LinuxWorld Expo Will Be 'Open' For Business

The LinuxWorld Expo will showcase formal unveiling of Novell Suse Linux Enterprise Edition Server 9.0, partner offerings from IBM, and open-source initiatives by Sun and Netline.
Linux is unstoppable.

That's the message LinuxWorld Expo attendees will hear time and time again this week at the show in San Francisco. The gathering of the open-source faithful will feature a blizzard of new product and partner announcements, including the formal unveiling of Novell Suse's Linux Enterprise Edition Server 9.0, robust Linux partner offerings from IBM, and a new wave of applications and open-source initiatives by the likes of Sun Microsystems and Linux groupware kingpin Netline Internet Service.

Solution providers say all the activity is helping fuel impressive gains in their Linux business.

'Our partners are doing a way more profitable mix of business on Linux than with anything else.'
-- IBM's Scott Handy
Bob Hoover, senior vice president of Tam Group, one of IBM's top Linux solution providers, said he expects his Linux sales to be up 300 percent this year to as much as $5 million. "We are seeing Linux move from the enterprise where a number of large accounts have been using it into the midmarket and small-business markets where customers are being Microsofted to death," said Hoover. "The Microsoft small price, small price, small price adds up to a high price and a big cost of ownership."

Joe Vaught, COO of PCPC, a solution provider in Houston, said his Linux business is growing at an "unbelievable" pace. "I'm installing 1,000 Linux servers a month," he said, adding that it is a nearly 30 percent increase over last year.

At the top of the LinuxWorld product hit parade, solution providers say, is the formal debut of Novell Suse's Enterprise Edition Server 9.0, the first enterprise OS to take advantage of the Linux 2.6 kernel. Novell, Provo, Utah, would not comment on whether it would formally unveil the OS, but VARs and sources close to the company say the new Linux distribution will take center stage.

"Suse Linux has always been first to market with new and innovative products including Suse 8.0 on mainframe, Suse 8.0 for AMD 64-bit Opteron, Suse 8.0 for Itanium and now the first distribution with the 2.6 kernel," said Frank Basanta, director of technology at Systems Solutions, a New York-based Linux systems integrator. "Suse 9.0 will give SMB clients enterprise-level performance and manageability."

On the partnering front, the biggest boost is coming from IBM, which is extending a discount program that doubles the profit margins from 30 percent to 60 percent for solution providers selling IBM middleware with their Linux solutions.

IBM is also offering its top 150 U.S. Linux solution providers access to the channel programs of both Novell and Red Hat.

"We are making it well worth it for our partners to invest in Linux," said Scott Handy, worldwide general manager of Linux at IBM, Armonk, N.Y. "Our partners are doing a way more profitable mix of business on Linux than with anything else. No one else can touch it."

For its part, Sun, Santa Clara, Calif., will demonstrate the next version of Sun Ray Server Software, version 3.0, which will be available by the end of the year. Key new features are native support running on Suse and Red Hat Linux distributions, as well as a new low-bandwidth capability technology that allows Sun Rays to run on networks with connections as low as 300 Kbps.

In the collaboration and groupware segment, Netline, Olpe, Germany, will announce that it is making the code for its OpenXchange Server available free under the General Public License (GPL) starting this month. The Netline product is the basis of Novell/Suse's Openexchange offering. The software presents a "tremendous opportunity for VARs," Netline CEO Frank Hoberg told CRN. "They can use our standards, etc., and groupware. It's all open standards"[Netline uses] the WebDAV [Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning] standard interface. It's easy for VARs to integrate our product in their installations."

The server supports most standard POP and IMAP mail clients and can also tie into existing ERP systems so VARs can integrate SAP or other systems with the product's address and calendar database, Hoberg said.

Gregg Rosenberg, CTO of RICIS, a longtime Novell and Suse partner in Tinley Park, Ill., is bullish. He said his company already has more than 1,000 Suse Openexchange implementations under its belt and expects to add to that number with the GPL version. He said 340 of those implementations were users switching from Microsoft Exchange Server.

Microsoft's new licensing changes and price are motivating companies to look at alternatives, he said. "We expect to do $1.2 [million] to $1.5 million in Suse/Novell Linux-related professional work this year," Rosenberg said.

For more on LinuxWorld Expo, see CRN. ELIZABETH MONTALBANO & CRAIG ZARLEY contributed to this story.

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