Linux distributors band together to topple Red Hat

An assortment of Linux distributors including Caldera International Inc., Turbolinux Inc., and SuSE Linux AG on Thursday intend to announce a group strategy to take on leading Linux distributor Red Hat Inc. in the open-source software market, according to sources familiar with the plans.

Details of the group strategy remain sketchy, but experts anticipate that these smaller Linux vendors will likely consolidate their distribution channel into one, making it easier to counter the size and strength of Red Hat.

Dan Kusnetzky, a senior analyst at IDC, in Framingham, Mass., explained that the Linux vendors expected to participate in Thursday's announcement have each had success in different Linux markets such as SuSE's high-end commercial activities in Europe and Germany, Caldera's Open Unix "replicated site business," or Turbolinux's parallel computing and cluster management software. Therefore, Kusnetzky predicts each of these Linux distributors will try and hang on to their key markets and leverage a new, single distribution channel with a wide Linux offering capable of taking on Linux leader Red Hat.

"Being relatively small companies compared to Red Hat and to other major software companies, [Caldera and the others will] probably are looking at ways of staying in the markets they are in because they really are not competing with one another except on the remote edges, otherwise they are very complementary," said Kusnetzky, who added that a single Linux channel for the smaller distributors "would result in a more uniform product across those companies. They could apply their special value add, and each be competing in different market spaces and not run into one another too much."

A mutually funded, joint Linux lab responsible for productising Linux offerings from all participating Linux distributors could also be an element of the group strategy to take on Red Hat, suggested Kusnetzky.

Red Hat, for its part, is working with partners to make its own Linux offerings into more viable options for the enterprise.

For several years now Red Hat has offered an Alliance Program which encourages companies such as Glenayre Technologies Inc. and RLX Technologies Inc. to work closely with the Raleigh, N.C.-based Linux distributor in developing enterprise Linux products. Red Hat also has a wide range of Linux technologies and services spanning desktop Linux, workstation Linux, embedded Linux software environments, Linux server and database software, e-commerce and parallel computing Linux software, and professional services.

"Red Hat has pretty broad offerings in the Linux area," Kusnetzky said. "Red Hat has been the leader of the industry both by revenues and by shipments since we've been tracking it."

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