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SCO Aims United Linux Distro at M'soft

SCO Aims United Linux Distro at M'soft

The SCO Group says it's going to take its version of the United Linux distribution - on which it, SuSE, Conectiva and Turbolinux are banding together in search of collective strength - into the small and medium-size business market that's traditionally been a Microsoft stronghold.

According to SCO, however, Microsoft is now focused on the enterprise like Red Hat, the biggest potential stumbling block to the United Linux effort.

Microsoft also has its new licensing terms, margins and code complexity working against it, said SCO's senior VP, operating systems, IP and corporate marketing Chris Sonntag in addition to the amount of support it needs compared to Linux. SCO will play on Microsoft's TCO issues.

SCO has little confidence that its vaunted reseller network, which it continues to claim is still 16,000-strong despite all the abuse and neglect it's taken, will be the chief vehicle to move United Linux. The network was largely inherited from the old SCO and remains partial to Unix - when it's not dabbling in Windows. So, Sonntag said the new SCO is going to be recruiting a new crop of resellers to handle the United Linux release, which it's calling SCO Linux 4.0. He claims it's picked up some disaffected Microsoft resellers, but couldn't say how many.

The company's two-month-old SCObiz program has reportedly recruited 100 resellers.

United Linux is supposed to have stripped out a lot of the packages that usually come with a Linux distro, what exactly still isn't crystal clear, but SCO said there would be further code reductions in the future. SuSE said separately that the roughly 3,000 packages usual with a Linux distribution had been chopped down to a mere 818 apps and utilities.

Meanwhile, SCO has added remote administration and some documentation and training help to its version of the thing. United Linux, which is based on an existing SuSE server, is also supposed to have high availability clustering built in and its installation is supposed to have been made automatic.

Unlike its fellow United Linux vendors, SCO is supposed to have worldwide support and service out of its own 12 offices. However, it's cut a side deal with Conectiva for the Brazilian company, which is already reselling SCO's Unix brands, to support and service SCO Linux 4.0 in Latin America, something it didn't feel it needed in Europe or the Orient from its other United Linux partners, although the United Linux people seemed to imply the support of all four companies is, like, part of deal. Anyway, it'll be interesting to see whether Conectiva does any poaching.

As expected, SCO Linux 4.0 has been priced to undercut Red Hat's Advanced Server on which it is modeled by 15%. There are four models available, ranging from $599 to $2,199, differing only, Sonntag said, in terms of the amount of maintenance and support that's bundled with them.

The low-end Base Edition includes only a year's worth of fixes from something the company calls SCO Update, which won't become available until December 2 when UnixWare 7.1.3, which it also supports, starts to ship. Access to SCO Update is common to all four Linux editions.

A $699 Classic Edition includes a year's worth of phone, web or e-mail support within five business hours and a $1,249 Business Edition will provide the same thing but in three business hours. The high-end Enterprise Edition offers a one-hour service.

SCO claims new United Linux features will be available sooner than the "Big Bang" approach of a new release every 12-18 months that Red Hat is using.

Besides the SME market, SCO Linux 4.0 is also targeted at replicated branch offices, especially banking, retail, hospitality and restaurants.

Although United Linux appears to include code for the Itanium 2 and AMD's upcoming 64-bit Opteron chip, SCO is ignoring it for lack of demand. It talks of a United Linux-based SCO Linux 4.0 Workstation, which it suggests is 32-bit without being definite, that is scheduled to appear in Q1. SCO says it's like SCO OpenLinux 3.1.1. Red Hat has a Workstation for IA-64, but SCO is talking of supporting the IA-64 in still another iteration in Q1. SCO will also have IBM zSeries, iSeries and pSeries support, compliments of SuSE and Turbolinux, down the road.

Sonntag said SCO, which has had a rough couple of years, is on the verge of turning a profit this quarter. As Caldera, its old personality, the company was never profitable. SCO's quarter closes on December 18.

SCO has just set up a joint venture focused on its Volution management software with Center 7 Inc called Volution Technology in which it has made an undisclosed investment. Like SCO, or rather Caldera, Center 7 was started by the Canopy Group, the investment arm of former Novell CEO Ray Noorda. Computer Associates is also an investor, but then Center 7's CEO is an ex-CA guy.

Center 7 does enterprise-management and managed-hosting services via the Internet and claims to have developed a superior method of delivering its services to the Global 2000 and to government agencies, educational institutions, e-businesses, and data centers.

Volution will do remote installs.

The United Linux rollout at Comdex Tuesday attracted the support of HP and IBM, who sent their Linux chiefs, and Borland, Computer Associates, NEC, Oracle, SAP and IBM with DB2 and WebSphere are supposed to have applications for it shortly.

SuSE's version of the stuff, Enterprise Server 8, is due on November 25 and is supposed to target the enterprise set and a range of platforms from the start. Nothing has been heard from the other two partners.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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