Red Hat: Next Redmond?

There is concern in the Linux community that Red Hat will become the 'Microsoft of the Linux world.'

Concern is growing in the Linux community that the forthcoming UnitedLinux distribution will not be able to meet the enterprise server challenge of Red Hat Inc. in the United States.

Red Hats dominance is worrisome to some industry players, who say the Raleigh, N.C., company needs effective competition to prevent it from becoming a Microsoft Corp. among Linux vendors and to ensure the operating system continues to develop in an open way.

International Data Corp. reported this month that Red Hat won nearly three-quarters of the $80 million in U.S. Linux sales last year. Most of the balance went to SuSE Linux AG, the report said.

UnitedLinux partners say there is strong interest in their product despite the strength of Red Hat. Caldera International Inc.s new president and CEO, Darl McBride, said the UnitedLinux group will offer Linux users and enterprise customers an alternative to Red Hat Linux. "Also, if you combine the assets of the United-Linux members, we are the biggest Linux vendor," McBride said.

Sun Microsystems Inc., new to the Linux field, is going so far as to claim that the more Red Hat penetrates the enterprise, the closer it comes to making a proprietary version of its Advanced Server, according to Jonathan Schwartz, Suns executive vice president of software, in Santa Clara, Calif.

Stacey Quandt, an analyst with Giga Information Group Inc., also in Santa Clara, said this is not the case, although Advanced Server does contain bleeding-edge I/O and performance customization that is not available in standard Linux distributions. This could have led to perceptions that it is becoming proprietary, Quandt said.

Red Hat Vice President Mark de Visser scoffed at the notion that the companys products are becoming more proprietary. "We started as an open-source company, and we remain one," de Visser said. "Our commitment to open source remains absolute, no matter what our competitors are saying."