COMDEX: UnitedLinux ready to populate servers

Four software vendors collaborating on a common Linux server operating system detailed Tuesday the fruits of their six-month labors, called UnitedLinux 1.0, and described individual products based on the operating system.

SuSE Linux AG, Turbolinux Inc., The SCO Group and Conectiva SA took part in an unveiling of the operating system here at the Comdex computer industry trade show.

Each of the software makers is planning to ship server operating systems that are largely based on UnitedLinux 1.0 within the next two months. Each version will include three common UnitedLinux 1.0 installation discs, according to executives from SuSE and Turbolinux. A fourth installation disc from each vendor will include features and software that are unique to the respective products.

"We originally thought that our product would be 70 percent UnitedLinux and 30 percent SuSE, but that has changed," said Holger Dyroff, director of North American sales for SuSE, during an interview here. The end result of its server operating system release is 95 percent UnitedLinux and 5 percent SuSE, he said.

Turbolinux is holding off until next week to detail the availability of its server product, called Turbolinux Enterprise Server 8. It did disclose Tuesday that the software will become available to customers in Asia in December. The differences between its product and those from the other three UnitedLinux vendors "will be very minor," said Fumiko Doi, director of corporate marketing for Turbolinux.

The Tokyo-based company, which claims to have more than 500,000 customers using previous versions of its server operating system, has customized its product by adding additional support for Asian language character fonts, including Japanese, Chinese and Korean, Doi said. While such support is already in the UnitedLinux 1.0 core, Doi said the extra support will make characters more clear and easy to read. The company did not disclose pricing.

SuSE, of Nuremberg, Germany, announced the SuSE Enterprise Server 8 here Tuesday, with a US$749 per server price tag, which includes one year of maintenance, Dyroff said. It is differentiating its product most notably with a graphical tool called YAST (Yet Another Setup Tool), which aims to help users install, configure and update their server systems.

"That's something that the other three companies will not emphasize," Dyroff said.

SuSE Enterprise Server 8 will be available in the beginning of December for six hardware platforms. They include Intel Corp.'s 32-bit and Itanium family of chips, Advanced Micro Devices Inc.'s Opteron chip, which is not yet available, as well as IBM Corp.'s midrange and mainframe servers, the company said.

Also detailed further from SuSE is the Linux Open Exchange Server, a collaboration and groupware product that aims to take the place of Microsoft Corp.'s Exchange server software. Available on November 25, it is targeted at small and medium-sized businesses with 10 to 500 users, according to Dyroff.

SCO, formerly Caldera International Inc., made available immediately SCO Linux Server 4.0, which is based on UnitedLinux 1.0. It is prices in the range of $599 to $2,199 depending on the level of support required by a customer.

Details on products from Conectiva, in Curitiba, Brazil were not immediately available.

Some initial software vendors heralded the news Tuesday. Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM Corp. joined UnitedLinux in a press conference here.

Rick Becker, HP's software chief technology officer and Linux division vice president, pledged that HP would certify its entire line of hardware for the operating system. He also noted that the concept of the four-member consortium will ease the development process for ISVs (independent software vendors).

"UnitedLinux is a huge step in satisfying the requirements of ISVs," he said, noting that it requires less development work on their behalf.

Oracle Corp., Linux software vendor Ximian Inc. and Computer Associates International Inc., each announced that they would support the operating system base in time.

Steve Solazzo, general manager of IBM's Linux division, echoed Becker's comments. "This allows an ISV to write an application once and certify it to a single code base," he said.

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