Mandriva Fights For No. 3 Slot In Linux Corporate Market


Red Hat and Novell have become de facto standards in the commercial world. Yet one longtime Linux distributor is betting that corporate customers won't settle for a two-horse race.

Paris-based Mandriva, formerly known as Mandrakesoft, last week unveiled global partnerships with Intel and Hewlett-Packard and plans for a major corporate push based on its Mandriva 2006 product line, complete with corporate server and a new SMB bundle.

The company is best known for its appealing desktop and broad international support. Its products are based on a derivative of Red Hat and are available in more than 70 languages.

Mandriva CEO Francois Bancilhon last week said his company tanked after the dot-com bubble burst but is staging a comeback based on its new product line and acquisitions of Linux distributor Conectiva in Brazil and assets from U.S. Linux desktop publisher Lycoris. "We're back in black," he said, maintaining that Mandriva is the third-largest publisher of Linux with between 6 million and 8 million users worldwide.

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Analysts say there is room for a third player, citing IBM's support for an African Linux distribution called Ubuntu.

Yet Mandriva will face challenges building new brand awareness, said David Rosenberg, principal analyst at Open Source Development Labs. Mandriva's name change became official last week. "It will be a bit tough," he said. "I don't know that Mandriva has the horsepower. The name change diluted the brand."

Mandriva has a direct sales model and a growing professional services organization via its purchase of the Edge IT services firm in France, Still, the company has a handful of U.S. resellers and is open to growing its base, Bancilhon said.

One reseller has 25 customers running Mandriva and is optimistic about the new corporate line. "There are more than three versions of Unix, so certainly there is room for another play in Linux," said Albert Whale, senior consultant at ABS Computer Technology, Pittsburgh. "I convert my customers from Red Hat or Suse [Linux] because they like the look and feel of the Mandriva GUI; it is more fluid and flowing, and the server is enterprise-ready."