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Gerald Pfeifer is very clear about his mission at work: he wants to remove UNIX from the surface of the planet.

Pfeifer has no animosity towards UNIX; it's just that he knows that every UNIX installation can be replaced with SUSE's enterprise Linux distribution.

His objective is cast into context when one discovers where he works: he is the senior director for product management and operations at SUSE, the Linux company based in Nuremberg.

Pfeifer spoke to iTWire on the sidelines of SUSECon, the company's second annual conference which is taking place in Orlando, Florida.

He says he will never forget the day he joined SUSE in 2003 - because it was just a day before the company was acquired by Novell.

Pfeifer's area of operations covers prices, pricing strategy and he works with the company's partners to set up special deals for spreading SUSE Linux Enterprise Server in the corporate world.

Given this, he is acutely aware of the competition and the nature of the threat it poses. The situation is complex because in many cases a close business partner - an independent software or hardware vendor - could also be in league with other Linux companies and, thus, also be a competitor.

Some of these companies, like IBM and HP, have their own versions of UNIX still floating around here and there and Pfeifer says that many such installations are now moving to Linux. There is also Solaris, which is now owned by Oracle, which is a competitor. And then Windows customers do come across from the dark side at times.

With Oracle the situation is particularly complex in that its database is certified to run on SUSE. The same applies in the case of competitors. And Oracle also has its own Linux, called Unbreakable Linux, which it tries to sell to the corporate world.

Pfeifer notes that Oracle is the second biggest vendor with applications that are certified to run on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. But he notes that Oracle is more of a competitor than other because "it has too many eggs in one basket".

These days, SUSE representatives never mention the desktop - even though there is a polished version of SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop, or SLED, available for those who want to purchase it.

There is a good reason for this.

Pfeifer points out that most of the company's income - fully three-quarters - is derived from its server products. But he adds that that there are workstations used for computer-aided design on which SLED is used. Without naming names, he says that there is one multi-million-dollar client who has obtained both desktop and server software from SUSE.

The writer is attending SUSECon as a guest of SUSE.


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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.