Frederick NORONHA on Sun, 28 Feb 1999 20:40:36 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> From India: View of Linux, Apache

Emerging Economies Like India Will Benefit From Linux, Apache

Interview with Bob Young, CEO, Red Hat Software
by Madanmohan Rao (
//Edited version appeared in The Economic Times; February 25, 1999//

The breathtaking rise of open source software (OSS), including Linux, has
forced media, governments, academics and software producers to take it
seriously. More than 10 million users currently run the Linux operating
system, invented eight years ago by Finnish programmer Linus Torvalds at
the University of Helsinki. Apache, the Linux-based Web server, has been
the most popular server on the Internet since April 1996. 

Red Hat Software ( distributes Linux and Apache on Intel,
DEC Alpha and Sun SPARC platforms. Robert Young, CEO of Red Hat, joins us
in this interview from his office in Research Triangle Park, North

Q: Red Hat recently scored a major victory through the Mexican
government’s choice of Linux and Apache for wiring Mexican schools. What
special advantages can cash-strapped organisations in developing nations
find in Red Hat? 

A: We are indeed quite pleased that the Mexican government’s ScholarNet
program chose to install Linux and Apache in 140,000 elementary- and
middle-school computer labs around the country. 

Wired magazine reported that the price tag for proprietary software alone
on the project would have been about $124 million. Instead, the Mexican
government turned to us -- we distribute Linux at a cost of $50 for a pair
of installation CDs and a manual, and our version of Linux can be copied
as many times as necessary at no extra charge. It is also available as a
free download off the Net. 

Among emerging economies, we see Asian countries like China as a prime
market. We have been working with, and will continue to work with, the
United Nations Development Program's catalytic initiative, the Sustainable
Development Networking Program (SDNP). It provides a wide variety of Red
Hat software and support materials to 40 developing countries worldwide
where SDNP has operations. 

SDNP currently offers assistance in establishing connectivity to national
networks and the Internet, content provision and aggregation, and user
training. The Red Hat/SDNP initiative has already been successful in

Many other governments like those of Mexico can provide world-class
education for their students; many of them do not have the financial
resources to even consider proprietary technologies. The beauty of Red Hat
Linux and other open-source technologies is that they provide cutting edge
technology and worldwide support at a minimal cost. 

Q: How have your company and its offerings grown since its founding in
1994? How are you leveraging the explosion of the OSS movement? 

A: When we began, we had only 20 people in our company. We have grown
considerably, and are now shipping 500,000 copies of Red Hat Linux on an
annual basis, only counting the copies that we are being paid for. Many
individuals and companies use free copies of Red Hat Linux that they
download off of our Web site or borrow from their friends -- all quite

We now have localised versions of Red Hat Linux in France, Italy, Germany,
Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and Brazil. 

Linux and Apache are finding widespread acceptance. According to IDC
Research, Linux was the fastest-growing server operating environment in
1998, capturing more than 17 percent of all server OS shipments. The
January 1999 WWW server site survey by Netcraft found that over 53% of the
Web sites on the Internet are using Apache, thus making it more widely
used than all other Web servers combined. 

International Data Group has launched an online magazine devoted to Linux,
called LinuxWorld ( IDG will also produce the first
LinuxWorld Conference and Expo next month at the San Jose Convention
Center in California. IDG says the Linux market ranks among the
most-noticed new technology markets, with an annual growth rate exceeding
100 percent. 

Leveraging on this growth, we have now formed an Enterprise Computing
Division to offer enterprise grade products and services to support
global, mission-critical applications. We have struck numerous alliances
with IT companies in this regard. Intel, Netscape and venture capital
firms Greylock and Benchmark Partners recently took minority equity
positions in our company. 

Q: What kind of effect has the investment by Intel and Netscape had? 

A: This high-profile investment has opened doors for us in large
corporations who were previously nervous about using an operating system
from the small company we were prior to those investments. 

Dell, the No. 1 personal workstation supplier worldwide and the second
largest supplier of servers in the U.S., is now offering online sales of
the retail version of Red Hat Linux. 

Hewlett-Packard intends to port Linux to its platforms based on the IA 64
architecture, and we have formed an alliance with HP to provide end-to-end
service and support for HP customers using Linux. HP NetServer LPr clients
include leading ISPs like PSINet. 

Q: How has the Internet boosted the visibility and utility of your
Linux/Apache suite? 

A:  The Internet has been central to our success. Of the 10 million Linux
users, IDC reports that Red Hat has the majority of those users (54.5%).
We have been able to build a user base of over 5,000,000 users with only a
very limited advertising and marketing budget, because of the power of the
Internet to distribute the news about our "better" Operating System. 

In addition to dominance on WWW servers, Apache represents an equivalent
number of Intranet servers used within corporations. In effect, the
Internet and Web serving are the "killer apps" driving the adoption of Red
Hat Linux. 

One of the principal strengths of Linux as a development platform is its
low-level access for Web developers and administrators. With its
combination of low price, good configurability, and fine performance,
Apache is a good choice for those who have at least some Unix experience,
and is quite popular among ISPs. 

Q: What are some of the key challenges you face in gaining marketshare? 

A: The market is very enthusiastic about our technology, products and
services. I suppose the biggest challenge will be to grow the business
fast enough to serve all the new customers who are demanding our products! 

We are also entering the desktop market, and have been addressing the
challenges here in making our products much more user-friendly. Linux
versions of popular apps such as Netscape's Communicator Web browser and
Corel's Word Perfect word processor are being improved. In addition, Linux
benefits from a wealth of UNIX freeware products. 

Q: Was it difficult for you to create value perceptions for Red Hat
Linux/Apache, since corporations may have been reluctant to trust an
unconventional “free” product? 

A: What customers are paying for is convenience and quality. The fact that
the software is free is not as important to corporates as the fact that
the server performs well in manageability, scalability and reliability. 

We basically give away the technology in order to sell the services and
support that the enterprise-level corporate customers need. And we now
have the backing of established, trusted IT brands. 

For instance, the five leading providers of database software Oracle,
Informix, Computer Associates, Sybase and IBM have all announced plans to
support Red Hat Linux. 

And at the recent Networld+Interop show, the Red Hat Secure Web Server 2.0
was named a top performer in the Network Applications category of the Best
of Show Awards competition, by “Data Communications” and “LANTimes”
editors. Such recognition will help us bring products like the Secure Web
Server to the mission-critical enterprise level. 

Q: What major application vendors have ported or will port their suites to
Linux platforms? 

A: Corel has released a Linux version of WordPerfect
(, and InterBase, a subsidiary of Inprise (formerly
Borland International), has ported its database to Linux. Oracle,
Informix, Sybase, IBM, Hewlett Packard, are just a few of the companies
who are selling software on the Red Hat Linux OS. 

Q: Microsoft has reportedly been concerned about the open-source threat to
its NT market, from Linux, Apache Web server code, and Netscape's open
source initiative for Communicator. How do you view the challenge for
competitors in the proprietary software category? 

A: We have a lot of respect for companies like Microsoft, but we are also
delivering an open operating system that offers benefits that Microsoft is
unable to deliver. IT professionals can develop and fine-tune applications
that run on the Linux operating system to create more reliable solutions
than with proprietary binary-only operating systems. 

So we do expect that Red Hat will continue to grow rapidly. The computer
marketplace is very big. 

Q: Any other parting comments or advice for software developers,
corporates, and government infotech planners around the world? 

A: I suspect that the technical folks don't need my words of wisdom --
they understand the benefits of software that comes with complete source
code very well! 

But the corporate and governmental planners should consider the dramatic
savings that are now possible because of the much better price/performance
ratios that are available using the Red Hat Linux OS compared to using
expensive proprietary OSs. 

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