China's Red Flag Linux to step onto global stage

An alliance between Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) and Chinese Linux developer Red Flag Software Co. Ltd. established last month should lead to cooperation between the two companies on technology development and marketing of Red Flag Linux to companies in China and around the world.

The announcement, made in Beijing on Aug. 20, strengthens a long-standing relationship between the two companies and represents a milestone in Red Flag's plans to expand its business outside the world's most populous country.

The two companies plan to first focus their cooperative efforts in China, and then expand their work to include Asia-Pacific and the rest of the world, according to a joint statement released last month by the two companies. No timeframe was given for when Red Flag plans to expand its enterprise software business beyond China.

Under the agreement reached between the two companies, HP and Red Flag have committed to work together to develop and market Red Flag Linux to enterprise customers in China. HP will provide Red Flag with help in sales and marketing, technology development, training and support services, the statement said.

HP has a long-standing relationship with Red Flag that stretches back to the Linux developer's earliest days. Compaq Computer Corp., which HP acquired in 2002, was one of the three original partners that introduced the first versions of the Red Flag distribution of Linux in 1999 in China. The other two partners were the Institute of Software Academia Sinica Sino-Software System Co. Ltd. and Beijing Founder Electronics Co. Ltd.

Global expansion has long been on the cards for Red Flag.

In 2000, just two months after Red Flag was formally established as a company by the Chinese Academy of Science's Institute of Software and a Shanghai investment company, the company's president and chief executive officer, Liu Bo, said Red Flag planned to distribute its version of Linux outside China. At the time, the company had plans to first introduce Japanese and Korean versions of Red Flag Linux followed by the release of an English version of the operating system.

The announcement that HP and Red Flag are strengthening their relationship to bring Red Flag Linux into markets outside China suggests that these plans -- originally set to have been carried out by 2002, according to Liu's comments in 2000 -- may finally be nearing fruition.

Laying the groundwork for that expansion in Asia and elsewhere, HP and Red Flag are first focused on expanding Red Flag's reach in China, with a focus on enterprise customers, the statement said. The two companies will establish an HP-Red Flag Linux laboratory in Beijing for product and technology development as well as open a Linux demonstration center, it said.

On the product side, HP will support Red Flag Server Series 4 and other products on its Integrity and Proliant servers, the statement said. The two companies will also work with Intel Corp., Oracle Corp. and BEA Systems Inc., among others, to develop a common application platform for users in the government, telecommunication and financial sectors as well as other industries, it said.

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