The first beta of a Linux distribution that hopes to compete with enterprise server products from SuSE and Red Hat is set for release on 1 September - but few in the industry can see it gaining much support.
Backed by open source advocate Bruce Perens, the free UserLinux distribution claims to offer the same functionalities as existing enterprise Linux distributions.
"UserLinux is enterprise Linux without the big price tag," Perens told the recent LinuxWorld 2004 conference in San Francisco. "The result will be that Linux is free again."
According to its mission statement, UserLinux wants to provide businesses "with freely available, high quality Linux operating systems accompanied by certifications, service, and support options designed to encourage productivity and security while reducing overall costs".
Perens started working on the project out of frustration over the rise of commercial interests in the open source community.
Support for UserLinux will be available through a number of independent support vendors on a subscription or per-incident basis.
But response to the project from the rest of the industry has been cool.
Computer Associates said it would certify its products for UserLinux - if asked to do so by its customers.
But so far the company has received no requests. "If there is the demand, we will do it," Sam Greenblatt, chief architect at CA's Linux technology group, told vnunet.com.
HP and IBM have no plans to support the distribution.
According to HP, too many distributions could confuse users. "Having too many competitors is not good for the market," said a spokeswoman for the company.
IBM said it already offered users plenty of choice by supporting and providing certification for Red Hat and SuSE. Oracle declined to comment.
And Gary Hein, analyst with the Burton Group, expressed doubt that there would be much demand for the product. "What is a justification for an enterprise to run UserLinux over Red Hat or SuSE? I don't think cost is a factor," he said.
The price users pay for Red Hat and SuSE are "very palatable", he added. "Especially if you see companies like IBM and Oracle standing behind these distributions."
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