When Xinuos bought out the assets of SCO, and embarked on a mission to resurrect the OpenServer operating system, there was some scepticism about whether the attempt could possible succeed. Kathy Gibson chatted to Jeremy Orchard, director of global services at Xinuos, to get an update on how the movement is going.

If Xinuos was simply trying to keep the OpenServer operating system alive, with revenue coming only from licence renewals, the company would probably be doomed to a slow decline at best, and inevitable failure in the end.

The Intel-based Unix system was extremely popular in the 1980s and 1990s, and there are literally thousands of users still running their applications on OpenServer or UnixWare. But, let’s face it, the world has moved on since then and IT systems are playing a new, more central, role in business, and those old applications could be headed for oblivion in the medium-term.

Which is why a healthy skepticism about how successful Xinuos is going to be at re-invigorating its OpenServer marketplace is probably well-placed – unless the company has more to offer than a resurrected operating system.

Jeremy Orchard, director of global services at Xinuos, says the company is well aware of the new market realities and has developed not just the new version of OpenServer but a raft of tools as well, to serve these needs.

“We bought the SCO assets and customer base and created our flagship OpenServer 10 based on the Free BSD Open Source kernel,” Orchard explains.

“But we have taken the kernel and hardened it, making if faster, more flexible and more scalable as well as thinner than Free BSD.

“Then, we’ve taken a set of tools and built an ecosystem and platform that is incredibly scalable and powerful, and can hold its own in any environment.”

Unix users will recognise OpenServer 10’s reliability and performance, he adds, but will benefit too from the graphical user interface (GUI) that now surrounds it.

Administration has also been modernised: Open Commander is a browser-based admin tools that also presents in a graphical format.

“These features will allow the new breed of IT professionals to use the system, and means we can take young developers and let them create applications on the platform.

This ease of use is continued with OpenSetup, an automated installer that ensure the systems is properly optimised and configured.

Recognising that making the system easy to use, and even attractive to a new generation of IT professionals, is important but not enough to keep the operating system relevant in the digitally transformed world, Xinuos has also developed a cloud-based development tool called Open Continuum.

“This lets us help our legacy customers to modernise,” Orchard says. “They can take their application source code and run it through Open Continuum, which will compile it in OpenServer 10.”

More importantly, the tool also allows for the development of new applications that can be compiled for OpenServer 10.

Administrators will also welcome the browser-based Open Sentry, which monitors the whole environment, from server to storage, from operating system to applications – and sends failure alerts proactively to any device.

An upgrade path is available for users running OpenServer 5, OpenServer 6 or UnixWare – all of which have reached end of life, with no more upgrades or patches coming out.

While users are recompiling their applications, they can continue to run their legacy applications through OpenServer 10 through a virtual stack that provides a virtual appliance connection between the legacy applications and the new platform.

With cloud computing, virtualisation and digital transformation all new buzzwords, it’s easy to forget that Unix – despite its age – was developed with many of these use cases in mind. And so OpenServer is an appropriate platform for modernisation.

OpenServer 10 and all the tools surrounding it can run natively on-premise or through either public, private or hybrid cloud.

Having developed a modern system and a relatively painless upgrade path, Orchard says that Xinuos’s legacy customers have stuck with the company.

“Of course there will always be some customers that are resistant to new technology, a small portion of them that will hold out for as long as they can,” he says. “But the majority of the customers we have spoken to are curious and excited about OpenServer 10, and happy with the upgrade path.”

An important change in the business model that Xinuos has adopted is that it will no longer charge customers any licensing subscription, having opted for a support subscription model.

This is part of why OpenServer 10 is still a cost-effective option, Orchard says. But also contributing to the platform’s low total cost of ownership is that fact that it is both thin and powerful, and so it runs very effectively on low-cost industry-standard hardware.

OpenServer 10 is already certified for InSpur and NEC hardware, with other hardware brands to follow soon, Orchard says.

And the uptake from customers has been encouraging, he adds, with users appreciating its flexibility, ease of use and the administration tools that come standard.

“OpenServer 10 is rock solid, scalable and fast,” says Orchard. “But there are a lot of platforms you can say that about. What we have done to differentiate is to provide an enterprise support team around the product – but users don’t pay enterprise pricing.

“And we have committed to continue that develop the operating system and the tools.”

While existing customers are committing to modernising their legacy systems with Xinuos, there has been healthy interest from new customers as well.

“We are signing up new customers, many of them tired of the ‘big box’ approach that many vendors take. They are tired of being sold one thing, then finding they have to buy another 10 things on top of that.”

Xinuos approaches customer only through the indirect channel, and is now focused on building this ecosystem in South Africa, under the aegis of SCO veteran Ralph de Villiers.

“I’m very excited about this market, about being successful with OpenServer 10 in South Africa and moving it up into the rest of the continent,” Orchard says.

“It’s a perfect fit for the African market: the model doesn’t require huge infrastructure, money or resources; and the platform is very thin, efficient and agile.

“I am excited to see how it can help in technology development in Africa and in other emerging markets – in places where it is hard to get technology now.”

Having taken on a difficult challenge, Orchard believes that Xinuos has developed a relevant product, with an easy upgrade path, that addresses users’ challenges around both legacy systems and digital transformation.

“I think the future is bright for this,” he says. “We have a good handle on how we want to move forward. And we have been very happy with the response from a very broad spectrum of customers – from mom and pop shops to large enterprises; from legacy users to new customers.”

Xinuos’s African distributors are currently Robinson and the Hardy Group.

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