Interview: Caldera's Bryan Sparks

Where does Caldera go next? LJ Interviewed their President and CEO Bryan Sparks to find out.

I had an opportunity to talk to Bryan Sparks at the Unix Expo trade show in New York on October 9. In the past, Caldera has offered a different sort of Linux to the market—one aimed at the “professional” end user. In other words, people who want to use applications, and who just happen to be running a Linux machine. But, with market penetration less than expected, Caldera has made some changes.

On October 7, Caldera announced the release of their Solutions CD, which includes software from Caldera and their Independent Vendor Partners (IVPs). This release offers a set of applications for the Linux market while giving the IVPs access to the global Linux market. The CD contains software that can be released by getting an access key from Caldera. See the sidebar on page FIXME for a list of the products available on this CD. Most of these products are not specifically licensed for use only on Caldera Linux, which means that Caldera is bringing some serious applications to the general Linux community.

Caldera's second announcement was the licensing of Novell's Cross-Platform Services for use on Linux, allowing Caldera Linux platforms to work in a fully integrated fashion with Novell Netware and IntranetWare systems. Other licensees of this technology include Hewlett-Packard and The Santa Cruz Operation (SCO).

Three New Products

Finally, in order to better address the needs of different market segments, Caldera is introducing three Linux-based systems targeted at different market segments. These new products are collectively called Caldera OpenLinux (COL) and are based on the Linux 2.x kernel. The effort to produce this integrated set of products started with LaserMoon who did the first work toward X/Open and other certifications. Caldera is now working with Linux System Technologies of Erlangen, Germany to complete the integration of Caldera and LaserMoon's work with additional technologies.

Bryan and I talked about “their” technologies vs. the standard development paths. Bryan assured me Caldera's intent was to make any necessary changes for POSIX certification and Unix branding available to the Linux community as a whole. He sees Caldera's products as part of the total product mix for the Linux community and wants to make sure Caldera's work continues to be part of the mainstream.

The low-end product, called COL Base, is much like the original Caldera Network Desktop. The big changes are the elimination of a Netware (IPX) client and a change in price from $99 to $59. It will also include the Caldera Solutions CD. Bryan said he thinks this will be a better fit for the casual user—a Windows-like desktop environment at a price more in line with other, plainer, Linux distributions.

The second product, COL Workstation, will be COL Base plus Netscape Navigator 3.0 Gold, Netware Client and Administration, a commercial, secure web server and other technologies yet to be announced. This product will retail for less than $300.

The final product is COL Server. It will include the features of COL Workstation plus Cross Platform Services and GroupWise technologies licensed from Novell. It will be fully capable of interacting as a secure server in an environment that includes NetWare, Unix and Windows NT systems on an intranet or the Internet. This product will offer an alternative to Microsoft's NT Server and will retail for less than $1,500.

COL Base should be available by the time you read this article. The other products will be introduced throughout 1997, with upgrade options available for current Caldera users.

I also asked about support. Caldera includes their own Internet-based support for all products, and will include 30-day installation support on the workstation and server products.

Caldera has over 200 resellers under contract. In order to qualify for the reseller program, the resellers must have Unix training, so that Caldera is assured that they can support the products they sell. Bryan said many of these resellers have been resellers of SCO Unix or UnixWare.

I asked Bryan if Caldera intended to continue with Unix branding of their product. (To be able to use the Unix name, your product must be certified by X/Open.) The answer is yes, and he expects this to happen in 1997. Bryan wants to make sure Caldera does this right, getting any required patches back into the mainstream Linux kernel so everyone will benefit from their work.

What This Means for Linux

Right now Linux is seeing substantial use as a system for connectivity, including web servers, Internet Service Providers and gateway systems to connect office networks to the Internet. With Caldera's new products, it is going to be much easier for companies to put these systems together. This ease of use saves time for the Linux-literate who want to get a system up, and makes it possible for the newbie to buy an answer off the shelf. This means there really is an answer to Windows NT.

Caldera Solutions

Phil Hughes is publisher of Linux Journal.

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Phil Hughes

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