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Asian Linux gaining momentum

Recent developments could make Asianux the platform of choice for North Asian government officials who want an alternative to Windows.

    SHANGHAI--Asianux is set to get a South Korean backer, one of the product's developers says, bolstering hopes that it will become a pan-Asian Linux standard.

    Developed by China's Red Flag Software and Japan's Miracle Linux at Oracle's research center in Beijing, Asianux 1.0, a server operating environment, was launched last month.

    Using a shared kernel and other common components, Asianux acts as a common base for both companies' server operating systems, so software and hardware makers need not certify their products with two different versions of Linux.

    The two companies are banking on Asianux to drive interoperability and Linux standards by garnering greater support from other Linux distributors throughout Asia. However, this effort so far has lacked the endorsement of South Korea, which, along with China and Japan, is one of the three North Asian hotbeds for open-source software.

    According to Chris Zhao, Red Flag's acting president, the situation is set to change.

    "We have been in discussions with Korean partners regarding Asianux. We should be able to decide on a Korean partner within two months," he told reporters at the Oracle OpenWorld conference here.

    Zhao did not reveal the name of the potential South Korean ally. However, observers point out that there is a small base of homegrown Linux companies in the country, with Hancom Linux and Wow Linux ranking among the largest.

    With a South Korean partner onboard, the Asianux effort would mirror a larger, cross-border cooperation already taking place at the government level. Following an agreement inked last year, government officials from South Korea, China and Japan met in Beijing in April to discuss how they can create an open-source alternative to Microsoft Windows, honing in on issues such as the setting of standards, areas of joint technical development and work force exchange. Two more meetings have been scheduled for later this year.

    According to media reports, Red Flag and Miracle Linux presented the Asianux project to the North Asian government officials at their first meeting. By rallying support from a leading Linux seller in South Korea, Asianux could now stand a better chance of being considered the base Linux platform for the three governments' open-source collaboration.

    To date, over 40 hardware and application vendors have signed up for certification on Asianux. These include computer giants AMD, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, NEC and China's Langchao. On the software front, backers for Asianux include Trend Micro, Sophos and Computer Associates.

    Oracle, which owns a majority stake in Miracle Linux, is the only business software maker so far to have put its full weight behind the new Linux operating system. At its China conference, Oracle said Asianux will be one of the three Linux flavors it is supporting as part of its "Unbreakable Linux" marketing campaign.

    Having achieved full certification on Asianux, the Redwood Shores, Calif.-based company will now provide worldwide, round-the-clock joint technical support for customers that have implemented Asianux alongside Oracle's 10g offerings. Previously, such perks were limited to companies that have used Oracle products on Linux distributions from Red Hat and Novell's SuSE Linux.

    "Asianux is a milestone in the maturation of Linux in the entire region," said Charles Phillips, Oracle's co-president. "We were all trying to converge on a standard version of Linux we can invest in. Now that fragmentation has been removed; we have a standard, certified Linux version we can count on and that's going to mark for big change for this area of the world."

    Taking a jab at the recent Asian tour by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer, Phillips added: "Linux already has a lot of momentum throughout Asia before this, and now it's going to accelerate. The management team of Microsoft has been flying here every other week. Now we're going to keep them busy flying here every other morning."

    Winston Chai reports for CNETAsia.