In a shameless display of plagiarism, I will now cheerfully steal 10 CC’s immortal line and declare “I’m not in love”. Nope, not me, not even slightly.
Stories by Doug Casement
As any smart CIO knows, technology is rarely the key issue when rolling out a major project — it’s generally people and/or company culture issues that can make the difference between success and failure. This fact is something we’ve seen consistently demonstrated at the CIO Leaders’ Luncheons and at various CIO conference presentations.
I mention this because I recently came across an interesting example of this principle in practice but with a slight twist — the merger of Hewlett-Packard and Compaq in New Zealand. Worldwide, analysts have been — and still are — speculating about the wisdom of the merger and its chances of success. In New Zealand, however, there’s been an additional impetus to help smooth the merger process — a charity event that benefits Cure Kids, a division of the Child Health Research Foundation.
My, what a cynical world we live in. No sooner had the UnitedLinux initiative been announced and there was instant speculation that it was nothing more than an attempt to compete with Red Hat.
If you haven’t yet heard about the UnitedLinux initiative, it’s essentially an agreement between Caldera, SuSE, Connectiva and TurboLinux to develop and ship a common Linux server binary.
According to Ransom Love, CEO, president and founder of Caldera Linux, Red Hat is welcome to join the UnitedLinux initiative any time it wants — and Red Hat for its part isn’t too fussed either way, because all the development will be returned to the Open Source community where Red Hat can grab it anyway.
Love says other Linux companies such as Mandrake are also welcome to join UnitedLinux — the reason there weren’t more companies involved from the “get-go” is that Love reckons it was hard enough getting four companies to agree.
UnitedLinux will initially be based on SuSE’s advanced server Linux distribution, primarily because it is the most advanced in terms of certification on various platforms —- the most important of which is IBM.
Unlike Linux distributions to date, the UnitedLinux server binary will not be available for free download — the source code will be available but binaries independently compiled from this source code will not be able to carry the “certified by UnitedLinux” branding.
Instead, the UnitedLinux server binary will be licensed in the same manner that you would license a copy of Windows 2000 or XP — albeit at a much lower cost and without the near compulsory “upgrade options” that Microsoft is intent on.
According to Love there are several long-term implications that arise out of the UnitedLinux initiative: much lower R&D costs for all involved; faster, easier certification of applications running on various Linux platforms; and most importantly, a more sustainable business model.
Love says that, to date, Linux adoption has been thought to be hampered because of the perception that there are too many flavours and not enough business applications. However, Love says that there is another reason — a lack of a sustainable business model that allows Linux suppliers to make a profit and stay in business.
Geoff Lawrence, IBM Australia’s regional manager for Linux sales and marketing, supports Love in his assertions, saying that to date IBM has had to support multiple Linux distributions on each of its four major platforms. “It’s been expensive and painful, so this is a great initiative for us and our customers. It means we now only have to support two distributions — Red Hat and UnitedLinux,” says Lawrence.
With lower R&D costs, a more conventional licensing model and faster certification, UnitedLinux may well be a key development in allowing a wider than ever uptake of the Linux operating system. Hopefully, the UnitedLinux initiative will avoid the splintering that did so much damage to Unix momentum in the late 80s and early 90s.
A recent story in Computerworld, a sister publication of CIO, quoted several local integrators as saying that Linux was just a “blip” and that there was no real demand. This is a bit like asking a Toyota salesperson to talk up Ford’s sales prospects. I strongly suspect that most mainstream integrators have little or no Linux expertise and already have an installed base of customers firmly wedded to Seattle, so it’s not in their interest to even admit that Linux has any kind of prospects.
It’s the same reason that Microsoft pulled out of the operating system shootouts at the recent Computerworld Expo — to have taken part would have been a public acknowledgment by Microsoft that it perceived Linux as a real threat.
How big a threat Linux is to Microsoft, and to a lesser extent Sun, remains to be seen, but with heavyweights like IBM and HP firmly behind it, the UnitedLinux initiative could well change the world of IT far beyond Bill’s worst nightmare.
It’s the old Chinese curse, really: “May you live in interesting times”.
When he’s not vigorously wielding his Linux wooden spoon, Casement is business manager of CIO. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blimey! Talk about light blue touchpaper and retire to a safe distance — I must learn to stop asking you lot what you really think. The trouble came about this time because at the beginning of July I emailed a whole bunch of CIOs asking them about Microsoft Software Assurance (for which the acceptance deadline was July 31, 2002) and what their plans were.
Given the amount of grumbling about Software Assurance I had expected a strong negative response. At the June CIO Leaders Luncheon in Auckland, I asked about 60 CIOs which of them was taking Software Assurance. At first nobody put their hand up — and as they looked around the room and realised what was happening, they all had a chuckle. However, three CIOs then clarified their position, stating they would take Software Assurance on servers but not on desktops.
It’s funny how perspective can change the meaning of words — take the word ”small” for example — it means something that’s not big, right? Well according to IBM it’s an organisation of 100 or fewer people, if the blurb on its Small Business Suite for Linux box is to be believed.
In New Zealand, an organisation with 100 staff is a healthy, medium-sized business or a well-stocked branch office, but perspective aside, I’d have to say that however you slice-and-dice it, the IBM Small Business Suite for Linux is a lot of bang for your buck.
Hands up those who find the notion of cheap desktop operating systems appealing from a cost-saving perspective — not to mention freedom of choice? Okay, I won’t bore you with details about the Linux revolution — on account of the revolution is already happening and you probably know all about it.
To suggest that it’s simply a question of swapping a desktop OS over is ludicrous, of course. Custom applications, user training and the initial deployment cost in terms of time all have to be factored into the equation.
Caldera has always positioned itself as the “Linux for business” company and unlike many Linux vendors has never taken the approach of simply bundling a whole bunch of Open Source applications along with the Linux operating system and selling it as a “distribution”.
At the same time Caldera has never positioned itself as only making money from services and training (although it offers both), but from licensing software in much same way that Microsoft does, albeit it at a much lower price and still in keeping with the Open Source philosophy, wherein the source code usually ships with the compiled binaries.
Web services are currently touted as the “next great thing” yet in reality exist more in that land of fable called vapourware than they do in reality. So it’s a pleasant surprise to meet a vendor who says as much, rather than simply painting a word picture of a blissful future available right now. Of course, web services are on the way and they will ultimately change how we do business, both on the web and off, but just not tonight Josephine.
To be fair, there are some web services available today but for the most part they are either at the demo stage or are locked behind firewalls on private intranets. Genuine web services, as in ubiquitous, anonymous services, are still some way off — anywhere between 2003 and 2010 depending on how optimistic the analyst you are talking to is at the time.
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