Novell now has improved management; its deal with Microsoft is positive for the company given that Microsoft has effectively become a channel for its SUSE Linux Enterprise Server in mixed environments; and it is strong on the enterprise identity management, security management and system management fronts, Weiss said. But does face challenges, including the transition away from NetWare and its laggard image, he said.For its part, Oracles strengths includes its Linux experience and worldwide coverage, while its challenges remain gaining share in the Linux operating system market, differentiating its services and managing to convert Red Hat accounts.Is the real point of Oracles Unbreakable Linux to break Red Hat? Click here to read more. Upstart Ubuntu, which had been successful on the desktop, allows a free and flexible download and has open-source software purity, but faces getting enterprise acceptance of its offerings in the commercial data center market and the need for new packaging and better system management, Weiss said. Others, including Fedora, Gentoo, Debian, Mandriva and Asianux are often the source of leading-edge feature enhancements and have no subscription fees, but are often regional distributions, unstable and offer only Web support. In his address, Weiss also discussed Microsofts three-pronged open-source strategy, which he said consists of applications, interoperability and licenses. Microsofts open-source initiatives, he said, have had a number of positive effectsfor both the software maker and the open-source communityincluding loosening the tight grip of Linux to open source, giving Windows users more exposure to open source, and making Microsoft appear kinder and gentler, reducing the efforts to discredit it. "It is also helping to speed up Windows and Linux growth through interoperability and integration, while spurring separate parts of IT organizations into greater collaboration and reduced silos," he said. Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth believes Microsoft is fracturing the open-source community. Read why. The negatives for Microsoft include making Windows organizations more trusting of Linux, increasing the challenges to Microsoft ISVs about how software is licensed and delivered, and, perhaps, increasing the complexity of Windows Server platform certification and administration, he said. Weiss made a number of recommendations for customers looking to go the third-generation route of deploying mission-critical enterprise Linux, cautioning them to be careful of the high-risk factors before moving ahead with deployments. High-risk factors include complex and integrated applications; having no prior experience in developing, staging or deploying the applications on Linux; the fact that management and availability have to be extensively rearchitected; and that certification and support by ISVs are uncertain. "You should choose a lower-risk approach if you are unable to overcome these high-risk factors at this time. Some applications can be deployed on Linux outside a monolithic framework and, architecturally, it lends itself to a horizontal scale-out approach," he said. Microsoft claims open-source technology violates 235 of its patents. Read more here. Many open-source solutions are also known and have been tested and approved, while the back-end database is largely unaffected by changes to the applications, Weiss concluded. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.