Enterprise Unix Roundup: Picking at the Red Hat Lock-In

By Michael Hall (Send Email)
Posted Oct 28, 2004


Main     In Other News     Security Roundup     Tips of the Trade
Dell adds Linux to its OS choices. Will this crack Fortress Red Hat's undisputed reign? From Fedora to the Apple desktop, a raft of patches came in this week. Looking to test Web server performance in the real world? Web Polygraph may be just the ticket.

One of the minor ironies of the Linux world is the slight disconnect between the mantra of "choice" the most ardent advocates use to make the case for a multitude of graphical interfaces and the state of the North American enterprise Linux market, where a single distributor has dominated since the late '90s.

That distributor is, of course, Red Hat, and while the numbers analysts produce about its share of the Linux market vary, they consistently hover above 75 percent. The company is so dominant that it's not uncommon to hear less savvy executives simply refer to the distro as "Linux," which infuriates Debian, SUSE, and Mandrake devotees.

Some of those same devotees will tell you Red Hat's rise to dominance is merely a product of slick marketing. This ignores several other things Red Hat brought to the table, including aggressive partnership-building with key enterprise software players (Oracle, for instance) and hardware vendors (like Dell). Other Linux distributors may provide competent offerings, but Red Hat made it to the enterprise market "firstest with the mostest," and never looked back.

To the extent that it's just given Red Hat's most credible competitor its imprimatur and it has already begun pushing the Dell/SUSE combo as one of the least expensive Linux solutions available, we're thinking the relationship is pretty much altered — and not in Red Hat's favor

It looks like that's about to change, though, as Novell subsidiary SUSE and Dell have inked a deal under which the hardware vendor will distribute and support SUSE Enterprise Server 9 on single- and dual-processor servers. The agreement brings an end to Red Hat's dominance as Dell's distro of choice, and it boosts Novell's fledgling effort as a bona fide Linux company.

For its part, Dell insists this doesn't change its relationship with Red Hat. To the extent that it's just given Red Hat's most credible competitor its imprimatur (which will mean something to enterprise developers debating which Linux variant to support) and it has already begun pushing the Dell/SUSE combo as one of the least expensive Linux solutions available, we're thinking the relationship is pretty much altered — and not in Red Hat's favor.

We wonder if Red Hat's antennae weren't quivering prior to the SUSE/Dell deal: The company recently told reporters it expects overseas sales to comprise 50 percent of its revenue in 2005. That offers an undeniable bit of upside spin for a company that's just lost its lock on a partner instrumental to its success, but it also hints that Red Hat considered its hold on the U.S. market unassailable enough to turn its attention elsewhere.

It will certainly be interesting to see how the company deals with a market that suddenly has more of a choice.

In Other News

» Mandrakelinux 10.1 was released Wednesday. The distribution maintains its solid desktop focus, with an emphasis on laptop hardware and wireless networking capabilities. Like Novell with its latest release of SUSE, the company shied away from throwing in the latest desktop environments from GNOME and SUSE as defaults, citing stability concerns.

» Sun says it's got Solaris running on the first of its Niagra processors, which aren't due to market until 2006, a little behind next-gen offerings from AMD and Intel. What it lacks in timeliness, Niagra is supposed to make up for in economy: The company claims Niagra requires three-fifths the power of its current UltraSparc IV line.

» Long-time Unix MTA stalwart Sendmail has announced middleware products aimed at the anti-spam/anti-virus markets. Mailstream Content Manager is an extensible package designed to interface with products from Cloudmark and McAfee. The company says its extensibility will guarantee compatibility with potential standards like Yahoo's DomainKeys and Microsoft's Sender ID for E-Mail

» Speaking of Sender ID for E-Mail: It received a reprieve from AOL this week after open source advocates raised concerns about the would-be standard in September. AOL said Microsoft has taken steps to correct problems with the patents surrounding the technology as well as some technical issues.

» For the moment, SGI and Linux have paired off to claim the title of fastest supercomputer in the world. SGI built "Columbia" for NASA around 20 Itanium-2-based Altix servers. The system is capable of cranking out 42.7 trillion calculations per second (teraflops).

» It appears that despite a brief boost based on the prospect of wrenching $5 million from IBM, SCO's stock is hurting worse than it has since, well, since the week before it announced it was suing IBM. The cure, says an analyst, is for the company to "begin realizing revenue from its Unix business." Not spending money on Web sites designed to squabble with Groklaw might help a little, too.

» ServerWatch's review of NetBSD provides a look at the BSD variant with the most diverse hardware base: More than 50 platforms.

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