Red Hat, which has dominated the North American Linux market, now faces not simply Nuremberg, Germany-based SuSE but Novell, a company with deep roots in the enterprise space and a powerful worldwide support and channel sales force. But according to John Young, its vice president of marketing for Red Hat, his company "isnt worried."
Young said that Red Hat is "not surprised that Novell is interested in a slice of a market that weve shown is profitable. This simply validates that there is enormous business interest in Linux." By buying SuSE, "Novell is saying that Linux is the strategic platform. We agree with that, and were quite ready to help customers migrate to a strong Linux solution: ours."
Young said he believes Novells entry into the Linux market will help all Linux distributors. "Novell is validating the Linux market."
While Young acknowledged that Novell/SuSE will be competition for Red Hat, he said Novell will have to overcome major hurdles to get its proprietary NetWare and open-source SuSE Linux divisions working together. "No company has ever managed to sell both open-source and proprietary software yet," Young said. "It will be an interesting challenge."
Red Hat, of Raleigh, N.C., isnt overly concerned about Novells vast array of partnerships, Young said. Red Hat has its own strong relationships with enterprise vendors such as IBM Corp., Oracle Corp. and Dell Inc., and "Novell is just one of many important vendors." If anyone has cause to worry, Young said its Microsoft Corp., as Linux continues to demonstrate its strength as an enterprise platform with this move by Novell.
According to Young, "SuSE is where Red Hat was two years ago. Theyre trying to produce one operating system for two very different audiences: corporate users and enthusiasts. Its like trying to force everyones feet into one shoe size." By devoting the companys efforts to the enterprise system with Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3.0, Young said, Red Hat will make the better fit for its corporate customers.
In addition, Young said that Red Hat isnt abandoning its original market of Linux fans. "Fedora, Red Hats community-supported Linux, is being released tomorrow. Its not for our RHEL customers, but it is good for enthusiasts and developers and can work along side RHEL."
On the technical front, Stacey Quandt, principal analyst for the Open Source Development Lab, said Red Hat will face a challenge since with the release of RHEL 3.0, since with it Red Hat has committed itself to a product based on the Linux 2.4 kernel. Novell/SuSE will "undoubtedly come out with a Linux distribution based on the 2.6 kernel long before Red Hat will," Quandt said, "and that will be put them 12 to 18 months behind SuSE if Red Hat sticks to its original schedule."
Linuxes based on the 2.6 kernel, she said, will bring enhancements such as improved block I/O, which in turn should bring better database performance to SuSE Linux.
Youngs response pointed to the difference in customer focus. "Our enterprise customers want stuff that works, is stable and is supported for a long period of time. If they want bleeding, leading edge they can use our Red Hat community supported Fedora, which will be released on Nov. 6, 2003.
"Frankly, if you want the latest and newest, we doubt SuSE can keep up with Fedora. But, our customers want an operating system they know they can depend on and that ISVs can write to and know that their programs will work without needing to be constantly updated."
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