Linux software firm to chase Microsoft VARs

A Linux software company has a radical strategy for snatching sales from the Windows market: Recruit Microsoft partners.

Xandros Inc. — which used to be the Linux division of Corel Corp. — says administering its just-released Xandros Server Standard Edition requires no special certification or training for the open source operating system because it doesn’t rely on a command-line interface. Company CEO Andreas Typaldos says it is similar enough to Windows Server and has been developed in a way to protect administrators from making mistakes that technicians trained on Microsoft products can run the software.

“We will go to Windows-certified partners and say ‘You want to go to Linux, your customers want to have Linux, but you can’t afford (Linux) training or certification. We have a product that allows you to make a small investment, or no investment, by utilizing Windows-oriented skill sets. We can bring you up to speed very quickly.'”

Xandros has been mainly selling direct since it was spun off from Corel after it tried unsuccessfully to go up against Microsoft Office with an office suite based on the Linux Debian distribution. Xandros’ development offices are still in Ottawa, although the company is headquartered in New York.

Typaldos said the company wanted to go through the channel, but not until Xandros had broadened its product line. That happened first with an enterprise version of the desktop suite and administration tools for it, followed by this month’s release of Xandros Server.

Last week Xandros signed a distribution agreement with Ingram Micro Canada, he said, after inking agreements several months ago with Ingram in the U.S. and a distributor in Europe. It is also in discussions with a second Canadian distributor. In addition to selling the products through solution providers, the company also intends to sell through retail chains here.

To lure partners, there’s a three-level VAR program (registered, gold, platinum) that offers increased product discounts for meeting sales targets that are negotiated with the company.

Xandros Server Standard Edition — which is also based on the Debian distribution — is not merely a server, Typaldos said. It also comes integrated with several open source applications to give it a solution that will appeal to small and medium businesses. These include custom version of Scalix Corp.’s e-mail and groupware software, Tolis Group’s BRU Backup Server and the Helix streaming media server. All are run through a single management console.

An enterprise version is scheduled for the third quarter which will include 64-bit CPU support and virtualization software.

With this range of products Typaldos’s goals are to become as big a Linux software player as there are in the industry. “I would like to have a few thousand partners (worldwide), like Novell,” he said.

Companies like Novell and Red Hat are selling to the enterprise from the top down requiring expensive certifications for their products, he said, but that is keeping Linux out of the SMB market. “We have gotten around that by creating a workflow-oriented, fail-save mechanism (in Xandros Server) that prevents problems, rather than requiring a certification to find the solution.”

For example, he said, the software prevents an administrator unknowingly making a change to one part of the server that impacts another part.

“That enables a channel with primarily skill sets with Windows Server to utilize those skills without retaining, without (Linux) certification,” said Typaldos. “It’s probably easer to administer than existing Windows Servers.”

Under the partner program, platinum partners have to submit a business plan to Xandros for approval and have at least three Xandros-trained engineers and three sales specialists on staff. Platinum partners will be eligible for co-marketing programs and a product discount level higher than gold partners. Gold partners have to have at least one trained engineer and one sales person.

Some details of the program, such as training costs are still being worked out, but Typaldos said those costs will either be minimal or waived as part of an early-starter incentive.

Xandros will sell entirely through the channel except in New York City, where its staff will deal with the financial services industry. But even there, Typaldos said, sales staff will help partners close the deal.

Xandros Server Standard Edition lists at US$449, which includes 90 days support, licences for five users of the Scalix groupware (unlimited users for e-mail), 10 concurrent users of Helix and licences to backup five devices using BRU.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including ITBusiness.ca and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@] soloreporter.com

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