No one denies Linux has a worldwide presence, representing a substantial
portion of the server market. But the big question is: Can companies make
money from Linux? In the sober investment environment, this is the question
all companies must answer. And the answer must be very convincing.
Of course, Linux software is free. So Linux companies need to be
imaginative with their business models. The most popular model is to
provide companies with value-added services and technologies.
One of my favorite Linux companies is
, which has been
showing strength lately. In fact, it appears that Linux may make money, as
the company has indicated it will reach profitability in 2001.
But it could be sooner. Yesterday, RedHat shot-up 4-13/16 to 30-3/16 on news
that it will team with Dell
on Linux server offerings. It was a gutsy move for Dell, which has been a loyal
member of the Microsoft Windows empire.
The deal was a simple matter of economics. In the past year, Linux server
sales at Dell have been doubling each quarter. What’s more, in the
competitive marketplace for computer hardware, Linux is attractive because
there are no licensing fees (such as to Microsoft).
But RedHat will not be the only company to benefit. I also think VA Linux
should do quite
well. Surely, it is already been showing nice results. In the past quarter,
revenues were $34.6 million, a 710% increase from the same quarter a year
ago and a 71% sequential increase. Losses were $4.5 million.
In the Linux market, building value-added technologies is vitally important.
To this end, VA Linux has made several technology acquisitions, such as
TruSolutions and NetAttach (adding such things as network attach storage to
its Linux servers).
Another key to Linux is developing a community of developers. After all,
community is what made Linux great. VA Linux recently purchased
Andover.Net, a leading community site that gets more than 70 million
targeted page views per month.
The founder and Chairman of RedHat, Robert Young, has made an interesting
observation of high-tech. First, there were minicomputers. Then came PCs.
Next, there was the Internet. And now there is the open-source movement.
At the heart of the Linux movement is sharing — benefiting from the
collective brainpower of the world’s technical talent. In this environment,
no company can stand alone.