Mandriva has been no stranger to trouble since the dot-com crash of 2001. Like many, the company went from crisis to crisis and Mandriva — then MandrakeSoft — filed for bankruptcy protection in early 2004. More recently it has faced increased competition with Suse Linux's acquisition by Novell and Red Hat's continuing growth, not to mention a new version of Windows coming on the horizon. On the consumer front, traditionally Mandriva's strong suit, Ubuntu has become the Linux flavour of choice.
Recent quarters have seen the company recovering, mainly as a result of relentless cost-cutting — the most recent round of layoffs claimed co-founder Gael Duval among others.
Now Mandriva is hoping a completely new product lineup will help change its fortunes and win more enterprise customers. Last year it acquired Brazilian Linux distributor Conectiva and on 14 September it released a revamp to its enterprise product — Corporate Server 4.0. The next few weeks will see the release of Mandriva 2007 for consumers as well as for corporate desktops.
Mandriva's big customers include enterprises and public sector accounts such as HSBC, IBM, HP, Siemens, Generali and the Brazilian Army, Navy and Air Force, and the company has a strong consumer presence in Brazil, where it sells 30,000 Mandriva-equipped PCs a month at retail.
Following the launch of Corporate Server 4.0, ZDNet UK spoke to Mandriva chief executive François Bancilhon on how Mandriva plans to win over the enterprise.
Q: After a bad quarter at the beginning of the year, Mandriva did some cost cutting. How have things been going since then?
A: After Q1, we decided to cut back on staff in Europe and South America. Those cost reductions have been effective, and the situation is much better. We should be back in the black in the next quarter, that is, Q4 of 2006. It took a few quarters to re-establish the situation, but we're happy with what we see now. We have two sets of new products, for the consumer, with Mandriva 2007, and for the corporate market with Corporate Server 4.0. That will give us a boost.
What are you doing to attract enterprises with Corporate Server?
With the new version we changed the way we did things a bit. A key feature is we found that most of the time, when you deploy a server, you specialise it into a mail server, file/print server, firewall server, and so on.
This is how we built the new installer, so that people can choose to focus on one type of function or the other, making it very simple. You can install a specialised server in less than 10 minutes, which is a pretty good number. We spent a lot of time working on the installer, which is called FIBRIC. We tested this on about 300 beta testers, and incorporated that into the product.
The second thing is virtualisation. There are a lot of virtualisation technologies out there, and we serve all of them, to give people the ability to choose one or another. We support Xen, VMware and something which is a little bit newer, SWsoft's OpenVZ. We have a strong relationship with them. It has whatever you need to get started, built into the product. We're the only one to support the three types.
The third thing is directory integration. We found people spend a lot of time connecting a server to a directory, whether it's Active Directory, LDAP or another, so we made sure all the components of the directory are properly integrated, so that it's easy to do.
Of course, we've also ported Corporate Server onto many different hardware architectures, through working closely with Intel, HP, Dell, IBM and others. We believe we've got pretty good coverage of what the market needs.
We came from the consumer market, and we've come a long way. We believe what we are offering now is very robust; we've got a very strong corporate product we can be proud of.
How does all this compare with what competitors such as Red Hat and Novell have to offer?
We're the only one that supports the three virtualisation types. The directory integration is pretty new. On the time needed to install and deploy the server, we're way ahead of what you can get from our dear friends and competitors.
There are a few other...