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Does The Microsoft-Novell Pact Favor Red Hat?

What is the impact on Linux distribution usage of the Novell patent deal with Microsoft? According to open source enterprise content management (ECM) vendor Alfresco, it's driving users to Red Hat.

Alfresco asked 15,000 people between April and June about the way they deploy Alfresco's ECM solution. According to the Alfresco survey, Red Hat users tripled during the study period while Novell SUSE usage remained flat. In a statement, Ian Howells, chief marketing officer at Alfresco, alleged that the divergence between Red Hat and Novell in terms of usage is related to the November deal between Novell and Microsoft.

"This finding suggests that customers may not like the terms of the deal as more information became public," Howells said in a statement.

However, in an interview with internetnews.com, Howells admitted that he lacked that empirical evidence to back up his allegation.

"All we've got is the raw statistics," Howells said. "We expected general trends to be similar, but what we saw was a big divergence going from the two platforms being almost the same to one tripling in size. We were looking at various reasons for that, and there may be a number of reasons for that but we don't actually know the specific reason."

Among the other reasons why Red Hat users may well have increased is the emergence of a new Red Hat release -- Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 (RHEL) -- which was released in mid-March just a few weeks ahead of when the Alfresco study began. Novell on the other hand had no similar product launch event at any point near the Alfresco study.

Howells also admitted that the Alfresco study did not ask respondents which version of RHEL they were using. The study also did not identify any RHEL clone users, such as CentOS or Oracle Enterprise Linux.

Beyond the Linux distribution statistics, the Alfresco study also found that among the 15,000 respondents many were evaluated on Windows platforms and then actually deployed on Linux. Howells noted that the Windows users' breakdown was 64 percent running Window XP and 27 percent on Windows Server 2003.

He admitted that the survey did not reveal whether the users were evaluating Alfresco on a notebook installation or on a server.

In terms of the stack that users preferred, the study found that respondents leaned toward Apache Tomcat or JBoss over proprietary offerings from IBM , Sun or BEA . The survey revealed a similar trend for databases, with respondents exhibiting a preference toward MySQL and PostgreSQL, though Oracle was noted as being the most popular proprietary choice.

Though Howells had alleged that users were not in favor of the Novell Microsoft deal, he does see a future trend emerging where open and proprietary co-exist in the solution stack.

"I think we're going to get a combined stack of open source and proprietary software, and people are going to choose different things at different levels," Howells said. "Twelve months from now, people will be talking about more 'How does Oracle work with JBoss? than 'How do I do Linux MySQL, JBoss and OpenOffice?'"