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Risky business? Caldera moves into cross-platform management

Caldera is expanding its management software beyond its Linux roots to UNIX and Windows. But can Caldera convince its customer base to choose its product over more popular management products?

When Caldera International Inc. ships the next version of its system management software later this year, it will include support for a broad range of UNIX operating platforms, but notably, the software will also include support for Windows.

Whether Caldera can convince its customer base to choose its product over more popular system managers, however, is quite another matter.

The company's systems management software, Volution Manager, supports Linux and Caldera's UNIX products today. By the end of 2002 it will have added support of hardware and software inventory, software distribution and configuration for more platforms, including Microsoft Windows. The software expands support to other flavors of UNIX, such as those from Sun Microsystems, IBM Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. Caldera is also branching out to other devices, such as point-of sale and wireless hardware.

According to Brad Dew, director of product management at Caldera, the company wants to leverage its installed base of Linux and UNIX software -- notably OpenServer and Open Unix -- which resides in so many enterprises that also happen to support several other operating systems. The company had purchased the UnixWare server and services products from the former Santa Cruz Operation (SCO) in August 2000.

"We have an enormous opportunity in using our current customer base as a leverage point," Dew said. "Any other company, starting in against [Novell's] ZENworks or Tivoli would have it tough. We could be successful just selling to our current customers, and we can expand from that."

Caldera also believes it can sell on price, beating out the major system management vendors -- Computer Associates (CA), IBM's Tivoli and Hewlett-Packard Co. Caldera's pricing starts at $3,000 for Volution Management Server and support for 10 nodes.

And Caldera also believes that there are many companies that will prefer not to buy all of their software from Microsoft.

One system integrator said plenty of his customers have mixed environments and would be interested in a management platform that supports UNIX and Windows. Deepak Thadani, president of SysIntegrators LLC., New York, said Caldera's software is a good middle ground for these customers because it's not as bulky an application as something like CA's Unicenter or HP's OpenView, yet it doesn't focus on Microsoft desktops, like Microsoft's own Systems Management Server.

But Caldera, which has had a year of financial struggles and layoffs, could face an uphill battle attempting to out marketing the large system management vendors and Microsoft, said Daniel Kusnetzky, vice president of system software research at International Data Corp., a Framingham, Mass., based market research firm.

Kusnetzky said Caldera Volution has some excellent features, though it is not a complete package that does it all. But technology is not the biggest challenge for the vendor, it's marketing, agree Kuznetzky and Thadani.

"Caldera has an opportunity but we will have to see how well it exploits that opportunity," Kusnetzky said." Why would anyone buy Caldera over ZENworks or another? Caldera has to show it has more capabilities than these other products or it has to show it can do the job cheaper."


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