INTAC - Internet Access Free and Open Source Software Articles MozillaQuest MQ Logo
MozillaQuest the on-line computer magazine
10 March, 2005
http://www.simplylost.net/web/RetailShapeWorks/index.cfm


Looking at the Top Tier of Linux Distributions

Impact of the Mandrake-Conectiva Acquisition on the Linux Landscape

Part 2: Digging into Mandrake, Novell, and Red Hat Demographics and Financials

Mike Angelo -- 10 March 2005 (C) -- Page 2

Article Index
To learn why Linux is so much a better choice than is Microsoft Windows, please see our article Gaël Duval Tells Why Mandrake Linux Is Better Than MS Windows

To learn how to run MS Windows-based software and accessories in GNU-Linux, please see our article Crossover Office 2.1 Runs MS Windows Software on GNU-Linux Systems

About Linux Distributions

For more about GNU-Linux distributions and how they are put together, please see Anatomy of a Linux Distribution in our article SCO Clears Linux Kernel but Implicates Red Hat and SuSE.

Under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL), the GNU-Linux operating system is free and open source software (FOSS) and no one can charge for it. However, Linux companies such as MandrakeSoft, Conectiva, Novell, Red Hat, SUSE, and others that add to the basic GNU-Linux OS may charge for the added value and for distributing the GNU-Linux OS. They also can charge for services such as product support, documentation, and so forth.

  • Moving Novell Users to Linux

Incidentally, Novell has a huge customer base. If Novell can move a substantial number of users of its networking products such as NetWare, GroupWise, and ZENworks to its Linux distributions, Novell's Linux business easily could climb to several hundred-million dollars annually. And that could put Novell's Linux business above Red Hat's Linux business.

Bruce Lowry told MozillaQuest Magazine:

We believe there are roughly 90 million users of NetWare out there, as well as around 35 million users of GroupWise and ZENworks, traditional Novell products.

MozillaQuest Magazine: It seems to me that if many or most of those Netware, GroupWise, and ZENworks users are not already using Linux, there is a tremendous potential for Novell/SUSE to migrate them to Novell/SUSE Linux, is this correct?

Bruce Lowry: We believe that Novell's significant installed base does provide Novell an opportunity to offer open source solutions to customers who already know Novell well. One of the reasons we moved into Linux was our customers were urging us to do so, asking us to bring some of the core networking services we were known for - identity, management, security - to the Linux environment. So we do see our installed base as a potential market for our open source based solutions. But we also made it clear that we'll continue to deliver the products they already know and love - NetWare, GroupWise and ZENworks, on platforms other than Linux. We aren't forcing anybody to migrate. We're a cross-platform player, which reflects the fact that our customers are cross-platform too.

Red Hat Demographics and Financials

Red Hat's principle office is in Raleigh, NC. It employs about 681 people. Red Hat's latest fiscal-year gross revenues were about $124-million US. That puts Red Hat revenues above Mandrake-Conectiva and Novell's Linux business -- for now.

The first Red Hat Linux distribution was released in 1994 by Marc Ewing. The company, Red Hat Software, came about in 1995 under the leadership of Bob Young.

Problems Trying to Compare Linux Distribution Providers

The easy way to compare Linux Distribution providers would be to compare the installed-base of their products. Unfortunately, it likely is close to impossible, if not impossible, to gauge the installed base of GNU-Linux operating systems in general -- let alone the installed base of any particular GNU-Linux distribution.

That's why this series of articles looks at other measures, such as revenues, to attempt to determine just which players are the top-tier of Linux distribution providers and how those players match up against each other.

Gauging the installed base of a Linux distribution is so difficult because in general it is legal to download, copy, and install GNU-Linux operating systems (OSs). Moreover, one copy of a GNU-Linux OS legally may be installed on an unlimited number of computers.

On the other hand, proprietary software and operating systems are a different matter. Downloads are not free. Nor are the CDs free either.

Because the vendor sells them, there is a trackable record of how many copes of the software or OS are in circulation. Moreover, because there is proprietary software licensing involved, there are trackable records to determine how many computers have the software or OS installed.

That of course presumes that all the copies of the proprietary software or proprietary operating system are legal copies and are installed legally. As a practical mater, there is going to be software and operating system piracy. Even so, proprietary software and OSs offer trackable records to determine how many computers have the software or OS installed -- despite some error due to unrecorded bootleg installations of the software or OSs.

Of course, an important comparison would be the quality and scope of the Linux distribution providers' products. But that is beyond the scope of this series of articles. Suffice it to say that all three, top-tier players have good GNU-Linux distributions. They would not be in that top tier if they did not.

Under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL), the GNU-Linux operating system is Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) and no one can charge for it. However, Linux companies such as Mandrakesoft, Conectiva, Novell, Red Hat, SUSE, and others that add to the basic GNU-Linux OS may charge for the added value and for distributing the GNU-Linux OS. They also may charge for services such as product support, documentation, and so forth.

Unlike proprietary software, revenues or product sales alone cannot measure an open source software company's influence. That's because there are lots of users of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) that (legally) download and install the software.

Moreover, a single download of FOSS can be installed (legally) to an unlimited number of computers. Thus even if you can measure all the number of downloads of FOSS, that number serves as more of an indication of the minimum user-base -- rather than actual installed user-base.

The GNU-Linux operating system and much of the software that runs on the GNU-Linux OS are Free and Open Source Software. For the reasons set forth above, that makes it very difficult to gauge the installed user-base for GNU-Linux overall, or for a particular Linux distribution in particular.

For example, Mandrakesoft estimates the free version of its GNU-Linux OS distribution is downloaded some 10,000 times a day. Moreover, each download of Mandrake Linux could get installed on more than one computer.

Then add to that mix all the retail editions of Mandrake Linux. Don't forget that under the GPL, the GNU-Linux part of a Linux distribution from a single retail edition unit can be installed on an unlimited number of computers too.

Mandrakesoft's Gaël Duval estimates that between six-million and eight-million computers are running Mandrake Linux.

In discussing market penetration with Novell's Bruce Lowry, he mentioned:

On installed base, this kind of data is pretty hard to find, particularly for Linux, given its distribution model. IDC is probably the best source, and they mostly measure shipments and revenue, not installed base.

In an e-mail discussion with Mandrakesoft CEO, François Bancilhon, he mentioned:

Revenue is not necessarily the best way to evaluate market size, since our pricing model is so different, a good measure is more installed base and even though numbers are difficult to establish, we know those would be more in our favor.

Thus, it is difficult to know if the gross revenue data set forth in this series of articles is a correct indication of how Mandrake-Conectiva, Novell-SUSE, and Red Hat stack up in terms of installed user-base. We would not be surprised at all if the Mandrake-Conectiva, actual, installed base is comparable to the installed user-bases of Novell-SUSE Linux or Red Hat Linux.

Moreover, if you parse out the Fedora Core user-base from the Red Hat user-base, Mandrake-Conectiva easily could have a larger user-base than does Red Hat. Whether the Fedora Core and Red Hat user bases should be parsed is another question and beyond the scope of this series of articles.

Consumer, SMB, and Enterprise Comparisons

Because of the GNU-Linux distribution model, it also is difficult to tell whether a particular GNU-Linux distribution is being used by individuals, small to medium sized businesses (SMB), enterprises, or whatever. Our guess is that Mandrake and SUSE are more popular among individuals and SMBs -- and that Red Hat and the new, Novell-branded Linux distribution just recently rolled out are more popular at the enterprise level.

Generally, Mandrake seems to be stronger in the desktop Linux arena than Red Hat and SUSE. And SUSE seems to be stronger in the desktop Linux arena than Red Hat.

In an on-line poll that ended on 14 January 2005 in which 3,841 people responded, DesktopLinux.com asked "What Desktop Linux Distribution(s) do you primarily use on your home or office desktop system?"

Mandrake Linux came in second with 14.1%. SUSE was third at 14% and Red Hat fourth at 12.3%. Surprisingly, Yoper was first in that poll with an 18.3% share.

Of course polls are only polls. Moreover, the DesktopLinux.com poll is an online poll.

In our e-mail discussion with Bruce Lowry, he mentioned:

As for whether to consider Novell, Red Hat and Mandrake "top tier" as the leading commercial vendors... that's your call. Mandrake is pretty small compared to Novell and Red Hat, it seems to me.

When looking at just the financial data shown in Tables 1 and 2 in Part 1 of this series of articles, we agree with Bruce Lowry that Mandrake is pretty small compared to Novell and Red Hat. However, when you throw in other measures such as actual user base, popularity, product quality, and so forth we believe that Mandrake-Conectiva is part of the top tier of Linux distributions along with Novell-SUSE and Red Hat.

HP, IBM, SUN, and other large, top-tier companies that are involved with Linux are not included in today's discussion. In part, that's because they do not develop or market their own Linux distro. Rather, they use other Linux distros such as Mandrake, Red Hat, and SUSE for their Linux businesses. Also HP, IBM, and SUN have their own flavors of the Unix operating system.

Part 2 Summary

The Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) models make it difficult to compare installed base and deployment of Linux distributions. The influence of a Linux distribution on the Linux landscape in great part is a function of the actual installed base and deployment of the Linux distribution.

Another, hard to measure, indication of a Linux distribution provider's influence on the Linux landscape is the size and quality of the community surrounding the Linux distro. An interesting comparison exits here.

Conectiva, Mandrake, and Red Hat built substantial, excellent open source communities from the ground up as they and their Linux distributions developed. On the other hand, Novell in a sense bought its open source community when it bought SUSE and Ximian. When Novell bought SUSE and Ximian, it bought two GNU-Linux and FOSS companies with great existing open source communities that followed SUSE and Ximian to Novell.

Novell acquired Ximian in 2003. At the time of the acquisition, Ximian had less than 100 employees. Ximian started up in 1999.

(Please note that we do not mean to suggest or imply in any way that Novell bought the SUSE and Ximian open source communities. It is very doubtful that any real open source community could be bought. Rather, the point here is that those communities are still the SUSE and Ximian communities. But, when Novell bought SUSE and Ximian, the people in those communities continued to participate in those open source communities, even though SUSE and Ximian had become part of Novell.)

In lieu of appropriate, Linux distribution, installed-base and deployment data, we looked at financial and demographic data for Mandrake-Conectiva, Novell, and Red Hat. That helps to get a feel of the three, top-tier Linux distribution providers and how they match up against each other. But it is not the same as having good, accurate, and complete installed-base data.

The financial position of a Linux distribution provider also can and does affect its impact upon the Linux landscape. The more and better employees it can afford, the more and better infrastructure it can afford, the more and better technical and customer support it can afford to provide, and so forth -- the more impact a Linux distribution company is going to have on the Linux landscape.

In Part 1, we compared how Mandrake-Conectiva, Novell, and Red Hat stack up against each other on several fundamental fiscal measures -- revenues, market values, revenue to market value ratios, price-earning ratios, and employee productivity. Today in Part 2 we looked further into the financials and demographics of Mandrake-Conectiva, Novell, and Red Hat.

We also looked at the problems of trying to compare Linux distribution providers. And we looked at where Mandrake-Conectiva, Novell, and Red Hat stand in the consumer, SMB, and enterprise arenas.

Mandrake-Conectiva is smaller on the money measures than are Novell-SUSE and Red Hat. However, Mandrakesoft Linux is a very good GNU-Linux distribution, it is very popular, and it has a large community of support. We believe that puts Mandrake-Conectiva in the top tier of Linux distribution providers. And we believe that makes Mandrake-Conectiva a major player in shaping and developing the Linux landscape.

In Part 3 the focus will be on the impact of the Mandrakesoft acquisition of Conectiva on the Linux landscape, and how it improves the Linux landscape.

We also will look at how Mandrake-Conectiva and Novell plan to grow their businesses. Will they do that by focusing their marketing endeavours on grabbing users from other Linux companies or by migrating people from other operating systems such as Microsoft Windows or Linux?

And then we will look at what's ahead for Mandrake-Conectiva, Novell-SUSE, and the Linux landscape. Stay tuned.


Article Index

Office on the Linux Desktop

OpenOffice 1.1 -- A Complete Office/Productivity Software Suite for GNU-Linux, FreeBSD, MAC, MS-Windows, Unix, and more

Books

  • The definitive computer hardware book:

Upgrading and Repairing PCs, 16th Edition, Scott Mueller, Que, ISBN: 0789731738. $60


  • Some Interesting Linux Books

Acing the LINUX+ Certification Exam, Patrick Regan, Pearson Prentice Hall, ISBN: 0131121553. $88

Beginning Linux Programming, 3rd Edition, Matthew and Stones, (Foreword by Alan Cox), Wiley. ISBN: 0-7645-4497-7. $40

Novell Certified Linux Engineer (Novell CLE) Study Guide, Robb Tracy, Novell Press, ISBN: 0789732033. $60

Fedora 3 Unleashed, Bill Ball and Hoyt Duff, Sams, ISBN: 0672327082. $50.

Fedora Linux 2 Bible, Christopher Negus, Wiley, ISBN: 0-7645-5745-9. $50


Linux For Dummies, 5th Edition, Dee-Ann LeBlanc, Wiley, ISBN: 0-7645-4310-5. $30

Linux in a Nuthsell, 4th Ed., Siever, Figgins, and Weber, O'Reilly, ISBN: 0-596-00482-6. $40

Linux Kernel Development, 2nd Ed., Robert Love, Novell Press., ISBN: 0672327201. $45

Linux Network Architecture, By Wehrle, Pahlke, Ritter, Muller, and Bechler, Pearson Prentice Hall, ISBN: 0131777203. $50


Linux Programming by Example: The Fundamentals, Arnold Robbins, , Prentice Hall PTR, ISBN: 0131429647. $40

The Linux Process Manager: The internals of scheduling, interrupts and signals, By John O'Gorman, Wiley, ISBN: 0-470-84771-9. $35

Linux Toys, Christopher Negus and Chuck Wolber, Wiley, ISBN: 0-7645-2508-5. $30

Linux Troubleshooting Bible, Christopher Negus, Thomas Weeks, Wiley, ISBN: 0-7645-6997-X. $30


Official Fedora Companion, Nick Petreley, Wiley, ISBN: 0-7645-5836-6. $20

Operating Systems, 3rd Edition, Deitel, Deitel, and David, Pearson Prentice Hall, ISBN: 0131828274. $103

Principles of Network and System Administration, 2nd Edition, Mark Burgess, Wiley, ISBN: 0-470-86807-4. $50


Running Linux, 4th Ed., Welsh, Dalheimer, Dawson, and Kaufman, O'Reilly, ISBN, 0-596-00272-6. $45

Understanding the Linux Kernel, 2nd Edition, Daniel P. Bovet and Marco Cesati, O'Reilly, ISBN: 0-596-00213-0. $50

Understanding the Linux Virtual Memory Manager, Mel Gorman, Prentice Hall PTR, ISBN: 0131453483. $60

Resources

  • Related Mandrake, Conectiva, Novell, and Linux Articles


Mandrake Linux 10.1 Official - 2.6 Linux kernel

Gaël Duval Tells Why Mandrake Linux Is Better Than MS Windows

Microsoft PR Does Not Refute Mandrake Linux Better Than Windows

Mandrake Linux 9.0, Desktop Magic You Can Use: A First Look


SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 for AMD64 Released


Linux Networking for Windows and Desktop People -- Mandrake 9.1 and LinNeighborhood

Gaël Duval and Mike Angelo Discuss Mandrake Business Products and Finances

MandrakeSoft Adds MandrakeClustering to Its Business and Enterprise Products Lineup

Gaël Duval and Mike Angelo Discuss The HP-Mandrake Computer

HP to Ship Desktop PCs with Mandrake 9.1 Linux Pre-Installed - Good News for Mandrake Linux and Fans


Gaël Duval and Mike Angelo Discuss the New Mandrake AMD64 OS

Mandrake Linux Corporate Server 2.1 for AMD Opteron

Mandrake Linux Shows Profit -- End to Bankruptcy Near


Conectiva, Mandrake, and SuSE Say No SCO in Their Code

SCO-Caldera v IBM: Conectiva's Gordon Ho Responds to SCO-Caldera's Linux-Related Allegations


Copyright 2000-2005 -- MozillaQuest -- Brodheadsville, Pa..USA -- All Rights Reserved
Northeastern Internet Web Hosting
ProLog Express Internet Servicse
MozillaQuest Magazine Front Page button

Internet & Web browsers button

custom Netscape & Mozilla themes & skins button

IRC - Internet Relay Chat - Chat button

Linux buttonLinux for Windows Users

Mozilla button

Netscape button
network articles

tutorial - help - how to button

Windows button
Recent Articles

Impact of the Mandrake-Conectiva Acquisition on the Linux Landscape

MandrakeSoft To Acquire Conectiva: Overview of the Mandrake-Conectiva Acquisition

KMail -- One of the Best E-Mail Clients (Editor's Choice)

Pogo Linux Altura64 Workstation Is a MozillaQuest Magazine Editor's Choice

SanDisk Digital Audio Players for Linux, Mac, and Windows Make Nice Gifts (Editor's Choice)

Under $30 Stocking Stuffer for Linux, Mac, and Windows -- The Lexar USB JumpDrive

KDE Konqueror Web-Browser and File-Manager: Well-Built, Feature-Robust, and Free (Editor's Choice)

64-Bit Mandrake Linux 10.1 -- 2.6.8 kernel

Fire George Bush!

Mandrake Linux 10.1 Official - 2.6 Linux kernel

Don't Trust CNN, Crossfire, and Tucker Carlson -- Lies About Cheney-Edwards Debate

Mandrake Linux 10.1 Community - 2.6 Linux kernel

The Mettle of Pogo Linux: CEO Tim Lee and Jesse Keating discuss Pogo Linux Computers

Asus Anti-Linux Attitude Sucks

How to Create a Simple Web Page with Mozilla and Netscape Composer

The GIMP 2.0 for Microsoft Windows - First Look

The GIMP 2.0 Released - a free photograph and digital-image editing program

The Microtek S1/D1 Digital Camera for the Linux, Mac, and Windows Platforms

The SanDisk 512-MB SD Card and Ultra II Card Reader for Linux, Mac, and Windows

How to Use GIMP for Photo and Image Editing:

Deja Novell All Over Again

Novell Linux Dominates LinuxWorld 2004: Overview

How to Use GIMP for Photo and Image Editing

Overview of The GIMP - a free photograph and digital-image editing program

Creating a Personal or Company Budget with OpenOffice / StarOffice Calc -- Part 1: Basics

A KDE Tool to Manage and Read Email: KShowmail Shows Potential - But Can Delete the Wrong Messages

OpenOffice 1.1 -- A Complete Office/Productivity Software Suite for GNU-Linux, FreeBSD, MAC, MS-Windows, Unix, and more

SUSE Linux Has New Educational Discount Program - 9.0 Professional Only $50 for Students, Teachers, Schools

Crossover Office 2.1 Runs MS Windows Software on GNU-Linux Systems -- Jeremy White, and Mike Angelo Discuss Crossover Office, Wine, and MS Windows APIs for Linux

Young People Are The Future of Linux - Linux and Open-Source Software in Schools and Colleges

CNN SUCKS!

Gaël Duval Tells Why Mandrake Linux Is Better Than MS Windows

Mozilla 1.4 Browser-Suite -- AKA Netscape 7.1

SuSE Linux Desktop Available

Linux for Windows Users -- Linux Networking for Windows and Desktop People -- Mandrake 9.1 and LinNeighborhood

Gaël Duval and Mike Angelo Discuss the New AMD64 OS --

SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 for AMD64 Released

Major Morphing in Mozilla Project Organization and Objectives Proposed

Red Hat Linux 9 Distribution Released

SCO-Caldera v IBM:

SCO-Caldera & the GNU/Linux Community: The SCOsource IP Matter

Linux Makes a Great Gift

Christmas Season Holidays & Computer Suggestions 2002

Mandrake Linux 9.0, Desktop Magic You Can Use: A First Look

Using LinNeighborhood to Create a Network Neighborhood for Linux

Zero Tolerance for Privacy and Security Bugs

Mozilla and Netscape JavaScript Bugs Compromise Privacy and Security

SCO's Darl McBride and MozillaQuest Magazine's Mike Angelo Discuss Caldera Linux and LSB

UnitedLinux, a Divisive Weapon for Caldera's Darl McBride -- Part II

Holger Dyroff, Gaël Duval, Mark de Visser and Mike Angelo Discuss LSB, UnitedLinux, and the Linux Market

Netscape Communicator 4.8

New Mozilla Roadmap Kills Mozilla 1.0.x