Though Mandriva has been a popular Linux desktop distribution for many years, the company early last year found itself in a tough spot financially. Since then, Mandriva has undergone some major changes, adopting a new enterprise focus and creating an independent nonprofit foundation to carry on the Mandriva open source community work. The company also recently joined The Linux Foundation, a sign that Mandriva is "back in the game," says CEO Jean-Manuel Croset. Here, he discusses how the company turned around, its new enterprise server and cloud products and its relationship to the new OpenMandriva foundation.
Q: Mandriva is a popular desktop distribution but the company has recently changed its focus from desktop Linux to enterprise computing and the cloud. What is driving this change?
Jean-Manuel Croset: Historically Mandriva has been a desktop player. Our first products were fundamentally all desktop products, even though we had made significant insights on the server. The desktop market has changed since 1998, and it has evolved in quite exciting ways, not just in terms of "form factors" but in terms of desktop players as well.
Mandriva was not able, for a variety of reasons, to evolve its desktop products and we came to a point where sat down and wondered what we could do, who we really are and what our core values here. We indeed felt that enterprise and cloud computing were two fields we had to invest in and reposition ourselves on. But the decision of shifting was not made just for the sake of shifting.
The coherence with our values of openness, elegance, ease of use and independence may be found in all the new products we're launching and our vision: to design and offer intuitive professional solutions that power the daily business
of companies and governmental agencies with a focus on reliability and data privacy.
Q: What can Linux users expect from Mandriva enterprise products this year?
Croset: Mostly two products. We first have Pulse 2, our IT infrastructure management platform that manages Linux and non-Unixes operating systems alike. We released a major version at the beginning of February and it is used by our major customers.
On the pure Linux side we now offer the Mandriva Business Server (MBS). MBS is built on top of Mageia with a secure kernel developed by Mandriva. But MBS is not just the regular Linux server. For instance, when you install RHEL or CENTOS, SLES or Debian, you have to do pretty much everything by commandline or via a desktop (but then you end up configuring everything though commandline). MBS has a different approach. It has an entire graphic enviroment that does not rely on X.org and basically allows non trained people to configure all they need.
The key here is that MBS does not compete so much with the Debian and other standard Linux servers. Its primary market is the Windows Server users; the SMB users who may not be trained or do not have the time nor knowledge to configure everything.
With MBS you have several services that can work (almost) out of the box, such as file sharing, SAMBA, mail server, roundcube, jabber server, Asterisk, VPN management, directory server, Apache, etc. But also more advanced features such as Wordpress deployment and Tomcat config and management. All these services can be configured and deployed through clear and user-friendly interfaces.
On top of that, there's the Mandriva ServicePlace, which is Mandriva's App Store for MBS users. Right now there's not so many third party apps (but we're integrating them), but the keypoint here is that you are able to test, buy and deploy both enterprise apps and services on top of MBS as the apps are configured to run on it.
Q: Who are Mandriva’s main customers and partners in this transition to enterprise?
Croset: Mandriva's main customers include large French private companies and public agencies as well. In terms of partnerships we have been busy working on OEM and various hardware partners and I think you should hear about these soon.
Q: Where do Mandriva Business Server and the CloudPulse products fit into the overall enterprise Linux ecosystem?
Croset: Mandriva Business Server is a multi-purpose server that targets the market served by Windows Server, especially the small and medium business segment. We feel that it is a segment that's not been covered by more established enterprise players, and there's a fundamental opportunity there.
CloudPulse is our first cloud offering, and while it caters to the same segment, it is only the first chapter of our cloud services offering. What you will see before the end of the year 2013 is a coherent portfolio of services running in the cloud that will offer the same type of values to customers: security, simplicity and digital independence.
Q: You have also adopted a service model, offering consulting in addition to your enterprise products. Is Mandriva still an open
Croset: We always had this services side, and we are very much an open source company. Mandriva would not exist without Open Source and and the solutions we're offering are open source by definition; we will continue to be an open source player and have no intention to change it.
Q: A year ago Mandriva was struggling financially and there were reports the company would shutter. Now you’re back and launching new products. How did the organization turn around?
Croset: We started by paying off our debts. This took courage, determination, and a will to acknowledge what had gone wrong during the past years. It also involved attracting new people and making sure that team already in Mandriva was properly listened to and credited.
Q: How has the transition to a Mandriva distribution foundation gone? Have you maintained close ties with the development of Open Mandriva?
Croset: We indeed committed to turn the Mandriva Linux project into an independent foundation. This has happened just at the beginning of 2013: The OpenMandriva foundation was announced and founded. This NGO is based in France and represents the OpenMandriva project and community.
They're busy developing their first release and we definitely contribute to it and even plan to use what they will be releasing. So we maintain close ties, but it's important to point out that we are only one contributor among many: We're definitely not calling the shots anymore.
Q: You recently became a Linux Foundation member. What benefits do you see to foundation membership?
Croset: We believe that becoming a member means two important things for us. First of all, it is a statement that Mandriva is back in the game. But of course while that's an important statement, there's much more: We're definitely interested in connecting with other industry players and work on new projects such as mobility and new architectures.
For more information on how to become a member of The Linux Foundation, visit http://www.linuxfoundation.org/about/join.