A major difference of opinion between the SuSE people and the Red Hat and Mandrake people seems to center around whether UnitedLinux is a standard or a distribution. This difference is rather critical in that if UnitedLinux is a distribution there really is nothing for Red Hat or Mandrake to join. If on the other hand, UnitedLinux is a standard then there is something there that Mandrake and Red Hat could join.
Mandrake: UnitedLinux is a distribution
United Linux is a group effort by four Linux vendors (Caldera, SuSE, TurboLinux and Conectiva) to develop a common Linux distribution that will bear the label "United Linux". United Linux: why MandrakeSoft will not join. (Link in Resources section at end of this article.)
MandrakeSoft perceives United Linux simply as market consolidation -- several competitors choosing to merge their products -- which is normal for any marketplace. It seems that the individual companies will differentiate themselves by the services offered around their particular brand of "United Linux", and by focusing on a geographical region. We wish good luck to the newly unified Linux companies. [ibid, emphasis added.]
MandrakeSoft would gain nothing by joining United Linux [ibid]
SuSE: UnitedLinux is a standard
Here is how SuSE's Holger Dyroff views it:
MozillaQuest Magazine: As I understand it, all UnitedLinux distributions will have the same first (installation) CD and then the remaining CDs will be the individualized product of each UnitedLinux distribution (Caldera, Connective, SuSE, and TurboLinux), is this a correct understanding?
Holger Dyroff: Yes, this is correct. . . . but there might be more that are the same.
That is a qualified yes. There apparently is more than just the first CD stuff that is being integrated into UnitedLinux at this time. Holger Dyroff mentioned that right now, the first beta version of UnitedLinux has three CDs that comprise the UnitedLinux common base. Then the SuSE version of UnitedLinux has an additional CD, which is the SuSE Linux Enterprise Server CD. And there could be additional CDs too. Inter alia, this arrangement standardizes the implementation of KDE across the UnitedLinux distributions.
MozillaQuest Magazine: Also, as I then understand it, all UnitedLinux distributions will have the same Linux kernel and associated modules, file system hierarchy, drivers, and so forth, is this a correct understanding?
Holger Dyroff: Right. In addition to the kernel, there will be many unique attributes of UnitedLinux that will enhance its appeal to the worldwide business user. Apart from the operating system basis that was optimized for stability and security, UnitedLinux comprises all server services relevant in Linux, allowing the implementation of Internet services like WWW and FTP or proxy, mail, and news servers.
MozillaQuest Magazine: So far, SuSE is the only UnitedLinux distributor that has a Linux distribution that is LSB certified. Will UnitedLinux be LSB certified?
As you can see from Holger Dyroff's statements, it looks more as though UnitedLinux is a distribution in that it goes far beyond a basic standardization. For example the statement UnitedLinux exceeds LSB by providing a complete Linux operating system from kernel to desktop seems to ring as a distribution rather than a standard. This is not meant as a criticism of UnitedLinux -- but rather an observation. At this point, SuSE's UnitedLinux distribution has all the earmarks of being a very good product when it is finished.
Red Hat: UnitedLinux is a distribution
That UnitedLinux is a distribution rather than a standard seems to be the core of Red Hat's position as expressed by its Vice-President for Marketing, Mark de Visser.
MozillaQuest Magazine: Do you feel that this extra level of standardization in the UnitedLinux base has anything to offer over and above what LSB offers? If so what does it offer?
Mark de Visser: LSB is a subset of a full distribution. If four vendors all ship the same distribution, an ISV has to support only one distribution. If four vendors ship four LSB compliant distributions, the ISV has to support four distributions, which is more costly even if they are nearly the same because of their LSB compliance.
MozillaQuest Magazine: The UnitedLinux people say UnitedLinux has lots to offer over and above LSB. Why do you all not think it is important to have the UnitedLinux level of standardization?
Mark de Visser: The UnitedLinux position is that all distributions should be identical. Even if that is a nice concept, it may be hard to arrive at as customers have varied tastes and preferences. For example, we have focused on reliability, clustering and database performance, because these things matter greatly for corporate customers. Distributions that target SMB [small-and-medium-size business] may care less about that.
What is great about LSB is that it defines a standard that is broad enough to make life for ISVs significantly better, but still allows differentiation based on target customers.UnitedLinux is four small distributions becoming one from an R&D perspective - SuSE creates the distribution and the other three become resellers. So now there is Red Hat Linux, UnitedLinux, Debian, Mandrake, Slackware, Gentoo, etc. Recent IDC data puts Red Hat in the US at about 75% market share in units and revenue. The UnitedLinux distribution does not exist yet so we do not know how well that is going to do - you cannot buy it yet.
I hope I am making my point clear - UnitedLinux will be just another distribution. They have committed to be LSB compliant, like Red Hat, SuSE and Mandrake already are. [Emphasis added.]
UnitedLinux is just another Linux distribution, like Slackware, Mandrake and Debian. It is not an initiative that can be joined, a standard that can be adhered to, or anything else. It is just another distribution. - That is not a negative verdict by the way, it is just what it is. . . . we were not invited. [Emphasis added.]
SuSE and we talk about LSB. We talk about LinuxWorld. We talk about how we work with the large hardware firms that want to play in the Linux market. We talk about open source projects. We talk about legislation. Things that keep the open source world alive and moving forward.
At Red Hat we wish UnitedLinux well, we really do. More stronger Linux players will make market adoption accelerate. If we stay on standard and if we stay true to open source, everybody will win. SuSE is a good open source citizen (apart from their proprietary installer), Caldera is a bit suspect because of their proprietary SCO UNIX, and TurboLinux and Conectiva: who knows? [Emphases added.]
Mark de Visser is not kidding about how well SuSE and Red Hat get along with each other. Consider his comments: At Red Hat we wish UnitedLinux well and SuSE is a good open source citizen.
During one of our conversations, Mark suggested we get Holger Dyroff in on the discussion. I said sure and in a few moments Mark had Holger on the line. It was a most friendly, informative, and interesting discussion about the issues presented in this article. Holger Dyroff and Mark de Visser have it right! Darl McBride has it wrong!