Source of openness
As the global campaign to promote Linux's software focuses greater attention on Asia, especially China, two major Linux vendors RedHat and Novell are doing their part to help Chinese software manufacturers improve their research and development (R&D) of the open-source software.
"Despite the fact China is strategically important to the open-source software (OSS) movement, the nation has yet to take a leadership role in the OSS community, due to its relatively weak technology in Linux development," says Lolley Luo, marketing and channels director of Novell China.
Luo reports directly to Novell's president for Asia-Pacific.
"What we are doing here is helping fill the technological gap, by setting up a R&D centre and through wider partnerships with local developers and institutions."
Novell, which acquired two Linux solutions providers Ximian Inc, in August 2003, and SuSE Linux, in January 2004 has become a dominant player in Europe.
"Novell will set up a R&D centre in Beijing by the end of this year," says Luo.
The centre will not only develop localized versions of Novell's existing software, involving language and inputting methods, it will also be involved with Linux's high-end development technology, such as CGL (carrier-grade Linux), he explains.
The company has only a few such R&D centres. They are located in Europe, the United States and India.
Novell will double its personnel in China and open two new offices, one in Shanghai and the other in Guangzhou, by the end of this year. More details are expected to be released in August, when Novell's global president visits China, he adds.
Novell entered China last March. To date, it has established a Chinese subsidiary, headquartered in Beijing, and an office in Shenzhen.
Novell expects to widen alliances with local Linux developers, both application vendors and software vendors, says Luo.
Apart from worldwide co-operation with global IT (information technology) giants, such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Oracle, Novell, in China, is jointly developing Linux-based applications with China's leading telecoms equipment provider, Huawei Technologies, and software and IT services provider AsiaInfo, says Luo.
At the end of last month, Novell launched a Linux lab with China Standard Software Co Ltd. The facility is a testing and certification centre for Linux-related solution providers, "since users nowadays prefer total solutions," he says.
"This year, we are preparing for more upcoming alliances."
Novell, in China, focuses its Linux business on government, finance and telecoms, which are the fastest-growing sectors for the software.
"But we also have business plans for small and medium-sized businesses and manufacturing sectors," he adds.
RedHat, the No 1 Linux developer in the United States, is considering investing more in R&D in China.
"We are building a R&D team in China, with local institutions," says Chen Shi, general manager of RedHat's Greater China region.
The company recently signed a memorandum of understanding, regarding the development of Linux software, (MOU) with the Software Institution of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the China Electronics Standard Institution.
"The development team formed under the MOU is the embryo of our R&D centre in the near future," Chen says.
Considering the rapid business expansion in China, RedHat will dispatch its top Linux engineers from other corners of the world to China to join the R&D team, he says.
"RedHat has a turf in Linux development, thanks to its outstanding engineers, and such heavy investment in China will not compare with that in other markets," he notes.
Although China has yet to contribute a considerable share to RedHat's global revenues, lagging behind Japan, Australia and even India in the Asia-Pacific, the market's huge potential can never be underestimated, Chen says.
RedHat's China business increased 74 per cent during the past two quarters, which ended on May 31, in terms of revenues. It "will be able to maintain high growth over the coming few years", Chen adds.
Moreover, RedHat will open two new offices in Shanghai and Guangdong Province, either Guangzhou or Shenzhen within a couple of weeks, he says.
The company has set up a subsidiary in China.
Different from Novell, which strives to create partnerships with local Linux companies, RedHat focuses on engaging Linux development communities. So far, RedHat has formed an alliance with Open Source World, a Chinese Linux community, Chen says.
"We are considering possible co-operation with domestic players, but there are worries that many still prefer independent development model, despite the principle of openness in the Linux campaign," he explains.
RedHat commands about 90 per cent of the global Linux market, whereas Novell holds the remaining share, Chen says.
Both RedHat and Novell have joined China's OSS alliance and the Linux standard working team, which is part of the Linux development alliance formed by the governments of China, Japan and South Korea.
Luo and Chen agree co-operation is, and will be, the main theme among Linux's developers.
"We are jointly challenging the monopoly of Microsoft's Windows It is not the time to talk about competition," says Chen.
(China Daily 06/13/2005 page7)
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