Caldera Systems has been under a lot of scrutiny of late, as
industry observers and users alike are wondering what will happen
as a result of the upcoming acquisition of SCO UNIX business units.
Caldera executives revealed some of their plans to Linux
Today--including a plan to run Linux (sort of) on the UnixWare
operating system and a strong desire to remove themselves from the
Recent moves within the retail chain for Caldera System's
product line has left many retailers and distributors wondering
about the future of the eDesktop and eServer product lines. The
company is clearly repositioning its resources to push into new
channels, and while its retail channel presence will be diminished,
Caldera executives categorically deny that the status of the
popular "e" products themselves will be changed.
Rumors have been flying about the expected lifespan of the
eDesktop and eServer products when reports began to surface this
week from retailers that Caldera had issued recall notices for
A Caldera spokesperson says she is unaware of any plans for the
company to recall its products from retailers despite statements
from retailers to the contrary, and that while the company will be
shifting focus away from retail distribution in favor of OEM's and
resellers, its commitment to Linux remains.
In a brief phone interview, Nancy Pomeroy, Director of Corporate
Communications for Caldera, said that while it is true that Caldera
is in the process of refocusing its operations on businesses,
especially in light of its recent acquisition of SCO, the company
is not recalling its current products:
"As far as I know, there's no recall," Pomeroy said.
In addition, Pomeroy said the company will continue support of
its current line of products:
"We're supporting what we have," she said.
Pomeroy said Caldera is setting its sights on markets besides
retailers, which generally serve hobbyists and very small
operations. Caldera plans to court large businesses both through
its SCO acquisition and its recently-announced Volution, software
designed to monitor large-scale corporate installations.
"Our customers don't buy off retail shelves," she said, noting
that while Caldera's distribution, Caldera OpenLinux, was a good
early entry in the Linux market to "get the word out" about Linux,
Caldera considers itself a "Linux for business and now, with the
SCO acquisition, Unix for business" company.
Pomeroy also emphasized Caldera's focus on Linux despite its
departure from the retail market, saying "We were the first Linux
channel, and we are the largest Linux channel. We're a global
A longtime Caldera employee expanded on Pomeroy's remarks,
saying that Caldera will no longer be a retail product -- that the
Orem, Utah, distributor will instead concentrate on OEMs, ISVs, and
The company has a new Linux server product in closed beta, with
an open beta scheduled to begin about March 1, and release expected
in early April. While it is not unusual for a company to withdraw
its product just before the release of a new version -- or to
reduce prices substantially to clear away the old inventory -- the
Caldera worker said that this time it's not to make way for a new
Though the products are not being terminated, their labels and
ultimate market position are another story.
According to the Caldera employee, who spoke on the condition of
anonymity, the company is abandoning its "eServer" and "eDesktop"
product names, and its non-server distribution will be designed to
power workstations in the enterprise, rather than end users,
something not likely to be welcomed by Caldera's loyal and vocal
community of desktop users.
The Caldera employee said that the company has never made money
on retail boxed distributions. Part of the problem, the employee
said, comes from distributors who load up the retail channel with
product in order to be able to report a large number of units
shipped, then, later, accept many of those shipped units as
Scott Countryman, Sales Manager, unequivocally denies rumors
indicating that the retail product line is being terminated. "That
definitely is the furthest thing from the truth."
Countryman echoed Pomeroy's comments, saying that reports from
retailers indicating a withdraw of some of the retail products
represents a "readjustment of the inventory." The formal
announcement made to the retailers and distributors is an outgrowth
of the company's reallocation of resources to new channels.
Countryman spoke directly to allegations that the Caldera "e"
retail line will disappear, emphasizing that these products will
continue to be supported indefinitely. When asked to clarify if
support meant present-day products only, Countryman emphasized that
there would by future development done on these products as
Caldera's new strategy comes as it tries to consolidate its
enterprise business following the purchase of SCO. Caldera's plans
are include an ambitious plan to run Linux atop UnixWare, and even
offering some of UnixWare's proprietary technology to the community
for possible inclusion in future versions of Linux.
Drew Spencer, Chief Technology Officer, clarified what Caldera
is planning to do in regards to merging UnixWare and Linux.
Essentially, Caldera developers are building a GNU runtime
environment that will run natively on top of UnixWare. Spencer
described this environment as capable of running the full Caldera
ServerWare toolset on top of the UnixWare operating system?without
no Linux kernel in sight.
By using just the GNU environment atop UnixWare, Spencer said
that this would give Caldera a very solid footing in the high-end
server enterprise market and still provide an attractive platform
for developers to work within. The new plan is being referred to
internally as the "develop-on, deploy-on" strategy, whereby the
enterprise will have development tools suited to producing
applications that fit its particular needs.
Despite the recent hype, Spencer expressed some concerns that
Linux may not be truly ready for the high-end server platforms. In
order to be effective on these platforms, there may be many
instances of Linux running on a server. With the product Caldera is
creating, only one instance of the UnixWare/GNU environment would
be needed in a similar server environment.
A key part of this strategy, Spencer stated, would be the
standardization of Linux, using such projects as the Linux
Standards Base as a guide. It is no coincidence, then, that
recently hired Linux guru and Samba co-founder John Terpstra, now
VP Technology, Evangelist at Caldera, will be working heavily with
This marriage of UnixWare and Linux is a necessary approach to
getting Caldera into the enterprise market. Spencer, while
supporting Linux in general, sees some limitations the operating
system has entering this market. For enterprise customers, "the
reality of it is, there is still a fair amount of education [about
Linux] that has to be done," Spencer said.
Another hurdle Linux must face in entering the high-end server
arena is its lack of roadmaps. Spencer believes that IT managers
want a clear and direct set of paths mapped out for features in
their operating systems, and that Linux's approach of adding
features can dissuade IT managers from using Linux.
Citing Linus Torvald's own statements on focusing Linux on the
desktop in the future, Spencer said that while Linux is perfect for
the desktop and small- to mid-size server arena, "Linux still isn't
quite there in the high-end marketplace."
While Linux technology is being used to benefit UnixWare, it is
not clear yet what UnixWare technology would be given to the Linux
community. Despite some speculation among industry insiders that
UnixWare technology would wind up in the Linux kernel, Spencer was
not sure that would indeed happen.
"There are some areas of Linux that will benefit [from
UnixWare]," Spencer explained, "but not necessarily the
Spencer said that there are many areas in the UnixWare kernel
that are clearly not compatible with Linux, and that Caldera
hesitates to try to mash the two disparate technologies together.
UnixWare also contains encumbered, licensed technology that Caldera
would have no right to give away.
One area of technology Spencer speculated might benefit from
UnixWare tools could come from a suggestion by Open Source guru
Eric Raymond, who bent Spencer's ear at the recent Linux World Expo
and suggested the migration of UnixWare's strong set of developer's
As for opening the source for UnixWare, Spencer seemed unexcited
by this prospect. He questioned whether the open source community
would really care if Caldera could manage to scrub the proprietary
code from UnixWare and release it as open source. He also raised
concerns that there would be enough support for such a venture.
Spencer also reiterated his colleagues' statements regarding the
re-focusing of their product lines. He listed several disadvantages
of selling in the retail channel, and why it makes good business
sense for Caldera to remove themselves from it.
But, he emphasized, "our commitment to that marketplace is not