Novell vs. Red Hat: Linux vs. Linux
If you think about where Linux is fighting for market and mind-share, chances are you're thinking about Linux slugging it out with Microsoft Windows or Sun Solaris on the server, or trying to tear desktop customers away from Windows, and to a far lesser extent, from Mac OS X. That's all true, but there's also fierce competition between Linux distributions.
Some of that conflict is inside baseball stuff. Some Debian developers, for example, are jealous of Ubuntu's popularity and some developers feel that Ubuntu hasn't done enough for Linux. Unless you're a Linux insider this kind of stuff isn't going to matter to you.
What is going to matter to everyone who buys and deploys operating systems is that Novell is heating up its competition with the number one Linux distributor: Red Hat. On November 11th, Novell announced a new subscription and support program "designed to aid customers making the transition from their existing third-party Linux distribution to SLES (SUSE Linux Enterprise Server)." What makes this interesting is that the three-year SLES subscription under this plan also includes two years of technical support for a customer's existing Linux deployments while they make the SLES transition.
Today I want to wonder aloud why all these big tough tech companies have Red Hat in their cross-hairs? Oracle, Microsoft, and now Novell all seemed determined to crush Red Hat like a bug. And yet Red Hat, despite being the largest and most successful pure Free/Open Source company, is tiny by comparison. Revenues for their last fiscal year, which ended in February, were about $523 million, with a net of $76 million. Which is a lot by my standards, but compared to the other three is small. Oracle and Microsoft are both multi-billion dollar companies, and Novell came close to cracking the billion-dollar mark in their 2007 fiscal year.
So one might suppose that a big company looking to grow bigger would seek out new, potentially bigger markets, rather than poaching from smaller markets. But that is not the case here-- what's so special about Red Hat that these titans of industry have irresistible urges to squash it out of existence?