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SuSE CEO's Two-Distro World 401

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the just-the-two-of-em dept.
FrankoBoy writes "CRN has an interview with SuSE CEO Richard Seibt in which he claims such things as 'Linux means two companies: Red Hat and SuSE, and nobody else.' Another example of this kind of corporatespeak can be found in another interview he did with ZDNet last week. DistroWatch has an article about all this in its current weekly newsletter."
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SuSE CEO's Two-Distro World

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  • by Mustang Matt (133426) on Thursday August 21, 2003 @05:27PM (#6759615)
    SCO isn't a company. Debian and Gentoo aren't companies. Is Mandrake? Is there any other companies out there rolling their own distro?
  • RedHat and SuSE and SCO!!!
  • You know, it's funny (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mcc (14761) <amcclure@purdue.edu> on Thursday August 21, 2003 @05:29PM (#6759629) Homepage
    Somehow I don't mind this kind of megalomaniacal self-important delusion when it's coming from a company like SUSE that actually has a meaningful, usable, well-crafted, well-supported product that time and effort was put into.

    Oh well. To me, Linux still means "Debian and Gentoo, and maybe someday I'll consider trying SUSE, but probably not." Redhat and Mandrake are dead to me. ^_^
    • yep, Suse is cool. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by twitter (104583) on Thursday August 21, 2003 @05:49PM (#6759845) Homepage Journal
      It's even less strange when you consider that Debian was developed specifically to counter "Linux Companies," and dillusory comercialization of free software. So I don't mind either.

      The funny thing is that I actually did try Suse the other day. I downloaded and burned their "Live CD" as part of a lecture [hillnotes.org]. I was very impressed at how well it worked. It really was a no fuss deal. Like you I'll put up with a little meglomania for that. What harm can he really do to free softare? Who really needs large IT vendors? The future is free.

      He also says lots of good stuff too. He slams SCO and easily dances around all their FUD. He's creating value and sees himself as a big institutional player. Good for him. No free softare based system can be as ugly or as abusive as Microsoft was.

      • No free softare based system can be as ugly or as abusive as Microsoft was.

        Oh yes it can!

        Just wait until I'm in charge.
        When you see the sort of stuff I'm gonna pull, it'll make Microsoft seem like a benevolent-software-monopoly-dictatorship.
  • by dtfinch (661405) *
    I've had problems trying to run Redhat on anything low end, mostly hardware incompatibilities, but also unexplainably long pauses without any disk activity.

    So I use Slackware. No problems yet and great low end hardware support. Easy to administer too.

    I haven't used linux long enough to say my opinion matters though.

  • <sarcasm> We all know Linux is all about SCO </sarcasm>
  • by Xtifr (1323) on Thursday August 21, 2003 @05:31PM (#6759645) Homepage
    But I would leave out Red Hat and SuSE too. Linux doesn't "mean" any companies! Linux means a stable, reliable, nimble, free OS.

    Of course, my years of using and contributing to Debian (which is not a company) may have skewed my viewpoint somewhat. :)
  • Yeah, right (Score:3, Funny)

    by phr2 (545169) on Thursday August 21, 2003 @05:31PM (#6759649)
    And the Internet means two companies, AOL and MSN, nobody else.
  • Huh? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Lumpy (12016)
    funny... I thought that Debian and Mandrake were alive and kicking...

    and Slackware has as strong of a following as ever.

    hell, I find slackware to be the only choice for embedded system prototyping or dedicated things like a freevo box or other things you need to be able to strip out the crud to get a fast small system.
    • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jasonditz (597385)
      Slackware is nice for embedded systems, but let us not forget Lineo/embeddix.

      Mandrake is alive, more or less, but its still in bankrupcy for the time being. Debian isn't a company as such, but it definately warrants mentioning.
  • by hidden (135234) on Thursday August 21, 2003 @05:31PM (#6759651)
    It's my view that the industry has decided there is one main operating system competitor to Microsoft, and that is Linux. Linux means two companies: Red Hat and SuSE, and nobody else. There will be no third distribution that will be supported by the large IT vendors.

    All he's saying is that in the corporate market most of the support is related to these two companies.
    Personally I think he's wrong, but he's not trying to deny the existance of other distros or anything.
    • It (Score:4, Insightful)

      by siskbc (598067) on Thursday August 21, 2003 @05:47PM (#6759823) Homepage
      It's my view that the industry has decided there is one main operating system competitor to Microsoft, and that is Linux. Linux means two companies: Red Hat and SuSE, and nobody else. There will be no third distribution that will be supported by the large IT vendors.

      All he's saying is that in the corporate market most of the support is related to these two companies. Personally I think he's wrong, but he's not trying to deny the existance of other distros or anything.

      If you look at this, it's wrong no matter how you interpret it. Literally, he left out a damned big company - IBM. Yes, they use Red Hat's stuff, but to say "Linux means two companies - Red Hat and SuSE, and nobody else" is just flat wrong on that basis.

      If you want to be assume he meant distros, then obviously he left out like 50.

      You would have to interpret that as "companies who release their own distros under their own name" for that to make any sense, but by that time, it's irrelevant. The major players aren't the companies making the distros, it's those like IBM getting it on machines. Among companies with distros, only Red Hat (not SuSE!) has had any real impact doing that. SuSE's penetration is far less, especially outside Deutschland.

      So, to me, the only sense in which his statement is true is that in which it's barely relevant. Sorry to SuSE, but they have nowhere near the impact of Red Hat or IBM.

      Ultimately, he's trying to sound as if SuSE is half of the non-MS world, and that's nowhere near the case

    • by charnov (183495) on Thursday August 21, 2003 @05:47PM (#6759831) Homepage Journal
      Suse and Redhat are the only ones who are DoE and DoD certified (along with ISO, etc.) that is necessary in many areas. These certs can cost millions and I don't see anyone else willing to pony up to get into this market.

      OTOH, for a small office, just about any distro (NetBSD on the server, yeah) if administered well, would be good.
    • by c13v3rm0nk3y (189767) on Thursday August 21, 2003 @05:55PM (#6759885) Homepage

      I work for a medium sized software company. We certify against Red Hat for our US customers and SuSE for our German customers. We certify against specific releases. For our customers, Linux is either Red Hat or SuSE, and they (and us) refer to those distros' version numbers, not the kernel.

      We simply couldn't gurantee things like version changes to glibc might break the small amount of native libraries we ship. PAM is a mess across various distros (so far, each distro needs to be documented separately for PAM setup of our app) and we've even found problems with consistent Java support.

      Getting the software to work, and coding smart s only one part of the problem. The fact is that corporate customers expect their product to be QA'd, and QA takes time and money. They also expect technical support, and the time and cost to solve "what distro are you using" problems people may call in with is just not worth it. Maintaining a matrix of distro-patches-kernel-tweaks-hardware issues for any and all distro would be nigh on impossible to do properly. We've have to offer half-assed support and QA if we supported more than a handful of specific distros.

      Then there are the services. We have to keep things like LDAP and NIS in a known state, and each distro has it's own disitinct flavour. And the third-parties. We depend on some third-party apps, and these must be certified, at the right level, for each distro, for these exact same reasons. Most enterprise solutions do not exist in a vacuum; most depend on a whole slew of third-party app and integrations into services and devices. Open standards can only go so far in the real world (we've found).

      Sorry; I love Linux, but corporate customer have far different needs than I do in my cubicle at work, or on my play box at home. There are just too many unknowns to risk fubarring our customers world. These unknowns exist whether or not an app is well-designed and properly robust.

      This is not to say we won't support Debian or Gento or whatever. It just means that until you come along and ask us to support one of those distros or platforms, we will not certifiy it with our app suite. We've done it for FreeBSD for one single customer. We need a business case to proceed with a new platform, and we've found that each distro can behave as if it was just another UNIX platform for us: it needs to be smoke-tested and QA'd, or it will break at the exact wrong moment for our customers.

  • by atari2600 (545988) on Thursday August 21, 2003 @05:31PM (#6759652)
    Does the general /. public know what is going with Novell and Ximian? (apart from the Netware admins). This is what one Netware admin had to say:

    Novell needs a new loading OS kernel to build Netware on. DOS certainly has reached it limitations with scalability and security so linux is an obvious solution. They'll still maintain their same environment and NDS tho. But scalability is their main push. E-Directory (NDS) loads on WinNT/2k/2K3 and linux.... but keeping it in its native environment is still the most stable of course.

    And the CEO's answer to a question:

    CRN: What do you think of Novell buying Ximian? Does this bode well for Linux adoption on the desktop? Seibt: I would take this as a fact that Novell is taking Linux very, very seriously, and it's another fact that they are not concerned about any lawsuit. They simply believe that Linux is something that is a huge value for the customer. Think about what CA [Computer Associates] just did. They did a survey with their customers about why customers are deploying Linux. [Customers] named five reasons: performance, reliability, scalability, security and total cost of ownership, which came in fifth. What does this mean? Everybody is talking about total cost of ownership, and no doubt this is very important, because all of us have to reduce IT budgets. But customers named four other reasons. These reasons are strategic reasons why to deploy Linux. ... This is a competitive advantage to Windows because this is not something you can get with [Windows].

    Well what?
    • Enterprise customers want a choice and it's about more than just price or TCO, so they realize it is in their interest to have at least one strong competitor to Microsoft.

      On a different subject. Since Novell is hitching its star to Linux, maybe they can help by doing automated comparisons of the Linux code base against System V (similar to what SCO claims to have done) and reporting its findings so any problems can be cleared up and/or SCO's FUD can be countered with facts. They have access to both code

  • by Otter (3800) on Thursday August 21, 2003 @05:32PM (#6759661) Journal
    [H]e claims such things as 'Linux means two companies: Red Hat and SuSE, and nobody else.'

    C'mon -- the guy is a non-native English speaker and the context makes it perfectly clear what he's saying. He said that from the perspective of commercial Unix vendors, there are two Linux distributions they actively consider.

    I'm a Gentoo and Yellow Dog user, but the shrieking in just the first 10 comments is completely misplaced.

    • I dont see how there are only two linux distributions that companies consider from moving from unix to linux . If I was considering moving from unix to linux why would I pick redhat? If I am running unix systems they are probably servers , not end user machines . Redhat is a stupid choice to replace unix (rpm is horrible , bloated, and thats about it) . SuSe on the other hand would probably be considered by enterprises looking at doing a switch from unix to linux and have some novell and or lotus systems th
    • by Bingo Foo (179380) on Thursday August 21, 2003 @05:44PM (#6759793)
      the shrieking in just the first 10 comments is completely misplaced.

      On Slashdot? You're kidding, right?

  • RTFA. (Score:5, Informative)

    by pclminion (145572) on Thursday August 21, 2003 @05:33PM (#6759670)
    The guy said that RedHat and SuSE are the two distributions that are going to be supported by IT vendors for the forseeable future. The guy isn't claiming that RedHat and SuSE are the only two Linux distros, that would be utterly insane.

    He's saying that as far as the corporate world goes, Linux == RedHat | SuSE. If you buy a pre-installed Linux box from some IT vendor somewhere, it will have RedHat or SuSE on it. This is basically true.

    So don't jump the gun on tearing this guy a new asshole.

    • Re:RTFA. (Score:3, Informative)

      by vsprintf (579676)

      He's saying that as far as the corporate world goes, Linux == RedHat | SuSE. If you buy a pre-installed Linux box from some IT vendor somewhere, it will have RedHat or SuSE on it. This is basically true.

      There are some small companies like HP [hp.com] that also offer Mandrake.

  • I'll stay with the turtle (Debian), 'cause we all know what happens at the end. The turtle poops all over the hare (SuSe). /me makey jokey joke/
  • Only two companies? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Gherald (682277) on Thursday August 21, 2003 @05:35PM (#6759700) Journal
    Linux means two companies: Red Hat and SuSE, and nobody else. There will be no third distribution that will be supported by the large IT vendors.

    Thats bullshit.

    HP/Compaq bundles Mandrake. [mozillaquest.com]

    And certifies systems for Redhat, SuSE, Mandrake, and TurboLinux. [hp.com]

    If HP isn't considerd a "large IT vendor," who is?
    • by alext (29323)
      It might be a generalization, but IME the remark does not deserve to be termed "bullshit".

      In the UK, I've been working recently for a number of telcos and banks and without exception SuSE and RedHat are the only distros used for line-of-business applications.

      Other distributions, where installed, are being replaced as part of general consolidation and management plans. Support for RH and SuSE from IT vendors such as Oracle and BEA is the main factor, but this coupled with the need to standardize results in
  • It would be nice if we could get Linus, RMS and ESR to together pen a statement (together, so that their individual quirks will roughly even each other out ;) ) stating that Linux isn't just about two companies, or even about companies at all. Linux existed before any companies were supporting it, and it will exist afterwards.

    And if he doesn't take back this silly, new-wave corporo-capitalist nonsense ("Linux is about two companies"? What, is he learning economics from Bill Gates or Darl McBride?), we sh
  • He's right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GoatPigSheep (525460) on Thursday August 21, 2003 @05:36PM (#6759711) Homepage Journal
    Especially about red hat. Red hat is the closest to a profitable, properly run, professional company in the linux world. Suse is quite respectable too, and they have a great product to back it up. While other linux distros do matter, they don't show up on the professional radar for most people.

    Arguing about whether or not to use GNU in your name, or which GUI is more "free" than the other is irrelevant to most companies. They want good products, not irrelevant nerd-speak. Red Hat and Suse have forged past the anarchistic free-for-all attitude of hackers and made Linux much more approachable. Anyone who says otherwise is probably just jealous of their success...

  • by greymond (539980) on Thursday August 21, 2003 @05:36PM (#6759712) Homepage Journal
    Granted there are all kinds of linux flavors and distro under the sun, but walking down the street in anytown USA you ask any given person "hay you ever heard of linux?" or "could you tell us the name of a linux distribution/company you have heard of?" and most common answers will be Redhat, Suse, and Mandrake - in that order.

    Red Hat has pushed Linux into the spot light more than any other company has - ok this is where I get flamed - but honestly what companies other than Red Hat have targeted more than the fat-guru-programmer stereotype nix user. Gentoo and Slackware definaetly don't expect anyone but a power user to even touch there distros. Mandrake trys to be a friendly nix distro, but they constantly beg their users to donate money and can barely keep from going bankrupt. Red Hat and Suse are the only 2 companies that have successfully made money selling linux to both corporations and home users, and of the 2 Red Hat is by far more "KNOWN"
  • by compwizrd (166184) on Thursday August 21, 2003 @05:36PM (#6759716) Homepage
    Even more interesting is when you consider SCO just hired an ex-SuSE VP of International Business, to be the VP of SCOSource.

    And that McBride comes from being a VP at Novell...

    The SCO Group Announces Appointment of Gregory Blepp [yahoo.com]

  • by r00zky (622648)
    It's my view that the industry has decided there is one main operating system competitor to Microsoft, and that is Linux. Linux means two companies: Red Hat and SuSE, and nobody else. There will be no third distribution that will be supported by the large IT vendors.

    This kind of polarization is usual behaviour when you have several smaller opponents, as a example: political parties in "non-bipartidist" systems use it frequently.
  • strikes at /. once again...w00t

    2, and I guess 3 commercial entities (IE COMPANIES) produce Linux distro's. Lots of other distro's available from many other sources but NOT COMMERCIALLY PRODUCED....
  • by dopplex (242543) on Thursday August 21, 2003 @05:40PM (#6759756)
    I think too much is being read into this comment. For one, it's obvious English is not this guy's first language from the text. Secondly, he seemed to be addressing Linux as it pertained to larger corporations. As far as large companies go, Suse and Red Hat likely ARE the only two distros they're really concerned with. They're the ones that have the parterships with the likes of IBM and Sun after all. He's not delusional - he's just not talking about what everyone seems to think he is.
  • ...after all, we're all waiting with baited breath for that Yellow Dog IPO. The corporate world loves nothing more than diversity, and will embrace all kinds of wacky, different platforms.

    Big money in getting a 3% sliver of that 10% market share! Am I right?

    Am I right, people?

  • by hankaholic (32239) on Thursday August 21, 2003 @05:45PM (#6759802)
    Okay, everybody calm down.

    First of all, I really don't think that this interview was very interesting.

    What seems to have gotten it onto Slashdot was his "only two distros" comment. However, what the person submitting the story left out was one minor detail: context.

    He said HP, Sun, etc., are mostly backing off from pushing their own proprietary operating systems and opting to push Linux-based products. In that context, there are two highly relevant Linux distributions: Redhat and SuSE.

    Can you name another distro with the resources to provide support to a major hardware vendor deploying Linux?

    Isn't it amazing how much less interesting and inflammatory his comment seems with a little context surrounding it?
  • Most importantly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by foniksonik (573572) on Thursday August 21, 2003 @05:53PM (#6759873) Homepage Journal
    It doesn't matter whether Red Hat and SUSE are most popular right now, maybe they deserve to be.

    What's most important is that with Linux there is no way that they can prevent any other company that decides to step up and bring a distro to market.

    This fact will keep them on their toes via the omnipresent shadow of the unknown competitor just around the corner and it means that even if they decide to abandon Linux ten years from now, any of the other distros can come in a take up the slack.

  • Right and wrong (Score:5, Informative)

    by markus_baertschi (259069) <markus@ m a r k u s . o rg> on Thursday August 21, 2003 @05:58PM (#6759901)

    While many vendors do support other distributions than the big two (RH & SuSE) this is mostly on the desktop. Support on the server side for large servers is pretty much restricted to these two. This is true for hardware also If you want support for larger SMP's, SAN, etc there are not many drivers for other distros. Usually you can just go ahead and try, but if something does not work the support line will tell you to replace your distro xxx with RH/SuSE where thei support it.

    I've been involved in quite a few new Linux customer projects. All the time third party software (Oracle, SAP, DB2, etc) was involved as well. The only distros which are *certified* to run this stuff are Rh and SuSE. And customers do want certified installations !

    Personally I'm happily running debian and gentoo, but I haven't come across commercial installation of these distributions yet.

    Markus

  • In that case... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by alexandre (53) on Thursday August 21, 2003 @05:58PM (#6759903) Homepage Journal
    according to netcraft, if linux means 2 things, it is RedHat and Debian :)
  • I think he's right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kphrak (230261) on Thursday August 21, 2003 @06:18PM (#6760066) Homepage

    After seeing all the outraged comments on here ("Waddyamean he thinks my copy of Gentoo isn't a distro?!"), I'm surprised, because I think he's right (at least, in terms of corporate distros). Before any holy warriors mod me down for saying this, I should provide a disclaimer...OK...here goes...I am a distro bigot, and I would never use anything but Slackware (if it's my decision to make), because all the major distros are disgustingly bloated. Slackware -- it rocks. RH/SuSE/etc -- they suck. Just the facts, ma'am. *ducks*

    Now that we've got that important fact out of the way, let's look at Oracle. Last I checked, Slackware, Gentoo, and other distros that lean further toward the hobbyist/programmer/hacker end of things were not supported by Oracle -- it was only SuSE and RedHat. It's not just Oracle -- as a general rule, if you find some proprietary software that they're trying to make a Linux port of, and they name a distro, it's about 90% likely to "support" RedHat and maybe 40% likely to "support" SuSE.

    Reason for the quotes around "support" would be that most of the time, a specific distro is not needed. It's the same kernel and most of the same FS setup (well, Slackware's init scripts are a little bit bett^H^H^H^Hdifferent, since they follow BSD instead of SysV). However, naming the distro supplies a corporation with the perfect ass-covering if it's something their tech-support hasn't been trained on. "What, you don't use RedHat? Well, I'm sorry, but we can't support your software. Even though you paid us $5,000 this quarter for gold-level support. It's broken -- you fix it."

    It comes of picking something very specific to train $6.50/hr helpdesk personnel who aren't likely to investigate and learn a new distro. Plus a reason I can sympathize a bit more with: If the customer is breathing down the company's neck to fix this problem that they had with a homebrew distro some BOFH in the customer's IT dept. crafted, it will cost a lot of time, money, and perhaps contracts (as the customer gets more impatient) to get it fixed. Better to go with an extremely common standard, even though they are the lowest common denominator in terms of distros.

    So I agree -- to the corporate world, there are only SuSE and RedHat distros. The rest just aren't supported.

    • Distros for Oracle (Score:3, Informative)

      by dstone (191334)
      Here [oracle.com] are the distros currently supported by Oracle.

      Yes, it's mostly just RedHat and SuSE that are supported by Oracle. Actually, SuSE just falls under UnitedLinux alongside SCO and some others. Not just any SuSE, either. The personal edition of SuSE you can download for free is not supported. You need Advanced or Enterprise Server versions of RedHat, SuSE, and other distros in order to be actually "supported" by Oracle.

      That said, I'm sucessfully running Oracle 8i on Slackware and Oracle 9i on free S
  • by Bun (34387) on Thursday August 21, 2003 @06:56PM (#6760414)
    'Linux means two companies: Red Hat and SuSE, and nobody else.' Another example of this kind of corporatespeak can be found in another interview he did with ZDNet last week.
    Trying to stir up a little controversy? It seems the quote is deliberately shortened. If you include the next sentence, Richard Seibt is merely stating the obvious:
    "Linux means two companies: Red Hat and SuSE, and nobody else. There will be no third distribution that will be supported by the large IT vendors."

    Tough to argue with that.
  • by kitzilla (266382) <paperfrog AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday August 21, 2003 @08:06PM (#6760966) Homepage Journal
    Whoever summarized the article really took offense to the "two distros" comment. That's a pity: SuSE is a good community citizen, and has gone a long way toward making Linux acceptable to the corporate and government crowd. They're also convinced Linux belongs on the desktop--as opposed to (for instance) Red Hat, which seems to have decided Linux desktops are for hobbyists.

    He's right, by the way: the IT world is concentrating on SuSE and RH right now. That doesn't mean Gentoo/Debian/Mandrake/Slackware and the rest don't have a place, but none of these distros have done much to get themselves certified for government adoption. SuSE has. Power to 'em.

    I like SuSE, and have put 8.2 Professional on five machines in the past few months. My friends love it. It's an easy install, and yast is a convenient manager. SuSE goes naturally with KDE.

    The only computer in my life that isn't running SuSE is my iBook, which uses Yellow Dog 3.0. It's tough to beat Terrasoft's Mac hardware support.

    I'm happy to buy from a company that's passionate about the platform and knows how to play hardball with Microsoft.
  • by Walles (99143) <johan.walles@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Friday August 22, 2003 @03:31AM (#6763068)
    Netcraft says [netcraft.com]:

    Despite the abscence of funding, Debian is the second most popular Linux distribution we find on internet web sites, surpassed only by Red Hat, and leaving the likes of SuSE and Mandrake in its wake.

    So if Netcraft are to be believed, Richard Seibt seems to be right in that it is a two distro world; its just that SuSE isn't one of them.

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