Xandros announces a business server for the next wave
Last month, I came to the conclusion that the small and medium sizes businesses in the United States and beyond could hold the key to the next stage of growth for Linux. It wasn't but days after writing "Getting the Job Done" when Xandros announced the availability of Xandros Server. The Xandros Server attempts to bring to small and medium sized businesses (SMB) the same ease of use and philosophy that Xandros has previously used for making one of the simplest and easy to use Linux desktop distributions.
According to sources at Xandros, the Xandros Server, is a seamless replacement for any file, print, or groupware server for enterprises and SMBs that also cuts workload management by 30 percent through the automation of administrative tasks. Andreas Typaldos, Xandros CEO, stated further "We took a solution-oriented approach to creating Xandros Server by doing a massive amount of engineering up front, so as to make the benefits of Linux server technology accessible to enterprise administrators and SMBs".
For me, this seems like the right product at the right time. I think Xandros's targeting of the SMB market will pick-up many sales that are out of reach of Redhat and Novell. Compatible with any existing Windows domain and networking topology, Xandros Server is perfect for SMBs that are looking to introduce Linux into their organizations. In addition, to ease implementations it also includes Windows networking services and tools to seamlessly migrate Windows domain accounts to Linux.
Although I haven't reviewed Xandros Server, I hope to shortly, because I'm curious to see if the Xandros Management Console (xMC) lives up to its description. With the xMC, administrators, with little or no Linux experience, will be able to remotely administer a multi-server environment. xMC includes built-in wizards that provide centralized component configuration, system monitoring, user management, Scalix groupware user management, and complete BRU backup and recovery.
This type of hype can be seen from two sides. First, if Xandros delivers as they claim, then this type of administrative assistance could be invaluable for a new Linux administrator. In addition, it could tip the scales toward purchase when business owners are weighing their options. Since most small businesses are run extremely lean, they can not easily handle a sudden increase in either manpower or time to implement and administer a new back-end server. However, a potentially darker side would be if the management console merely hides the complexity of administering a Linux server beneath a thin fancy coat of paint. If that were the case, then it would most surely rub off and leave an organization stuck only able to complete the simplest of tasks. I'm sure that the Xandros xMC is much more sophisticated and mature administrative tool, but it will definitely be interesting to put it through some what-if scenarios when I finally get my hands on a copy.
One of my complaints with wizards and fancy graphical admin tools is that they allow inexperienced people to complete transactions that can do unknowing damage to a server; damage that no wizard will be able to fix. Other nightmare scenarios occur when, for whatever reason, the wizard or graphical user interface fails to work, then an in-experienced administrator could face completing a critical administrative function using the command line interface and nothing else. I'm not saying that the Xandros Management Console will result in any of these unfortunate scenes, but I've seen them before with other products. My advice is a prudent approach. By all means, take advantage of a wizard or graphical user interface when they're available, but make sure you have either mastered the same operations from a command line, just in case. It can also be handy to have either written procedures on hand to guide someone through an emergency operation, or access to reliable technical support.
With the addition of the Scalix Xandros Edition, which includes 5 Premium User licenses and an unlimited Standard Users, and the inclusion of RealProducer and Helix Server from RealNetworks, Inc., Xandros Server provides a rich set of features to cover most small business needs. With the small price tag of $449.99, the boxed set, which also includes a detailed administrator's manual, provides a significant cost savings when compared against an off-the-shelf copy of Microsoft Windows Small Business Server, which goes for approximately $559.99. This cost-savings is multiplied when you factor in the countless free and open-source software packages that are included in most standard Linux distributions.
It is clear to me, that Xandros couldn't have timed this product more perfectly. As the enterprise server market continues to mature, it is also clear that Linux moving into new markets is totally predictable. When we think of the next group of potential Linux users that are willing to consistently buy software, small and medium size businesses, are the next step. However, Xandros would be wise to factor into their marketing one of the key lessons, we in the information technology industry consistently forget. Positioning any technology as the replacement for any existing solution that was paid for, is a difficult task. It is my opinion that there are millions of companies that can gain some immediate and direct strategic value from implementing Xandros Server. So instead of trying replace some existing software solution, replace instead an existing people and paper based system. In my humble opinion, there's gold in those untapped SMB hills.