Linux distributor signs CCB deal Red Hat, the world's largest distributor of Linux software, is stepping up its expansion in the mainland, aiming to increase the number of open-source application developers and resellers. Red Hat aims to extend its business to supply a full range of corporate information technology infrastructure requirements, including support for the free Linux operating system, open-source middleware - software that connects two otherwise separate programs - and various open-source business applications, including desktop systems. Bolstering the effort is Red Hat's project this year with China Construction Bank (CCB), which has decided to shift its nationwide branch IT infrastructure from the Unix operating platform to Linux. Open source software refers to any software for which the source code is made available for use or modification by users or developers. Popular open source software includes various applications under the Apache and Mozilla brands, as well as the Linux operating system. CCB's system migration is the largest undertaken by Red Hat for a financial services institution in the region, said Red Hat president of Asia-Pacific operations Gery Messer. The Hong Kong-listed bank, which has more than 21,000 branches across the country, is expanding domestically and overseas. 'It's a new chapter for us in China,' Mr Messer said. However, he declined to provide financial terms for the company's mainland expansion programme or details of the bank project. Mr Messer said the new investments would more than double the size of Red Hat's operations in the mainland over the next 18 months, including the recruitment of more independent software vendors and system integrators. The reseller network is expected to reach 600, from about 400 at present. The Raleigh, North Carolina-based company also plans to set up an innovation centre in Beijing and to increase the number of offices and staff in mainland cities. It has already set up shop in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. Market research firm International Data Corp projected Linux sales to grow an average of 21 per cent annually from this year to 2011, when the mainland Linux market will be worth US$38 million. Linux sales last year reached US$14.5 million. Mr Messer said Red Hat has been making steady inroads into the financial services and telecommunications industries in the mainland but needs to push deeper into healthcare, education and lucrative government sectors. 'That is why we need to build up an ecosystem for Linux and open-source business applications in China,' he said. 'We want to be the trusted IT infrastructure vendor for enterprises in the mainland and having more partners to develop industry-specific open-source solutions will help get our message across to a wider segment of the market.' Research firm Gartner said Linux is still battling a negative perceptions in the mainland. 'Despite the reputation of Linux as free or inexpensive, Chinese customers feel that they do not achieve the high savings expected from the operating system,' Gartner said in a report published earlier this month.