UnitedLinux Names New GM, Makes Channel Push As November Launch Approaches

Open beta scheduled for Sept. 23

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The UnitedLinux forces are getting ready to do battle with Red Hat in the channel as it prepares its first Linux distribution beta release on Sept. 23.

Just days after Red Hat announced a major reselling pact for Red Hat Advanced Server with IBM Global Services, UnitedLinux officials hinted that developing a strong channel is a top priority as they move toward the software's launch later this year.

The UnitedLinux board of managers also appointed former ASP Consortium head Paula Hunter to serve as general manager of UnitedLinux, based here.

"You can be assured we will be heavily targeting pricing and attracting partners [including distributors and resellers," said Greg Blepp, vice president of international for SuSE Linux AG, who sits on the UnitedLinux board of managers. "Without channel support, there's no success for Linux, because it needs to be spread out and serviced locally."

UnitedLinux version 1.0 is based on the SuSE advanced server distribution and Linux 2.4.19 kernel and will be embraced by all four leading Linux vendors that comprise the UnitedLinux organization, a consortium announced in May to compete with dominant Red Hat in the business market.

Like Red Hat's commercial-grade advanced server that shipped earlier this year, UnitedLinux will be aimed at enterprise IT corporate users and will follow a 12-month to 18-month commercial release cycle and corporate pricing schedule.

The UnitedLinux organization and distribution is being collectively developed by The SCO Group, SuSE Linux AG, Turbolinux and Conectiva. Of the four companies, the SCO Group (formerly Caldera) has the widest breadth of channel partners, many of whom are the original Unix resellers of Santa Cruz Operation.

SuSE also has "agreements in play" with IBM Global Services, and the UnitedLinux vendors are trying to line up other deals, said Blepp. "I know there are negotiations with other services organizations among UnitedLinux and individual companies," he said. "This is what it is all about, to get as many services organizations around the globe as possible to support UnitedLinux."

Under stringent questioning from members of the open-source community, UnitedLinux officials said during a conference call that they would release the source code and would conform to the GNU's General Public License (GPL), although members of the Free Software Foundation were concerned that the first UnitedLinux was a closed beta.

Officials said during the call that former Caldera CEO Ransom Love had been in "discussions" for the top post given to Hunter, but he is now out of the organization. Love told CRN last summer that after leaving the top Caldera executive slot he was named to head up then-Caldera's UnitedLinux operation in June. Caldera recently changed its name to the SCO Group.

Hunter plans to orchestrate a big UnitedLinux 1.0 launch to the enterprise IT community and resellers, and will meet the original product road map unveiled in May. "It is on schedule to be launched later this year," Hunter said during the conference call, adding that UnitedLinux 1.0 is on track for a November launch.

The four UnitedLinux vendors, considered second-tier vendors next to dominant player Red Hat, plan to ship their own branded Linux distributions dubbed "Powered by UnitedLinux." At its recent conference, for example, the SCO Group announced SCO Linux Powered by UnitedLinux branding for its upcoming UnitedLinux distribution.

When asked by CRN about the possibility that two or more of the four UnitedLinux companies would eventually merge to avoid marketplace confusion, UnitedLinux officials hinted that it is not out of the question.

"Before you get married, you get engaged," said Blepp. "We feel we're in a very good engagement phase, but won't comment. Everything is possible, but there's no active discussions."

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