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Mandriva Eyes Corporate Users in Bid to Expand Its Linux Business

Third-place vendor moves to compete more broadly with Red Hat and Novell

By Eric Lai
December 19, 2005 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Mandriva SA, now the third-largest Linux distributor behind Red Hat Inc. and Novell Inc., is pushing to move from its consumer and small-business market niches into the realm of enterprise IT.


Service fees from corporate customers accounted for 30% of Mandriva's $5.5 million in revenue for the fiscal year that ended Oct. 31, up from 10% in the prior year. In September, NEC Computers International BV, a Netherlands-based unit of NEC Corp., said it would bundle Mandriva Linux on the PCs and servers it sells in Europe.


And Mandriva CEO Francois Bancilhon said this month that the company will release Version 4.0 of its Corporate Server software by mid-2006, about 18 months after predecessor Mandrakesoft SA shipped the initial 3.0 release. He declined to comment about the upgrade's new features.


Paris-based Mandriva was formed earlier this year through the mergers of Mandrakesoft and two other Linux vendors: Brazil-based Conectiva SA and Maple Valley, Wash.-based Lycoris Inc.


Secure Upgrade


Dan McDonald, network infrastructure manager at Austin Energy, the electric utility owned by the city of Austin, primarily runs an older Mandrakesoft version of Linux on 20 servers. But he said he's about to upgrade to Mandriva 2006, an update that was released in October and is aimed at home users and small and midsize companies.


The Linux-based servers at Austin Energy run applications such as Exchange 2003 for e-mail, network management and security, as well as the utility's mission-critical supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) software.


The SCADA servers are blocked off from the Internet for security reasons, which made Red Hat Linux unsuitable, according to McDonald, who also tested that operating system.


"My Red Hat boxes were always running home to mama, always pinging the Red Hat Web site to download patches and updates," he said.


But despite favorable reviews from McDonald and some other corporate users, Mandriva will have a tough time challenging Red Hat and Novell in the Linux server market, said Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata Inc. in Nashua, N.H.


"For supported Linux enterprise distributions in North America, Red Hat—with a smattering of Novell—is the only game in town," Haff said. "It's really hard to see what would suddenly cause [Mandriva] to become a success in North America."


Mandriva claims to have 6 million to 8 million users worldwide, with about 20,000 of them paying for support and maintenance. The company's Corporate Server software supports both 32- and 64-bit hardware and starts at $369 per server. Users of that product include French oil company Total SA, France Telecom SA, the city of Milwaukee, NASA and the U.S.


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