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Unix + Linux = Caldera

So where is Caldera going with its older operating systems? Linux may be all fine and dandy, but the fate of OpenServer is what the people at the DTR Business Systems reseller show in Las Vegas earlier this month wanted to know, and Caldera’s CEO Ransom Love was there to give them answers.

The DTR resellers — for the most part old line Intel Unix resellers and integrators working in vertical markets such as bookstores, clothing manufacturers and the oil trade — were pleased to hear that Caldera will not put the older Unix OpenServer out to pasture after years of neglect from former owner SCO. In the past, SCO tried to move OpenServer users and resellers to UnixWare — now OpenUnix — but they simply wouldn’t budge.

Why not? Because, as Rene Beltran, vice president of sales for DTR, says: “OpenServer already does everything the customers want.” DTR, a value-added reseller that works with resellers, integrators and customers, still sells 20 times the copies of the older OpenServer operating system as OpenUnix copies, he says.

It’s not just DTR. According to Dan Kusnetzky, IDC’s vice president for system software research, OpenServer has a much larger market share than the often touted, but it would seem seldom deployed, OpenUnix.

Indeed, the resellers see their OpenServer market getting bigger. As Microsoft’s support for NT diminishes the resellers see this as an opportunity to move Linux — not Unix — in. Because of the name recognition, though, when do they manage to find someone who wants Linux, they’re finding it much easier to move Red Hat than Caldera. They’re also seeing a fair amount of demand for W2K. Customers invite them in and ask for W2K by name.

Many of the resellers are reluctant to do sell Windows, though, because their expertise is in Unix. They’re also finding sticker shock with some customers as the customer begins to understand what W2K’s higher client access license (CAL) costs mean to their bottom line.

Most of these resellers also have had bad experiences with Microsoft’s quality and security, and they know full well that when something goes wrong, they, not Microsoft, will be the ones called on the carpet. Thanks to OpenServer’s incredibly high level of stability and plentiful small business applications, many of them would rather sell OpenServer over any other OS any day of the week.

OpenUnix, the former UnixWare, remains unpopular. This dates back to the SCO’s days of the late ’90s when, from the resellers’ perspective, SCO tried to force them and their customers to move from OpenServer to UnixWare. This then new operating system cost more, would require many programs to be ported at their cost, and didn’t offer any worthwhile advantages. To them OpenServer is still the operating system of choice, if Caldera supports it.

Love has answered many of their concerns by assuring the group that OpenServer will continue to be supported and that OpenUnix would get an OpenServer Kernel Personality, which would enable them first to move their existing applications to OpenUnix and, in 2003, to OpenLinux.

Caldera will continue updating OpenServer with driver updates and a refresh of the operating system, in the third quarter of 2002, that will bring OpenServer up to version 5.0.7.

At about the same time, to make OpenUnix more attractive, Caldera will be adding an OpenServer Kernel Personality to OpenUnix. This will enable users to run OpenServer programs on OpenUnix come the day that they need OpenUnix’s much more powerful database infrastructure and or need up to eight-way processing power. Caldera hopes that OpenServer users who want server-consolidation will then use this as an upgrade path.

Even after this, however, Caldera doesn’t plan on giving OpenServer a gold watch on the way out the door. In 2003, if there continues to be a demand for it, Caldera will bring a Linux Kernel Personality to OpenServer. With the LKP, users will be able to run Linux programs on OpenServer.

Caldera will also continue to upgrade its Linux operating system, with OpenLinux 3.1.2 due out in the third quarter.

Looking ahead, Love says on all three operating systems, there will be more frequent feature patches rather than frequent periodical major releases. Love added, “Users and resellers don’t want major releases, because installing them is too expensive, and they cause work disturbances.”

Caldera will also strive to make “it easier to switch between the operating systems, thus enabling administrators to mix and match. This will also make it easier to migrate between environments and consolidate servers.”

How can Caldera afford to support three operating systems? Love explained that because OpenServer and OpenUnix are already stable, they don’t require a tremendous amount of development work. Instead, most of the development dollars are focused on Linux.

Eventually, Caldera thinks Linux will win out. OpenLinux alone is making the jump to the IA-64 architecture.

But, as Love says, while it’s possible that “Linux may replace Unix, we see Unix and Linux as compatible. We don’t see, as Red Hat does, one replacing the other.”

Love also made it clear that Caldera will not be following Red Hat to the enterprise space. Instead, Caldera will concentrate on selling to small- to medium-sized businesses and branch offices through its reseller channel. As Love says, “The solution provider is our customer, not the end user.”

A version of this story was first published at Linux.com.

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