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Will Linux group burn sun?

Publicly, the new Open Source Development Lab (OSDL)hopes to promote Linux in the enterprise. But privately, the OSDL-funded by HP, IBM, Intel and NEC USA-may be plotting against Sun Microsystems.

Publicly, the new Open Source Development Lab (OSDL)hopes to promote Linux in the enterprise. But privately, the OSDL-funded by HP, IBM, Intel and NEC USA-may be plotting against Sun Microsystems.

Unlike earlier Linux partnerships, the OSDL was not driven by pure-play Linux vendors. Instead, as Linux pioneer Red Hat confirms, major hardware vendors started the OSDL in mid-July. To be sure, the OSDL's primary focus is catapulting Linux into the enterprise. But OSDL's hardware members wouldn't mind if Linux somehow manages to eclipse Solaris, too.

To accomplish that, OSDL's four major hardware members are opening their wallets. While the OSDL partners are reluctant to discuss funding, several sources tell Sm@rt Partner that each of the big four has ponied up at least a million dollars to get the development lab off the ground. Initial funding is expected to climb to $12 million, according to one source close to the project.

This Star Is A No-Show

Sun--which has extensive Linux plans of its own--won't likely join the OSDL parade. An Intel spokesman says Sun is not expected to participate in the OSDL, although the coalition is open to anyone. "Here's a direct quote from Sun CEO Scott McNealy," the Intel spokesman said. "'We do not intend to focus our core business on Linux. Our application development has one focus and that is Solaris. So Sun's strategy is not based on open source."

Sun confirms that it won't likely join OSDL, but puts a dramatically different spin on the situation. "Bill Joy was the Linus [Torvalds] of his day, but we had the Unix wars and the commercialization of Unix and the community broke up," says Sun VP of marketing for Solaris Andy Ingram. "Now Linus has refocused the open-source community and tied it in with the Internet, which is a whole new way of gluing the community together. Our goal is to be a good citizen in this community; not only to see the benefits, but to contribute to it."

Sun's decision to support the open-source model is a direct answer to Microsoft's .NET initiative. Sun has a partnership with Linuxcare to deliver Linux drivers for some Sun hardware and Sun has a leading role in another open-source effort, known as The Gnome Foundation.

Sun's Ingram says his company does not view Linux as a Solaris competitor and will continue working to establish common APIs across Solaris and Linux. "Our gut feeling is that [OSDL] participants like HP and IBM feel that Windows 2000 will not get them where they want to go, and that their current Unix implementations will not get them where they want to go." He adds, "The minute IBM said Linux, Project Monterey was dead." Project Monterey was a 64-bit Unix initiative from IBM, SCO and Sequent.

While OSDL hardware members and Sun trade blows, Linux veterans are focusing their efforts on furthering the open-source cause. Arthur Tyde, CTO and co-founder of OSDL partner Linuxcare explains, "We're doing this because while the Linux development model works great, people tend to develop for the machines that they already have. What these guys [the four hardware vendors] are doing is making it possible for Linux to move into high-end machinery." At the OSDL labs, developers, either on-site at its future Portland, Ore., lab or remotely, can "tweak Linux for enterprise-class machines. Want to test a Linux solution on disk farm? 256-node networking? Or, 64 to 128 processors on an RS/6000? Come to us with a project that the OSDL board of directions will approve, and you're off."