MandrakeSoft, a Paris-based software company, filed for the French version of Chapter 11 (declaration de Cessation des Paiements) this past January after a series of quarterly losses. But the company kept moving forward after the filing, releasing Version 9.1 of its Linux distribution, MandrakeLinux in March. And then the same operating system took home 30% of the Datamation readership vote to win the annual award.
NetIQ Corp.'s WebTrends reporting service and Sun Microsystems' Capacity on Demand 2.0 finished tied for second in the category. Other finalists were Warp Solutions Inc.'s Warp 2063e Edge Appliance and ManageSoft Corp.'s ManageSoft 6.2.
What caught several industry analysts by surprise is not just that MandrakeSoft continues to catch attention and garner awards, but that an operating system won in the network and systems management category. Actually, it turned out to be a rather broad category -- including an appliance, a network device and the operating system.
"Yes, I am surprised about the category," says Francois Bancilhon, CEO of MandrakeSoft. "The system management ability is clearly essential and we consider it one of the strong points of MandrakeSoft. We are focusing a lot on making things easy for administration -- easy to install, easy to administer and easy to manage."
But Brian Proffitt, managing editor of LinuxToday, says any Linux distribution would easily qualify in the network and system management category.
"It's a big part of what all Linux distributions do," says Proffitt, who adds that he considers Mandrake to be one of the strongest Linux distributions out there. "From the ground up, theyre all designed to be network management tools."
Other analysts, like Gordon Haff of Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata, were caught off guard that MandrakeLinux, which is known for being easy to install and being much more ingrained with a consumer base than an enterprise one, is being recognized for network and system management.
"That's not the general perception of what Mandrake is good at," says Haff. "It's very user-friendly to people who aren't necessarily Linux heads...I just don't see Mandrake as one of the serious enterprise players at this point. Clearly Red Hat is and SuSe has come a long way in the past few years to be the other serious enterprise player out there."
But Bancilhon says he is working very hard to change those exact perceptions.
"Linux will become pervasive in the enterprise if it can provide network and system management," notes Bancilhon, who adds that despite other misperceptions they are a presence in the United States, making 55% of their revenue here. "This is absolutely a must and why it's one of the things we've been focusing on in the previous two versions."
Bancilhon says MandrakeSoft is now pulling in more money than it's spending every month, and part of his plan to keep that going is to work further into the enterprise market.
"Because we've been focused on ease-of-use and end user friendliness, people have equated that to individual users, but that is something we can bring to the enterprise market," says Bancilhon. "We've been expanding strongly into the enterprise market with our corporate server, which came out three months ago."
And Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst for IDC, says having strong network and systems management tools in a Linux environment is key for a large enterprise.
"The more complex the environment, the more likely tools like these might be valuable," says Kusnetzky. "Making life easier for an end user is a particularly good thing. It's hard for me to say if this product is the best of the best, but it's a good kind of product to have."