Red Hat can claim it is the top distributor of Linux software. But the Debian Project can retort that it is really the leading distributor because it is the fastest-growing outfit in the Linux market.
Which organization is right?
That depends on one’s source of information.
A report by research firm International Data Corp. reckons that Red Hat accounts for 60 percent of the Linux server market.
But another recent report by Netcraft.com contradicts IDC’s findings, saying Debian’s version of Linux is actually the “fastest growing” distribution of the software and, by inference, the current most-popular distribution.
“Over the last six months, Debian has been the fastest-growing Linux distribution when measured by counting active sites which contain the name of a Linux distribution in the Apache Server header,” according to the January 2004 report by Netcraft.com, based in Bath, England.
“In percentage terms, Debian is closely followed by SuSE and Gentoo. RedHat has a far greater number of sites but a slower growth rate, and actually fell this month after making widely publicized and controversial changes to its licensing and security update policy. A distribution name is present in a little over a quarter of Linux-based Apache sites,” the report noted.
The report also presented the following facts:
- Debian has grown at a 24.6 percent rate, from 355,468 site installations last July to 442,752 in January 2004.
- Red Hat has grown at a 17.8 percent rate, from 1,231,986 site installations in July 2003 to 1,451,505 site installations last month.
- Germany-based Linux developer SuSE also outpaced Red Hat, growing 23.2 percent during the same period, from 240,411 installations to 296,217 site installations.
How Red Hat Differs
But some industry insiders noted that the growth of Red Hat is a different kind of expansion than that experienced by the Debian Project.
“Commercial versions of Linux are taking the corporate part of the market,” Steve Friedberg, a storage-industry observer working in public relations, told LinuxInsider in an interview.[*correction] “They want the customer support. It’s less of a let’s-get-it-for-free mentality than a we-know-we’ll-need-support mindset.”
Indeed, the Web site for the Debian Project indicates the organization is not a true commercial enterprise, but a self-described “association” of individuals who have developed the Debian GNU Linux software.
Driving Up Costs?
The association provides links on its sites to consultants who can provide support for users, but it does not directly support the software or commercially partner with those who do. This strategy, some analysts have said, actually could drive up the cost of “free” software over time.
Red Hat, by contrast, continues to pursue deals to offer end-to-end support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux users.
Sunnyvale, California-based Hyperion software exclusively told LinuxInsider that it will disclose it is forging a deal with Red Hat to support Red Hat in the “business intelligence for the enterprise” market.
Users seek not only open standards, said Red Hat, but also reliability, flexibility and performance as they consider Linux for the enterprise.
Total Cost of Ownership
“Business intelligence and business performance management applications are critical in the enterprise,” Deb Woods, a vice president at Red Hat, told LinuxInsider.
“We are excited that Hyperion will address this application space on the Red Hat Enterprise Linux platform,” said Woods. “Our joint customers will benefit from the quality and value of this integrated solution.”
Such deals are said to reduce the total cost of ownership of Red Hat software.
One commercial user of Red Hat’s version of Linux agreed.
“We are moving toward the Linux platform because it is a cost-effective platform to deploy broadly,” Patrick Leplat, CIO of Switzerland-based RCI Finance, told LinuxInsider. “The associated cost savings are important to our company.”
*Editor’s Correction Note: In the original version of this article, we incorrectly identified Steve Friedberg as a spokesperson for BakBone.com. We apologize for the error.