Oracle, Dell, others in Linux partnerships

Major software and hardware vendors are expected to make a pair of unrelated announcements in the next week centered around the release of new products based on the Linux operating system and aimed at the enterprise, various sources confirmed Tuesday.

Executives from Oracle Corp, Dell Computer Corp. and Red Hat Inc. are scheduled next week to launch what the companies dubbed "Unbreakable Linux" in an invitation they sent out to the press. Company representatives did not return calls for comment on the announcement, which is expected to take place Wednesday, June 5, at Oracle's Redwood Shores, California, headquarters.

Oracle has called its database software unbreakable, referring to claims that its products are secure against fault and security breaches.

Mike Gilpin, research fellow with Giga Information Group Inc., speculated that the news could be related to the release of a server appliance that would combine Dell's blade servers, Red Hat's Linux operating system and Oracle's database software. Such a combination of hardware and software "could allow Oracle to lock down security more tightly, and make it ... unbreakable," Gilpin said.

Oracle and Hewlett-Packard Co. previously shipped a server appliance in April 2000, built upon a stripped-down version of Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Solaris operating system and a processor architecture from Intel Corp., as part of Oracle's initiative known as "Raw Iron." Oracle has had plans to develop other versions of the server appliance with additional hardware makers.

Separately, Linux operating system maker Caldera International Inc. is expected to make an announcement with Linux vendors Conectiva Inc., SuSE Linux AG and Turbolinux Inc. around an effort the group has said "will shape Linux in the enterprise," according to a brief statement from Caldera issued Tuesday.

The joint announcement, planned for Thursday of this week, will be around a new product, representatives from the companies confirmed without giving other details.

"It would appear to be some form of a competitive posturing against Red Hat. Red Hat is the obvious missing player here," said Al Gillen, research director of systems software for research company IDC, in Framingham, Massachusetts. "Red Hat is causing all these companies a great deal of competition."

Caldera, Conectiva, SuSE and Turbolinux each have developed versions of the Linux operating system for servers and desktop computers that compete in the market dominated by Red Hat. Those versions of Linux are highly compatible with one another because they share developer tools, class libraries and support the same versions of the Linux core -- known as the kernel. Users are typically able to run applications built for one of the operating systems on another one of the distributions, Gillen said.

"A partnership of some kind could give them an opportunity to compete with a player (Red Hat) that is much larger than any of them in the Linux market." Gillen said. Red Hat's software shipments represent more than half of the entire Linux desktop operating system market in terms of units shipped, according to IDC.

"(A partnership) also gives them geographic coverage that they can't individually capture," Gillen said of the four companies teaming on an announcement.

Caldera, in Lindon, Utah, and Turbolinux, in Brisbane, California, serve the U.S. market. SuSE, based in Nuremberg, Germany, is positioned to serve Europe, as well as the U.S. And, Conectiva, based in Curitiba, Brazil, ships its operating system product in Portuguese, Spanish and English, serving the Latin American market.

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