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UnitedLinux making Comdex splash

UnitedLinux, a combined effort to create a uniform version of Linux for businesses, will bear its first fruit Tuesday at the Comdex trade show.

The UnitedLinux effort will bear its first fruit Tuesday at the Comdex Fall 2002 trade show, with SuSE and the SCO Group announcing new products based on the common software underpinnings.

, based in Germany, is providing the operating system software that underlies the UnitedLinux effort, a collaboration designed to counteract dominance in the Linux market. Red Hat's strength--with nearly three-quarters of 2001 Linux sales, according to IDC--has been more successful in wooing crucial business partners such as Oracle and Veritas Software.

The first beta versions of UnitedLinux software were released in September. Companies in the organization include SuSE, the SCO Group, Turbolinux in Japan, and Conectiva in Brazil. The companies plan to differentiate their products through higher-level features such as management software.

On Tuesday, the SCO Group will release SCO Linux 4 software, while SuSE will release SuSE Enterprise Linux (SLES) 8, company representatives said.

SLES 8 works on 32-processor servers and comes with "failover" features so one server can take over if another crashes. The software includes input-output features geared for databases and supports as many as 600 hard drives and 64GB of memory. SuSE customers include Salomon Smith Barney, Boeing, Lufthansa, Miele and Debeka Insurance.

Linux, a clone of the Unix operating system, has won a major presence in the computing industry. Market research firm Gartner Dataquest expects $4 billion worth of Linux servers to be sold in 2003 with about 800,000 unit shipments.

Linux has been popular with do-it-yourselfers such as college students and programmers who enjoy the ability to tinker with the innards of Linux, something made possible by the fact that it's an open-source program. Now Linux is becoming more popular with ordinary businesses as well.

Winning the support of software companies, each which must test to make sure their products work with Linux on particular servers, is key to expanding the technology to more mainstream parts of the computing industry. The goal behind the UnitedLinux effort was to reduce these testing and certification headaches by cutting the number of combinations of hardware and software.

UnitedLinux is the foundation for the four companies' server version of Linux for 32-bit Intel processors, such as the Pentium and Xeon lines, and for the Advanced Micro Devices chips that work the same way. UnitedLinux doesn't cover products for desktop computers or for non-Intel servers such as IBM's mainframes and Intel's 64-bit Itanium processors.

SuSE and Turbolinux have a separate partnership under which Turbolinux uses SuSE's Linux for IBM's higher-end pSeries, iSeries and zSeries servers, which use IBM processors rather than Intel processors.