A blog for the enterprise open source community
Red Hat: The Poland of Software Vendors (also: Shuttleworth weighs in)Nick Selby, November 6, 2006 @ 10:22 am ET
We’ve been saying here and elsewhere that the Microsoft-Novell and Oracle-Red Hat announcements have been market changing events. Some ripples are at the fore: Microsoft has siezed an opportunity to simultaneously head off Oracle and irritate Red Hat. Novell has turned its greatest weakness (the spectre of irrelevancy as recently as last week) into what could prove to be a great strength (It’s a little creepy in its Karl-Rove-esqueness, actually).
And Red Hat itself now faces the real possibility of extinction … Overnight, Red Hat has become the flattest piece of land between two battling superpowers: the Poland of software vendors.
Less obvious is the effect on Ubuntu’s plans to burst onto the enterprise scene in the West. Ubuntu’s sponsor, Canonical’s, overriding strategy hinges on two key pillars. First, Ubuntu is feature-rich and easy-to-use, to appeal to non-fuddy-duddys – that next generation of young whippersnapper admins coming up in enterprise as we speak.
Second, the support model is flexible. Years before the Oracle and Microsoft announcements to provide support for someone else’s Linux distro, Canonical set out to provide support not just from itself but from an entire eco-system of other support companies. And the support could be bought for as little as a single server in a cluster.
The model was appealing precisely because of the Red Hat and Novell’s Soviet-style lock-ins – the very models which are now in flux. Now, we’re not saying that there is not still great value to the Canonical approach of democratizing support sources and terms, but there’s a fairly obvious question here: must Canonical’s strategy change because of this upheaval in the landscape? If not, why not? I mean, this here is game-changing stuff happening.
According to Mark Shuttleworth, CEO of Canonical, Ltd – Ubuntu’s sponsor – not. In an email over the weekend, he said,
“Our strategy remains unchanged. SuSE is still an essentially proprietary product, and the fact that Novell now needs to pay a fee to Microsoft for every licence of SuSE sold suggests that Novell has even less room to compete on service flexibility with Ubuntu now than it did before.”
From the unintentionally ironic Red Hat “Unthinkable” rant:
“An innovation tax is unthinkable. Free and open source software provide the necessary environment for true innovation. Innovation without fear or threat. Activities that isolate communities or limit upstream adoption will inevitably stifle innovation.”
Not to kick a fella when he’s down, but this is from Red Hat? The company which commoditized this stuff to begin with? …. Oh, never mind. Let’s take the point at face value and recognize that Red Hat is different from Microsoft.
Shuttleworth did allow, though, that the Microsoft-Novell alliance was, “Certainly an interesting twist, coming on top of Oracle’s announcement.”
Linux distribution vendors such as Canonical, Mandriva and Collax will have a more difficult time finding a place in the enterprise. Vendors focused around Linux and Windows interoperability, such as Centeris and Centrify, will be competing directly with Microsoft and Novell interoperability efforts.
Microsoft and Novell will continue to compete in the operating system space, with both acknowledging the reality of a mixed source environment. This competition will only become more pronounced through the growth of Linux on the desktop.
And the final thought, from Raven and Nick, in the “Threats” section of that report:
Oracle and Red Hat continue to pose a threat to Microsoft’s and Novell’s goal of making SuSE the enterprise Linux standard, and the community support for Ubuntu via Canonical may undo the existing commercial Linux leaders over time. Microsoft’s veiled software patent threat to commercial Linux and open source vendors may backfire.
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