It was a mere 20 years ago when the buzz of Linux was starting to hit its stride. Everywhere you looked, there was a different flavor of Linux. There were nearly too many to count. And, these were not just hobbyist distros. Instead, they were corporations rising like corn stalks all over the place. Sure, there were more dominant players, but one had the ability to analyze at least 10 different fully corporate supported distributions when making a decision. With that amount of possibilities, the environment was ripe for consolidation or elimination. And, we have all watched that take place. But, did we ever think we were going to find ourselves in the current predicament?
The data that has been collected over the past five years paints a concerning picture. Even a mere five years ago, it seemed likely that at a minimum RedHat would always have Suse as a legitimate competitor. After all, those were the two distros that seemed to win the consolidation and elimination war. At least in the corporate space. As was widely reported during that time, RedHat had somewhere in the neighborhood of 70% marketshare. It was always the gorilla in the room. But, Suse was always looked upon as an eager and willing participant, no matter its stature, and tended to garner most of the remaining marketshare. That is the way it appeared for a length of time prior to this decline over the past few years.
When analyzing searches for either RHEL (RedHat Enterprise Linux), the numbers have remained steady over the last five years. A little surprising to say the least. Surely, one would have thought given RedHat's presence, the numbers would have increased. One possibility, perhaps a little concerning nonetheless, is that RedHat has now become synonymous with Linux. Is it possible that RedHat's dominance has gotten to a point where the sheer mention of the name is no longer viewed as necessary by corporations? Seems plausible.
Whatever the reason, the concern is obviously with Suse. While the RHEL score has slightly increased, the numbers for SLES have gone the opposite direction and declined or remained steady at the best. That is much more than just a lost customer here or there. Of course, we are going by what corporations are looking for in their job descriptions, so there is always going to be room for error on what is truly happening inside corporate walls. No matter, it is clear that Suse is not providing the level of competition it once had.
What about CentOS, the RedHat variant? Not surprisingly, this fully compatible, community supported distribution that closely mirrors RHEL has remained flat. Just like the operating system it mimics. Thus, the problem seems to be squarely with Suse. I am sure the litany of acquisitions it has been through has probably not helped matters. From selling out to Novell, to being acquired by Attachmate, to now being part of Micro Focus, Suse has surely seen a whirlwind of various corporate structures. All the while RedHat had remained independent until being acquired by IBM a year ago.
Thus, here we are. What once was a vast landscape has been whittled down to nearly one. Sure, the open source software movement was built on openly available code. That is and will always be its core. And, for that, the possibility of a monopoly was eliminated. But, there was always hope that the benefit of it being open would result in choice. I know that is what got me first intrigued about this space 20 years ago. And, from an operating system perspective, that seems to be diminishing. It is as if nothing was learned about the predicament corporations would gripe about before the advent of Linux. As they say, history tends to repeat itself. Thank goodness everyone has access to the code.