November 11, 2003

Former Caldera CEO Ransom Love joins Progeny board

Author: Robin 'Roblimo' Miller

A press release is out this morning (and is reprinted at the bottom of this article) that says Ransom Love is joining Progeny's board of directors. Progeny founder -- now Board Chairman and Chief Strategist -- Ian Murdock says they went after Ransom, not the other way around. "We asked him," Ian adds with a small laugh, "but he was more than willing." And why wouldn't he be? Progeny is not only profitable today but has been profitable for the last two years and is reinvesting its profits in the company. It is now up to 25 employees and is looking at further growth in the future.NewsForge last spoke with Ian at length in October 2002. At that time, he had just hired CEO Garth Dickey and was moving rapidly from general Linux consulting toward a new business model Ian described thusly: "Linux as a platform, not as a distribution."

Basically, Progeny assembles software "components" to create custom Linux packages for corporate clients, whether they're end users who want a companywide Linux solution set or are manufacturers making Linux-powered devices. Think of Progeny's Componentized Linux platform as a corporate-friendly, pre-built version of Linux From Scratch, and you won't be far wrong.

Reasons to use Progeny's services (or Linux From Scratch, if you have more time than money) instead of a one-size-fits-all Linux distribution include greater security -- you have only the exact packages you need installed, set with the "right" defaults from the start -- and greater speed with less memory footprint -- again because you only have what you need installed, not what somebody at a distribution packager thinks you might need or should have.

More Linux standards help Progeny grow

This is why Ransom Love is the perfect Progeny board member. Aside from being, as Ian puts it, "One of the pioneers in building businesses around Linux, with a lot to offer us in terms of that experience," Ian also says, "If you've been following what we've been doing at Progeny, we're interested in furthering standards between distributions; in breaking down the walls that separate different distributions." And, Ian reminds us, Ransom Love was certainly one of the first high-profile people to call for more Linux standardization, a call that often went unheeded back in the 20th century but is being listened to now. This is important for Progeny because the less hassle it takes to put different Linux components together into a seamless whole, the easier it is for Progeny to make custom Linux-based software stacks.

Love returns Progeny's love

When Progeny called, Ransom admits, he didn't play hard to get. He's spent a lot of his adult life promoting Linux and says his "heart's still in it."

He also says, "When you invest nine years of your life in something, you like this thing to come to fruition."

He's had nearly two years off from the business grind now, and says, "It's time to step forward again."

He's already spoken out about SCO's behavior since his departure in 2001, but one thing that seems to have been forgotten about Ransom is his endless efforts to bring at least some standardization to Linux. Don't forget, he founded UnitedLinux, which seems a bit moribund at the moment but was mentioned by both Novell and SuSE management during their recent marriage announcements. Stories like this one about Novell's SuSE purchase focused on SuSE's agreements with SCO through mutual UnitedLinux membership as a potential liability. But this NewsForge reporter was on the same conference call as all the other reporters, and distinctly heard both Novell's Messman and SuSE's Seibt talk glowingly about their UnitedLinux partners Conectiva and TurboLinux -- and distinctly not mention SCO as part of UnitedLinux.

Now a little "insider" historical tidbit for those of you who not only remember when UnitedLinux was formed but troubled to read this far today: Ransom Love wanted Debian to be part of UnitedLinux. Yes. Really. He knew Debian was a force in the Linux Community. But, he says, "We already had logistics complications bringing four disparate groups (the four original UnitedLinux partners) together. Debian was more than they could handle ..."

Today Ransom believes the time may be a little riper for Linux standardization -- and for Progeny, especially, he says, "now that Red Hat is shooting for the enterprise." And speaking specifically about standardization efforts, he says, "I think Progeny can bring a lot to that."

"I think the community is ready to embrace standards," he adds, "especially after Red Hat's latest move."

He also believes Progeny may find great success working with what IT software and hardware execs call "the channel" -- the thousands of resellers and systems consultants who package complete computer systems for corporate clients big and small, especially those who "are growing their own subset of a [Linux] distribution but don't want to be in the distribution business."

This type of Linux support, Ransom says, is "a service [Progeny] could provide better than most."

And, he says, it's a niche that certainly needs to be filled, especially now that Red Hat has decided to focus so strongly on direct support for enterprise-level customers, and "SuSE has been becoming more of an enterprise distribution."

All those resellers, ripe for Linux

Novell executives have talked joyfully about handing SuSE to their legions of loyal resellers as a new, exciting product, and there is no doubt that this will help Linux exposure in the business computing world -- especially among current NetWare customers.

The idea of getting Linux into the hands of thousands of loyal resellers all over the world was a large part of the reason Ransom engineered Caldera's purchase of SCO, a move that sadly backfired in a way he certainly didn't anticipate, namely endless (although often laughable) legal actions seemingly against anyone who has ever touched a computer running Linux or used a piece of software licensed under the GPL.

But that was then, and lessons have been learned. Progeny stuttered until Ian and his crew stopped development of Progeny Linux in late 2001 and concentrated on Linux consulting and customization. Ransom has also taken knocks, and plenty of them, both from free software supporters for being too commercial in his approach to Linux and from Caldera (later SCO) stockholders for not commercializing it enough -- or at least not fast enough.

So here they are: One of the fathers of free/free Debian Linux being advised by one of the fathers of commercialized Linux, both with the Linux advocate's gleam in their eyes, both older and and wiser than when they first started trying to earn a living dealing with this Linux thing, both finally getting vindicated as Linux starts to become a mainstream, almost ho-hum operating system used by the world's largest financial organizations to process stock market transactions, not just by artists creating animated dwarves.

It will be interesting to see where Progeny goes from here and how much influence Ransom Love has on its direction.


Press release text

Indianapolis, IN - November 11, 2003. Progeny, the Linux Platform
Company, announced today that Ransom Love has joined its board of
directors. Love co-founded Caldera and was a driving force behind the
creation of the UnitedLinux consortium of industry-leading Linux

Ransom has more than 20 years of experience in the information
technology industry. In 1994 he founded Caldera, one of the first
companies focused on bringing Linux to the enterprise. He led Caldera
through a remarkable period of growth, making strategic acquisitions
such as Santa Cruz Operation (SCO), raising over $130 million in
capital, and taking the company public in 2000. In 2002, Love was the
catalyst behind the creation of UnitedLinux -- an alliance of leading Linux
companies -- whose goal was to create an enterprise-class,
industry-standard Linux operating system. His wide-ranging experience
also includes product management positions at Novell and Sanyo Icon.

Ransom holds an Executive MBA and a BA in international relations from
Brigham Young University.

"We are very pleased and honored to have Ransom join our board. He was
one of the pioneers in commercializing Linux and has been a leader in
promoting standards and unification across Linux distributions," said
Ian Murdock, founder of Progeny and chairman of the board. "Ransom
brings a wealth of experience in management and strategy; his visionary
perspective will help Progeny continue to grow and expand our customer

"I am excited to join Progeny during a period of tremendous opportunity.
By providing customized Linux platforms, Progeny is helping its
corporate customers to tap directly into the benefits of Linux and the
open source community and is bringing Linux to under-served markets,"
said Love. "I applaud Progeny's efforts to involve the community in
promoting the unification of Linux through cooperation, commitment to
standards, and the development and extension of tools to span multiple


Progeny is the leading independent provider of Linux platform
technology. With more than a decade of experience building Linux
solutions, Progeny's Linux experts pioneered a number of the
technologies and best practices that shape the Linux landscape today.
Progeny was founded by Debian Linux creator Ian Murdock.

Progeny is a trademark of Progeny Linux Systems, Inc.

Linux is a trademark of Linus Torvalds in the U.S.A. and other


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