Column: Our great Linux debate is ready for prime time

If you're considering Linux for your enterprise, I've got a holiday gift for you.

Last month, I challenged four leading Linux providers to take part in Network World's Linux Showdown at the Linux World Conference & Expo in New York in February. Caldera, TurboLinux and SuSE all accepted and will be sending top executives to this special presidential-style debate. Caldera is sending CEO and President Ransom Love; TurboLinux is offering up John Terpstra, its point man on open source development initiatives; and SuSE is sending President Marc Torres.

Unfortunately, Red Hat - the most visible company in the Linux market - won't play. A spokesperson said: "We think this distribution versus distribution showdown format is counter-productive to the Linux community and will result in the opposite result than the one the organisers are hoping for. Instead of clarifying anything, it will only serve to confuse."

Now I don't want to be too harsh on Red Hat, but I wholeheartedly disagree with the company's position, and most members of the Linux community that I interviewed also disagreed, feeling that debate among these companies will be valuable to current and prospective users. If you also disagree, let me know and I'll forward your comments to Red Hat. I'll make room for the company if your comments stir a change of heart.

After my first editorial, I heard from lots of readers, many of whom suggested that VA Linux should be represented on our debate panel, as well as someone to speak on behalf of Slackware and the FreeBSD distribution of Unix. VA Linux offered up CEO Larry Augustin. Larry, you're in. I also got an offer from Robert Bruce, president and CEO of Walnut Creek CDROM, which distributes FreeBSD and Slackware. Robert, you're on.

Our vendor executives will field questions from a panel of experts, including Nick Petreley, editorial director of LinuxWorld (http://www.linuxworld.com), and Bob Brown, our news editor. The executives will also ask each other unscripted questions and take questions from the audience.

Mark the time, date and place: 4:15 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Feb. 2, at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. See you there. Oh, and Red Hat, please reconsider before it's too late.

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