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SAN Vendors Scope Linux

The Linux operating system is slowly but surely gaining popularity in the world of storage networks -- as evidenced in a slew of recent announcements, including this week's news from BakBone Software Inc. (Toronto: BKB) of a marketing program called Linux Advantage (see Linux Gets More BakBone).

Linux is a natural for storage. It supports big block sizes, it's fast, and it's not licensed like other operating systems, such as Windows or Solaris. That makes for some compelling capex and operational savings.

The problem with Linux is that its biggest benefit -- that it's freely available -- is also a challenge to suppliers looking to make money from it. Since Linux isn't licensed like other commercial operating systems, such as Windows or Solaris, there isn't the incentive of royalties to stir application vendors to forge links to it.

Still, by most accounts, demand for Linux is rising in all areas of data management. Vendors must respond, albeit by turning to a different model for packaging products; one that doesn't depend on licensing fees and royalties.

The new models have to do with bundling and marketing arrangements that use Linux demand as leverage and compatibility as an incentive. Take BakBone's approach: The company plans to bundle its software with commercial Linux products from the likes of Red Hat Inc. (Nasdaq: RHAT), whose commercial Linux works with all freely available Linux but comes with product support -- something that makes Linux more appetizing to ITers.

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