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osOpinion: VA Linux for the Future: A New Generation of "Appliances"

Nov 02, 2000, 15:09 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by John Zedlewski)

[ Thanks to Kelly McNeill for this link. ]

"Between its record-breaking IPO, its new position as the No. 2 provider of Linux servers in the U.S. (behind Compaq), and its four successive quarters of incredible sales growth, VA Linux might be content to look ahead at clear sailing and a strong path to profitability in the near future. But in this industry, to sit still is to slip behind, and VA surely knows that as well as anyone else."

"The company has a great portfolio of strengths: the combination of Linux hardware and software expertise, strong brand recognition, a growing professional services arm, and a number of key Web properties in the form of Andover.net and the OSDN. But the firm's success and diversification have placed it in competition with a number of established and well-funded competitors from HP, IBM and Sun to EMC and Network Appliance in the storage field. VA Linux's potential customers span an even larger range, from large corporations to Net startups, and from long-time Linux gurus to organizations that remain skeptical of the operating system. Thus, the company has to ask itself a very simple question: What strategies will allow VA Linux to differentiate itself in the long run and to broaden its appeal beyond the current customer base?"

"The answer, and VA's philosophy for the future, should be simple: All servers are appliances, and all sales are custom. When I call a server an appliance, I mean that its purchase, setup and management should all be trivial. Traditional software vendors have driven costs down by mass-producing a single package and pushing the expense of configuration and customization onto customers. VA's Build to Order Software System (BOSS) is a primitive example of the vendor's first steps to take these costs back from the consumer. While appliance vendors like Cobalt (now being acquired by Sun Microsystems) have gone much further down this line, they've done so by removing customization and choice almost completely from the equation."

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