Duval Clears Up MNF Controversy

By Staff Staff | Posted at 11:38 AM

MandrakeSoft's new Multiple Network Firewall (“MNF”) specialty Linux distribution has been on the forefront of the computer news
for the last week, not so much because of its technical merits, but because of what appeared to be a reversal in
the company's policy on licensing. The distribution's creator and company co-founder, Gaël Duval, was kind enough to return to our hot seat and discuss both the licensing controversy as well as some other points about MNF.

Timothy R. Butler: What would you say are the key advantages of MNF over other firewall
solutions such as Smoothwall or SuSE Linux Firewall?

Gaël Duval: Compared to both these products, Mandrake Multi Network Firewall is a more up to date technology.
For instance, it's based on Linux 2.4, not 2.2. The MNF also comes with VPN and proxy in [the] standard [setup].

TRB: According to your web site, the minimum requirements for a MNF system
that is running the X Windowing System is a 300 MHz processor and 64 Megs of RAM. Is it
possible to run Multiple Network Firewall without X11 so as to place it on an
older system?

GD: X11 is not used by the MNF. Administration is done remotely through a
web interface, and a videocard is only needed at installation time
(without X11).

Minimum requirement for an MNF system is: 32 MB / Pentium 100.

However, with a large number of clients, better configuration are
needed. For instance VPN takes a lot of CPU ressources with many clients.

Duval: “We continue to work for the success of Free Software.”
TRB: Considering that the system supports features such as DHCP and Network Address Translation, could this product be used as a drop-in replacement (and
improvement) for networks currently using router “appliances” such as the
ever present little blue Linksys BEFSR series?

GD: The MNF can replace most router/firewall appliances on the market.

TRB: Now about MNF licensing — MandrakeSoft has always been a staunch
supporter of Free Software. Does this move towards a dual licensing scheme
represent a shift in focus towards proprietary software?

GD: Not at all. We're [are] still strongly supportive of Free Software.

TRB: Will boxed sets of Mandrake Linux be put under similar per-seat
licenses or will MandrakeSoft's code in Mandrake Linux remain under the same
licenses it is right now?

GD: The MNF License has to be seen much like a commercial offer to big
corporates than everything else.

Whatever people say, MNF comes with a dual license that applies
EXCLUSIVELY to the code written by MandrakeSoft. What does it mean?

Do you want to use the MNF for free, modify it etc.? It's OK,
MandrakeSoft code comes under the GPL License if you want.

Are you a big corporate, prefer a “proprietary like” license, e.g. a
per-server license that comes with support and warranties and so on. Use
the “commercial” license.

As for Mandrake Linux, [it] will continue to be 100% Free Software.

TRB: Does the form in which you receive Mandrake Multiple Network Firewall
affect what license you can use? More to the point, if I have the Free Software
version of MNF can I get a proprietary license for that existing install?

GD: Yes.

TRB: And more importantly, can I take a commercially licensed MNF CD and install it on
multiple computers, so long as I understand that only one of them is supported?

GD: Yes because the product is the same.

TRB: On one of the pages discussing MNF, it has a rather ominous sounding
warning that states:

“We advise resellers who want to resell the Multi Network Firewall
product to conform to MandrakeSoft's intellectual rights and trademark
protections listed in the product, or enter a redistribution agreement with
MandrakeSoft before distributing the product.”
Could you explain a bit about this? Historically, I could take a MandrakeSoft
product (downloaded for free), install it for someone, and charge them for
that installation. Is this still possible, or would I run the risk of a

GD: This part is just like Red Hat's trademark agreement. Anyway it
applies exclusively to MNF. With our previous security product -
Single Network Firewall - we experienced low sales, whiles service
providers sold it, used it as part as a larger offer and made much
money on it. That's the reason why we try to avoid this situation with
the Multi Network Firewall.

TRB: So, what are the exact terms of use on the
MandrakeSoft “intellectual rights,” and how hard would it be for someone to
remove these pieces of intellectual property without damaging the product?

GD: It's right that if you want to resell the MNF you have to remove every
MandrakeSoft trademark and we hope it will help MNF sales.

TRB: How will MandrakeSoft integrate improvements made in the GPL version of
the product into the proprietary version? Doesn't the nature of the GPL mean that
eventually the two products will end up either with divergent code bases
or that MandrakeSoft will have to refuse any GPL'ed additions to the code
that it owns?

GD: If it's MandrakeSoft code, it comes under the dual licensing scheme.
If not, it's GPL.

Maybe we'll see a diverging tree appearing. It would be great [to] show the
MNF has good success, and this is what is good with Free Software:
want to do better? Do it.

TRB: Finally, in your company's explanation of why you would not join
UnitedLinux, part of
the text presented arguments for why it was better for MandrakeSoft to use
the Free Software approach on your software. The argument was made from both
an ethical and business view point. Doesn't this latest action conflict with

GD: Firstly it's important to understand that the dual-license for MNF
(GPL and commercial) is totally different than other Linux distributions
that give no choice (equals no GPL). They will recognize themselves.

  • First option: GPL only: all Mandrake Linux products but MNF
  • Second option: choice: users choose either GPL or proprietary/commercial: Mandrake MNF, Qt, MySQL.
  • Third option: no choice, product is locked by proprietary license: several well-known Linux distributions.

I hope this helps [to] break the current confusion. Anyway, it seems
the Linux community quickly understood what we really do, and that
we continue to work for the success of Linux and Free Software.

TRB: Thank-you for taking some time to clear this up for us, Gaël.

  • For more information on Multiple Network Firewall, you can stop by MandrakeSoft's web site.