLinux, and which they plan to release at the end of this year. U.S. companies Caldera International and Turbolinux, Germany's SuSE Linux and Brazil's Conectiva will no longer be developing their own respective Linux distributions, the companies announced, but will instead create a uniform distribution focused on the enterprise.

UnitedLinux will be tailored for business and enterprise-level platforms and will feature a single, unified code base that combines select packages of all of the participating distributions. The move was designed, the companies said, to streamline Linux development and certification, and to quell concerns about fragmentation that have inhibited the development of business software for the OS.

"UnitedLinux addresses enterprise customers' need for a standard, business-focused Linux distribution that is certified to work across hardware and software platforms, accelerating the adoption of Linux in the enterprise," the companies said in a statement.

The joint venture effectively cuts the number of major Linux distributions to five: Red Hat Linux, Mandrake Linux, Debian, Slackware and UnitedLinux.

Although Red Hat, arguably the leading Linux distributor, has not joined the UnitedLinux initiative, the company has not ruled out the possibility that it will. Ransome Love, CEO at Caldera, said he contacted Red Hat and Mandrake about the initiative, which the four companies said will be open to all Linux distribution companies. Love said that neither firm had yet decided whether to join, but Red Hat in particular was supportive of the project.

"UnitedLinux is not a movement about anti-Red Hat," said Ly-Huong Pham, CEO at Turbolinux. "It's all about satisfying the needs of our customers."

Mark de Visser, vice president of marketing at Red Hat, agreed that the sheer number of Linux distros was hampering the migration of apps to the OS. He was cautiously hopeful about the UnitedLinux initiative: "[I]f this effort by Caldera and others consolidates distributions, it is a good development." But, he added, in Linux, application support is everything. "Red Hat Linux Advanced Server has it today," he said. "Time will tell if the Caldera group's distribution will achieve the same level of support."

A number of enterprise system and software vendors have announced their support for the UnitedLinux initiative, including AMD, Borland, Computer Associates, Fujitsu Siemens, Fujitsu Japan, HP, IBM, Intel and NEC.

"IBM fully supports this new 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, senior vice president and group executive, IBM Software Group. "UnitedLinux brings together the best technologies and capabilities of these four companies, delivering a single international Linux distribution that will make it simpler for solution providers to utilize and customers to deploy. Our support for UnitedLinux spans our entire Linux software, hardware and services portfolio -- already the broadest in the industry -- giving our customers and business partners what they need to move more business workloads onto Linux."

But Big Blue tempered its enthusiasm with a nod to its partnership with Red Hat, which it promised to continue to support "aggressively" across its key hardware, software and service offerings.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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