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Re: UserLinux white paper


The problem you mention manifests itself this way. A number of shops will standardize on the Linux that Oracle endorses. 99% of the systems upon which that Linux runs do not host Oracle, but they don't want to have to know two systems. And thus they end up paying so much for Linux that there is not much incentive for them to roll out more Linux systems.

How to resolve this is easier to understand in the context of some of the industry groups I'm working with at the moment.

Group 1 is a large and complicated industry. They are major customers for a number of proprietary application providers. Their business is complicated enough that it is not possible for them to purchase a solution, they must integrate it under the direction of their IS department, using both internal and external resources. They have the economic power to compel their application providers to support the platform of their choice, it is the application provider who must come to them upon bended knee.

Group 2 are ISPs. They do not in general ask for much added value over the Open Source contents of the system, and they are generally self-supporting. They are more interested in quality and cost than ISV support.

I don't deny that many businesses do have to come to their vendor on bended knee to get support for a new platform. It's important, however, to realize that this does indicate a problem in the customer's relationship with the vendor. Either there's only one solution, or the customer has allowed himself to enter a lock-in situation. The latter is much more likely.

So, our problem is how to rebalance the vendor-customer relationship for our purposes. Probably the most useful tool is the industry group organization, where a number of similar businesses get together to steer their participation in userlinux, and the group involves their vendors from a position of strength, together, rather than one of weakness, apart. Customer group 1 is confident that this will work for them.

Where the customer is unable to muster the motivation to actively participate in something like a userlinux industry group and is unable to get their vendor to support a low-cost platform, they will of course have to suffer the consequence of increased cost. In some cases, this will be an acceptable trade-off for the customer.



Theodore Ts'o wrote:
On Tue, Dec 02, 2003 at 12:04:31PM +0000, bruce wrote:
I did a first pass at the UserLinux white paper, it's at
http://userlinux.org/white_paper.html. I think I'll sleep for a while.
This is an interesting white paper, but I think it's missing something
rather important in its discussion of the business model.  And I say
this as I currently sit at a customer site in Atlanta working a
critical situation, while wearing a suit (but not a tie, so the flow
of blood to the brain has not been impeded :-).

The important thing to remember here is that customers don't buy
operating systems, they purchase solutions.  And at the moment, many
of the solutions require the use of proprietary third party
applications: applications like SAP, or Oracle Financies, or Ariba.

The next logical question then is why will an ISV support a particular
distribution or OS provider?  The answer in practice is that they will
only support an OS/Distribution when they are reasonably certain that
when they need help fixing some problem, they can get help from the
distribution.  Very often, in these situations, the ISV doesn't
necessarily pay money to the OS/Distribution provider.  In some cases,
where the ISV is highly desired by the customers, the OS/Distribution
provider actually has to **pay** **money** to the ISV, and establish a
competency center in Waldorf, Germany staffed with some number of
engineers before said ISV will actually deign to port their
application to that particular OS and support that particular OS.
These sorts of situations really do happen!  

Even in situations where the ISV is so highly desired that it would be
a severe competitive disadvantage for a particular OS vendor of that
particular enterprise resource planning application was not available
on that OS, in many cases the ISV's can at the very minimum require
that the OS vendor to provide free support.  

I recently visited one ISV where at their height of popularity, IBM
had a team of three or four people devoted towards keeping that ISV
happy, and this was necessary in order assure that the ISV would
continue to support AIX.  This particular ISV drove enough business in
hardware, software, and professional services sales to IBM that it was
worth IBM's while to devote a team of people for that particular ISV
(and this ISV was not even one of the most highly strategic ISV's ---
some ISV's might have an order of magnitude more people!).  

If some vendor such as Sequent had chosen not to devote that kind of
support to that particular ISV, that particular vendor might have
chosen not support PTX, and then Sequent would get locked out of
certain customers that might have chosen to use this particular
financial application.  (I use Sequent here only because I didn't want
to use the name of a currently active company; but the example applies
just as equally to SGI/Irix or HP/HPUX or Sun/Solaris.)

So the problem then with the UserLinux distribution concept is how do
you fund required investments which are necessary for that particular
distribution to succeed?  $1 million USD might pay for the necessary
engineering costs, but it will not pay for the ISV engagement
resources necessary to provide free hand-holding support to ISV's that
are used to getting that kind of support, and who are used to
companies coming to them on bended knee in order to convince that ISV
to port their application to Soliars, to AIX, to HPUX.  But if one of
the goals is to get an endorsement from application vendors, UserLinux
will have to provide a comperable level of support as what Sun might
give that particular ISV in order to support Solaris, for example.

However, if you have multiple competing "body shops" that are making a
small-but-manageable amount of profit to provide end-user customer
support, how do you fund the freebie support to the ISV's?  (And even
worse, what about the some of the more strategic, more desireable
ISV's that in some cases require free hardware or even seven figure
cash payments before they will entertain supporting UserLinux?)

It's an interesting problem.... but understanding some of these
constraints might allow folks to understand why the commercial Linux
distributions charge so much for their enterprise Linux products.

						- Ted


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