SAN Vendors Scope Linux

Linux has lots going for it. But a little creativity's needed to sell SAN applications

December 18, 2003

3 Min Read
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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.Basically, BakBone will guarantee vendors like Red Hat that their Linux software will automatically work with BakBone's NetVault backup and recovery software. Specifics of how BakBone's software will be bundled or priced haven't been announced, but the company's working the alliance approach from all angles.

"This is only the first phase of the program," says Peter Eck, VP of marketing and product management at BakBone. His company is talking to storage hardware vendors too, urging them to join BakBone's program to prompt customers interested in having BakBone's software work off the shelf with their SAN and NAS gear.

This isn't the first time BakBone's worked hard to use compatibility with other vendors' IT software to incite sales. It has a long list of compatible databases and enterprise applications. The Linux program is a logical extension of that, Eck indicates.

Other vendors have taken a slightly similar approach to marrying Linux with network storage. Last month, for instance, enterprise software vendor SAP AG (NYSE/Frankfurt: SAP) announced an investment in Sistina Software Inc., which makes clustered file system software (see SAP Takes Tiny Piece of Sistina). The acquisition ensures SAP will have storage applications to attract its customers.

While the permutations and packaging problems must still be worked through, at least one analyst thinks the effort could be worth it. "The are huge opportunities... the question is how to make money," says Bill North, research director for storage software at market researcher IDC. Vendors such as EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) and Veritas Software Corp. (Nasdaq: VRTS), tagged as storage software market leaders in North's research, are starting to support Linux, he says, but the jury's out on just how the market will shape up.Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

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