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Custom software strategy spreads among Linux firms

Penguin Computing adds a build-to-order system that lets customers fine-tune software for their Linux computers--less than two weeks after a similar move by its main rival.

Penguin Computing has added a build-to-order system that lets customers fine-tune the software for their Linux computers--less than two weeks after a similar move by its main rival.

The customization feature, called "Raptor," is intended to save customers time, said Gareth de Bruyn, Penguin Computing's director of information technology. "They don't have to take it home, delete it all and reinstall" what they want, he said.

Last week, VA Linux Systems, one of Penguin Computing's biggest competitors, unveiled its own system to let Linux customers choose which of more than 700 Linux software packages they want installed at the factory.

"Theirs offers a degree of complexity (where customers) can turn on certain portions of systems. Ours can do that, but we haven't turned that on specifically," de Bruyn said. That feature will be enabled next week, he said.

VA plans to add the ability to add commercial software packages as well as those from standard Linux versions, the company said. Penguin Computing already offers some options, such as Resonate's software for sharing a computing load among several computers, de Bruyn said.

Penguin Computing is named after the penguin mascot Linux founder Linus Torvalds selected to represent the loose collection of programmers who develop Linux.

The company, based in San Francisco, has nearly 100 employees. It was founded by Sam Ockman, a former VA employee.

The Raptor system is based on SAP software, de Bruyn said.

Build-to-order options aside, VA has a lead on Penguin Computing. It went public with a 698 percent increase in its stock price on its first day of trading. Last quarter, VA reported revenue of $50.7 million.