back to article Rattled Red Hat battles support impostors

Red Hat is rattled. Sure, it remains the world's biggest Linux company by revenue market share. But it's beginning to feel that it's under pressure - and that it must respond. That pressure is coming not from Microsoft, but from fellow Linux vendors. Individually, they aren't causing too much trouble, but collectively, they …

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Linux

Wow, Red Hat, that's a name I haven't heard in a while

..not that I wish them ill, particularly, they just don't seem that relevant any more. I can't recall the last time I saw a Red Hat box.

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Gold badge
Coat

Not uncommon.

I've got a red hat box at home.

It's got one of those furry, stereotypically Russian ones in it.

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centos considered harmless?

No mention of centos -- are they not alive and well?

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Go

@frogola: yes

The value of Redhat is in services. Thus, CentOS is quite OK - some folks may later feel the need for support and then they usually go the Redhat route without much hassle.

Slight problem is, that the whole Oracle Linux is rebadged CentOS, but that's another story altogether.

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FAIL

Value?

I don't know how RHEL stacks up against Oracle, or the latest releases of SuSE, but I do know my experience with RHEL 5.0 has been worse than what I remember from my previous use of SuSE (number of years ago, something like 3.0 I think). I know for a fact that if we weren't tied to RHEL about half our office would jump ship to something else (my personal preference would probably be Gentoo or maybe Arch), but unfortunately our corporate mandated VCS is ClearCase (and don't get me started on what a flaming pile ClearCase is) which is only supported on RHEL (and I think one other distro but I can't remember what that is off the top of my head). Sure, I suppose RHEL is "stable", but being "stable" isn't terribly useful to me when I'm constantly having to manually install various unapproved packages just to get things to work. I'm sure RHEL is perfectly fine on a server where you probably don't need to keep anything much more demanding than apache and sendmail up and running, but it sure makes a lousy workstation.

To their credit, when the license servers work, things run very smoothly, however that's somewhat mitigated by the fact that when they go wrong there's not a whole heck of a lot you can do other than complain to Red Hat as loudly as possible. Compounding this failure is the fact that even if the registration server is working fine and you can connect to their update servers their package selection is less than inspiring. For the most part, if you want to install something beyond the most basic RHEL install, you're most likely going to have to download the applications tarball (or possibly rpm if you're feeling lucky) and associated libraries and build it yourself.

The entire value of a Linux distribution is in the package management, ease of installation, and automated update mechanisms, so what exactly is the value in a distribution with flaky package management, flakier update systems, and very limited package support?

If I was Red Hat, I'd be a bit more than nervous, but I suppose someone must actually like their distro otherwise I can't see it making the kind of cash it does. Surely not everyone has it forced on them due to their choice (or lack there of) of VCS?

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WTF?

Are you serious?

If the ClearCase is certified with Redhat, then no other packages apart from those in Redhat distro and Clearcase installer should be needed. As with any other distribution, if you create/need some custom content, you should be proficient enough to create a package (rpm, deb or whatever). As part of the distribution, you are given tools to do exactly that. That is part of being an OS admin. Even MS admins in bigger organizations have to know how to build custom msi packages.

Vendor support is there to help you solving bugs or functionality problems you encounter. What would you do should some driver or other critical part of system fail? In production? If you have Redhat subscription (or Suse for that matter), you have someone to shout at and demand solution.

Redhat's problem is not what you describe. Their problem is, that they neglected Europe, where Suse is big. As for packages - RHEL has to be limited in scope, otherwise it is impossible to provide support to a larger number of customers and their deployments. That's also the reason almost all major SW vendors certify for Redhat, if they have Linux version of their product. For them it is quite dependable.

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Too right.

Amen. QFT.

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It's the Red Hat business model

Patch the software to buggery, introduce no end of subtle bugs and dependencies, then charge people to sort them out. Perhaps people are starting to get wise to this ?

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WTF?

Every distro works this way

Even Gentoo - what is the new version other, than patch to the older one? And with patch come often new bugs.

Try to look at it the other way - if you have some commercial package, could you tell the folk developing i.e. an open source library the commercial package depends on, to fork their code, because you can't update some other library their new version, that fixes the problem, depends on? And, could they please test it for you? On commercial distribution, that is the norm, because it is absolutely essential for any serious work. Lowers the hassle, and you have more time to do your work and get things done.

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Random musings

"Red Hat plans to hold a webcast on Understanding the Risks of Free and 'Low Cost' Linux."

Sounds remarkably similar to one of Microsoft's marketing messages.

More generally aren't the concerns expressed the natural product of a market in which there are no barriers to entry or exit? Once FLOSS has forced proprietary to reduce cost, it turns on itself and starts taking cost out of its own offerings.

It sounds like a good thing to me, as a potential customer. A supplier will feel differently but will keep margin only by differentiating the offer.

As with most things in life some people want to buy their food in Harrods but many more are happy with Aldi.

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WTF?

NOVL is a simply desperate

All previous comments that attempt to paint Red Hat as Microsoft or some other evil need to get a clue. Red Hat goes to great lengths to directly improve and develop software openly upstream (be it the Linux kernel or the myriad of userspace packages).

To think that Novell can support RHEL is laughable. Red Hat is likely asserting that Novell can't support RHEL with their respun src.rpm updates and hope to have it _really_ be RHEL (quality or depth of support should the shit really hit the fan). There really is value in what Red hat offers. They employ many of the top upstream Linux developers (again both kernel and userspace) and as such they are poised to offer the best support. Particularly as it relates to the Enterprise, realtime, messaging, kvm, hardware enablement (given Red Hat's partnerships, in-house talent, etc). Case in point: Wall St. is almost entirely running on Red Hat.

Novell is so wrapped up in undercutting Red Hat that it is missing the fact that Red Hat is providing compelling top to bottom solutions (RHEL + kvm + mrg + jboss; and emerging tech like cloud). Try innovating Novell... that might work better.

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Oh dear...

Novell also are serious contributors to the Linux Kernel. They employ the most KDE developers (IIRC) Oracle have just given the world Btrsfs. Then there are all the others.

Novell, of course, are in the front line defending the Linux stack against SCO. That's hard money, time and effort too.

Building market share by price cutting suggests to me nothing more than they think Red Hat are overcharging. Maybe they are right and maybe they are wrong. It's called the market.

Luckily we'll be able to watch and find out.

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Coat

This is what you get

for being kind to your customers and not locking them in, twist their arm and squeeze a steady revenue stream out of their pockets, like some well known monopolistic software vendor does.

Well for those who do not like Red Hat, there is Microsoft always waiting with arms wide opened at your neck level.

It is not innovation or hard work that makes you successful, it's locking in your customers that will assure your supremacy. Sorry but that's how the free market works and Red Hat ignorance will not remain unpunished.

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Linux

good for customers

The fact that open competition is good for customers is the reason Red Hat is growing. Microsoft shares are down on their value a few years ago because imprisoned customers tend to become resentful and avoid the nasty supplier whenever and wherever they can, so the nasty supplier will have to rely on a reducing value core market and will lose out on new opportunity areas. But Red Hat will never achieve the dominance over a market area in the same sense previous monopolies could, simply because with open source there is no lock in.

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Solaris is the key?

What scares Red Hat is not Unbreakable Linux, but Oracle buying Sun and Larry finally getting his own operating system. There are a lot of benefits to Red Hat that arise from Oracle's current commitment to Unbreakable Linux, not least from the enhanced support for the Red Hat strain of Linux and the explicit support for the assertion that Linux is a viable server platform for Oracle.

However, once Larry has Solaris he has an operating system with unique characteristics that he can choose to tune to provide features and performance unavailable on other platforms. OpenSolaris will continue, but Solaris 11 will likely be a tuned OS for Oracle, and to get it you will need an Oracle subscription. Suse Linux is simply a distraction.

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Linux

Depends on how much support you need

Most kit where I work is (or soon will be) CentOS, which is to say RHEL without any mention of RedHat. And as it follows RHEL, then you get all the latest bugfixes and errata (maybe after a slight wait).

The kicker is, as an AC says above, that many products specify that you must use RHEL. Even though CentOS is virtually identical and would work just as well. And as long as you stick to the packages in the normal distro then everything should be fine, as that's the entire point of RHEL; everything they provide should work together. Though to be honest that's easier said than done when some developer insists that whatever version of something RHEL/CentOS has isn't sufficient and they want the latest and greatest.

So generally we have a mix/match situation. Some of the more important stuff with a bit more vendor lock-in runs RHEL and the rest is (or will be) on CentOS.

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