Red Hat’s CEO has rejected the idea that a reduction in the number of Linux distributions would be good for the industry, and described Novell’s acquisition of SUSE Linux as “theatre”.
There are over 300 distributions listed on DistroWatch.com, but Raleigh, NorthCarolina-based Red Hat’s CEO, Matthew Szulik, maintained that choice and specialization outweighed any advantage that might be gained by focusing customer attention on a smaller number of offerings.
He was particularly disdainful of acquiring other distributions for the sake of protecting or expanding market share. We have zero ambition to do that, he said. I think when people approach the problem with an eye on consolidation it destroys the idea of natural selection.
The Linux operating system market has seen the first signs of consolidation in recent years, with Novell acquiring SUSE, and then MandrakeSoft purchasing Conectiva SA before changing its name to Mandriva and snapping up Lycoris.
Novell’s acquisition of SUSE in particular was supposed to mount more of a challenge to Red Hat’s dominant position as the leading enterprise Linux distributor, but Mr Szulik maintained that the purchase has had no identifiable impact on Red Hat’s business.
I can’t think of any, he said, adding that the attention paid to Novell’s Linux business was disproportionate. I think people like the idea of this 5,400 employee software company buying up a German Linux distributor. I think they liked the theatre of it.
Putting the difference between Red Hat and Novell into perspective, Red Hat’s VP of investor relations, Dion Cornett, repeated a statistic revealed by the company’s CFO, Charlie Peters, in April: that Red Hat’s subscription revenue in EMEA was greater than Novell’s entire worldwide Linux revenue.
Mr Cornett added that in fact Red Hat did more Linux business in some individual European counties than Novell did worldwide.
Novell had SUSE Linux Enterprise Server revenue of $8m in its third quarter, ended July 31, 2005, with about 47% coming from North America, 37% from EMEA, and 16% the rest of the world. In comparison, Red Hat had subscription revenue of $54.3m in its second quarter, ended August 31, 2005.