Red Hat leads the Linux-driven server market -- mostly because of Red Hat's ability to work closely with Independent Software Vendors (ISVs). But two recent moves by Canonical and Novell, respectively, show promise on the Ubuntu and SUSE Linux ISV fronts. Here are the details.

Let's start with Canonical, which recently hired Alfresco veteran Matt Asay as its new chief operating officer. Take a close look at Asay's bio out on CNet, where he blogs, and you'll find the following info:
He serves on the advisory boards of the following open-source companies: MuleSource, Kaltura, SugarCRM, JasperSoft, Loopfuse, Openbravo, Volantis, rSmart, MindTouch, Intoto, and Radview. He has an equity interest in these companies. He is an adviser to Sage Leadership with no financial or equity interest in the organization.
Asay's business relationships across the open source market could serve Canonical well. As part of the Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx) launch, Canonical has been working overtime to develop more ISV relationships.

Of course, Asay faces a chicken vs. the egg challenge with Ubuntu. On the one hand, some server software developers won't support the operating system until customer demand increases. But on the other hand, customers won't demand Ubuntu until more server applications arrive.

Still, initial ISV support often starts with tight, like-minded business relationships. Asay's Rolodex can potentially strengthen Canonical's ongoing discussions with numerous open source ISVs.

Novell Gets Down to Basics

Meanwhile, Novell apparently has some momentum going around SUSE Studio and the SUSE Appliance Toolkit.

Novell's growing focus on software appliances has earned generally upbeat feedback from bloggers and software developers alike. The approach, in theory, allows ISVs to rapidly write SUSE Linux applications that have specific purposes in mind -- such as database management, systems management or collaboration.

Since its July 2009 release, SUSE Studio has built more than 250,000 appliances and has nearly 55,000 registered users worldwide, according to Novell statements from January 2010.

Our resident blogger is impressed.

Should Red Hat Worry?

Of course, The VAR Guy needs to keep the Canonical and Novell moves in perspective. Especially amid continued momentum over at Red Hat.

As Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst recently wrote:
Red Hat has grown at double-digit rates in both revenue and headcount throughout the course of the recession.
Red Hat's channel partners are also profiting. In Red Hat’s third quarter ending Nov. 30, 2009, the channel generated 62 percent of indirect bookings, versus 59 percent in the prior quarter, Whitehurst wrote.

No doubt, Red Hat has also pushed beyond the Linux market -- enjoying growing JBoss middleware momentum as the company also tries t0 push deeper into the virtualization market.

Still, Red Hat can't rest on its Linux laurels. Asay's arrival at Canonical, and the appliance strategy at Novell, will surely energize competition in the Linux market.