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Linux Profitability

Red Hat, the largest distributor of Linux, recently made some significant changes in its licensing and support policies, which have forced many large Linux customers to reconsider their Linux options. According to Netcraft, in just the top three hosting companies (rackshack.net, Rackspace, and Interland), Red Hat servers host over 250,000 sites and 460,000 host names. This doesn’t count other hosting companies, corporations, and other Linux professionals that host their sites using Red Hat versions of Linux. Unfortunately, the market share that Red Hat enjoys hasn’t led to significant profitability. The cost of maintaining and supporting both its base distributions and the enhancements that have made Red Hat the dominant Linux distributor also make the red ink flow freely on Red Hat’s income statement. If Red Hat is to survive as an independent Linux distributor, it has to generate sufficient revenues to be profitable. Without additional licensing revenues, it has no other place to turn. It has limited consulting capacity to generate revenue and certainly can’t compete with other companies that provide Linux consulting services, like IBM Global Services....

...Many Linux advocates who are appalled by this "money grab" by Red Hat have been very vocal about their new distaste for Red Hat. Some even go so far as to suggest that Red Hat has outlived its usefulness. But they fail to understand the importance of a healthy company like Red Hat for the entire Linux industry. Without strong, independent Linux distributors, the hardware companies that have taken over Linux stewardship have no reason not to begin creating versions of Linux that take advantage of their specific hardware features and configurations. Releasing this code back into the public domain as required by the GPL has little effect on them because users would have to be able to duplicate the hardware features to take advantage of their enhancements. In the end, the fate of Linux begins to look a lot like that of its older brother UNIX. The resulting fragmentation would leave companies with no choice but to purchase all of their hardware and software from a single source—a specific hardware provider.

The company that is most likely to win in this scenario is IBM.

http://techrepublic.com.com/5100-6296-5068103.html

rick

rick chapman
Monday, September 22, 2003

"But they fail to understand the importance of a healthy company like Red Hat for the entire Linux industry"

But you fail to understand the open source model, and I don't really want to rehash what others have already written entire books over in a single lame discussion board post.

Quick summary:  Open source doesn't need a company in order to survive and flourish.


Monday, September 22, 2003

>...would leave companies with no choice but to purchase
>all of their hardware and software from a single source—
>a specific hardware provider.

Maybe this is the case. I wouldnt know, but whats the difference between this Linux future and the current purchasing practices by corporations? Most large corporations buy all their hardware from an elect few anyway. Some buy Compaq, some IBM with Windows preinstalled. One source of purchase.

The Linux value I see is when vendors create low price (however not free) versions of Linux. RedHat advanced server for example. This version is supported for running Oracle in a clustered environment on Linux. Getting a license for RHAS and say Oracle clustering addons would set you back some $2000, which is much less than it would be on traditional UNIX plattforms. 

So the threat by low cost clustering and enterprise class Linuxes is a threat to Sun and other UNIX vendors, rather than the Microsoft line of server products.

Patrik
Monday, September 22, 2003

One more thing, the free Linux versions (distributions) will co-exist with the enterprise class products also built on Linux.

Patrik
Monday, September 22, 2003

> Quick summary:  Open source doesn't need a company in order to survive and flourish.

As someone who likes to think he does understand open source, I'd have to disagree with that.

Open source as a concept does not need a company, that's true. If, however, Linux is to be widely accepted in the corporate world, and especially in the desktop world, it needs names behind it. Linux is where it is today in terms of acceptance because of companies like IBM and Redhat.

Who do you think all those European governments are having do their installs? IBM and Suse. Without that kind of backing, Linux is back where it was in 1995, and no one outside the elite haxx0rs will use it.

JasonB
Monday, September 22, 2003

"Quick summary:  Open source doesn't need a company in order to survive and flourish."

Perhaps, but I'll venture that Redhat is the reason Linux is where it is in the corporate market. When the CTO needs a server fixed, he wants an 800 number where a credit card will solve the problem. Pitching sUrf3rd00d and 733tKnYght as your support plan may not get the contract.

;-)

Philo

Philo
Monday, September 22, 2003

Well, I'm shocked. This morning I learned that the pope is catholic, and now this? I seriously do not know how many more blows my world model will be able to take in one day. Is their no mercy for a poor guy that lost a fortune on Pets.com?

Just me (Sir to you)
Monday, September 22, 2003

There you go again...

Linux is an operating system that is NOT supported by any ONE company DIRECTLY.  Go reread "The Cathedral & the Bazaar".  Linux was delivered to market w/o the help of any one company, and was already gaining acceptance via guerilla marketing.  IBM & Redhat merely saw a good thing coming & jumped on board.  I assume Perl also won't be adopted widely unless some company starts 'ushering' it?

gimme a break
Monday, September 22, 2003

> and was already gaining acceptance via guerilla marketing.

The problem with revolution is that, eventually, the rebels have to become the new "establishment." You can't stay underground forever. That's exactly what happened with Linux.

C&B is an excellent paper, but name-dropping doesn't prove anything. For Linux to get past a certain stage of development, it needed corporate backing. Frankly, I think Linux is to the point that such backing is here to stay, and if one company goes away, another will take its place.

Face it: Linux has won the battle it was fighting. It gained respectability and a place in the market. It's like the hippy who opens a health food store. The problem is, there's no escaping insurance, paychecks, and licenses once you open that store. Once you pass that threshold, there's no going back.

JasonB
Monday, September 22, 2003

Language != platform.

From my point of view in the Windows Business world, through the major growth of Linux (98-01), "Linux" meant "Redhat". I know the LUG types were all locked in mortal combat about Redhat vs. Debian vs. Slackware vs. SUSE, but outside the Linux world (the place you need to worry about), nobody had ever heard of the latter three.

In fact, from my recollection, at that time asking any Linux expert about distributions would generally get a recommendation for anything but Redhat - they loathed the deviations Redhat made from the One True Kernel (in the name of marketability). And yet which version became the primary commercial distribution?

The open source world STILL does.not.get.it. Whims and wishes of open source purity don't matter in the market - ease of use and support do. Redhat provides it, shoring up Linux as a viable business option. Take away Redhat, and Linux will suffer badly as a result.

In fact, I would venture that should Redhat fail, there will be a significant withdrawal from Linux as a platform, since it will be seen as lacking business stability.

If they have any business sense, the Open Source d00dz will rally around Redhat and do everything they can to keep them going. Support them 100%. Demonstrate solidarity with the "Linux community." Sadly, in my experience the open source community has show a strong track record of demonstrating that they have no business sense whatsoever.

Philo

Philo
Monday, September 22, 2003

Suse is in Europe what RedHat is for other parts of the world. Doesn't matter. It's all just other puppets in the IBM puppet show.

Question for the flock: Do you understand why Microsoft was severely slapped on the knuckels by their most profitable customers for "only" providing a 5 year product support lifecycle (they changed to 7 years as a result)? Can you relate this to any reluctance they might show to board a "6 months or until we release the next version, whichever comes first" Linux distribution. They would never even think twice about accepting a 3 year cycle (RedHat Enterprise Linux) by some two bit company if it weren't for IBM cosigning the deals.

Just me (Sir to you)
Monday, September 22, 2003

Come on people.  Linux != Redhat.  Linux == Kernel.  Redhat provides much more than just a kernel.

Does Linux need a big company to support it? 

No more than Perl or PHP or Apache or ....

Johnny Simmson
Monday, September 22, 2003

>> The open source world STILL does.not.get.it.

What's to "get"?  The GPL is performing perfectly if you ask me.  Redhat makes money, Stallman is having a grand time saying "I told you so", Linus works for money at OSDL and probably made out nicely at transmeta, IBM is making lots of money on new hardware and services running Linux kernels, Oracle likewise is enjoying a nice Linux run.

Soemthing for everybody, and that doesn't even count MOT, NOK, and all the embedded projects and those yet to come...

One final note: Novell bought Ximian, which is very interesting in that Ximian seems to have the best UI around in the form of Gnome 2.x - and how will they leverage that in the future?  (I think RedHat should take notice, since there are 3 main components to a distro: Kernel, XFree86 and Desktop, and the best differentiator is now owned by a potential competitor).

nat ersoz
Monday, September 22, 2003

Two things:


In the original post was written:

"The cost of maintaining and supporting both its base distributions and the enhancements that have made Red Hat the dominant Linux distributor also make the red ink flow freely on Red Hat’s income statement."

IANAA, but didn't RH just announce they made a profit this quarter?

http://www.redhat.com/about/presscenter/

And Philo later commented:

"Sadly, in my experience the open source community has show a strong track record of demonstrating that they have no business sense whatsoever."

It's been my experience that most people in the business world have no business sense either ;-) (Sturgeon's law and all that....)

Chris Winters
Monday, September 22, 2003

zzzzzzzzzz.

rz
Monday, September 22, 2003

Hey, Joel!
How come anti-Windows trolls get killed in your forum before anyone can say "monopoly"?
And how come anti-Linux trolls like this one get to live, although they are stuffed with lies ("red ink flow"-lie vs "RedHat profitability"-link above,  and "release into public somain as required by GPL" vs the fact that GPL'ed code is as little "public domain" as any other closed source software license)?

Martin A. Boegelund
Monday, September 22, 2003

+++Hey, Joel!
How come anti-Windows trolls get killed in your forum before anyone can say "monopoly"?+++

To whom is this addressed?

rick chapman
Monday, September 22, 2003

I think the answer to the above is that here is where the windows fanboys hang out. The linux fanboys hang out on slashdot. On each you find comments by people who have a deep personal investment in the success of the system they've invested time and prestige in. Over you'll often see the "open source is stopping me from feeding my children, why won't programmers stick together and charge money for software" line. Which is interesting as I imagine the same people who write it would be very offended if anyone suggested any group of unionized workers should do the same and withdraw their labor in order to increase their wages.

Alex
Monday, September 22, 2003

rick chapman aka Bella???


Monday, September 22, 2003

"Many Linux advocates who are appalled by this "money grab" by Red Hat have been very vocal about their new distaste for Red Hat."

I'd like to see a reference quoting a prominant linux developer who deplores Redhat.

nat ersoz
Monday, September 22, 2003

"I'd like to see a reference quoting a prominant linux developer who deplores Redhat."

why ruin a perfectly good article by dressing it up with facts, figures and references? 
lets hear everyones opinions first, work out which is best and then we can find facts to back them up later...

FullNameRequired
Monday, September 22, 2003

> the open source community has show a strong track record of demonstrating that they have no business sense whatsoever.

That's because their goals and values are quite different.

After OS/2 got thoroughly trashed, what company in their right mind would create, for profit, an operating system to compete with Windows? (Yes, there was BeOS. But the business press basically said exactly that line everytime they were mentioned).

I don't think RedHat is essential at all to Linux. I think lots of companies want an OS that is not Microsoft, because they fear -- and with good reason -- that sooner or later they'll be gobbled. It's not so much Linux that these companies want as shark repellent.

Portabella
Monday, September 22, 2003

Nat - why did you introduce "prominent"? I believe that the article was addressing the linux community in general, and frankly I find it easy to believe. My impression has been that they've never really been happy with Redhat in the first place, but mildly tolerated them while they were generating good press for Linux.

Philo

Philo
Monday, September 22, 2003

"I believe that the article was addressing the linux community in general, and frankly I find it easy to believe"

well yes, but just because its easy to believe does not mean that it is true.

Claiming that something is true of 'the linux community in general' is rather a trite phrase that means very little.
I have no doubt that some within the linux community say things like that, OTOH whether these people are actually representative of anyone except themselves is rather doubtful.

Nats point as far as I could see was that before making a statement like that you really need to have more than a feeling  to back it up...how about some questionnaires?  some data from a study?  anything like that would give this statement rather more meaning IMO.

<g> just because you want to believe it, and its easy to believe, does not make it a fact.

FullNameRequired
Monday, September 22, 2003

"Does Linux need a big company to support it? 

No more than Perl or PHP or Apache or ...."

Uh... who is the primary authour of Tomcat - a Sun employee; the primary authour of Struts - the SAME Sun employee; who developed Xerces - IBM; who developed Xalan - IBM.

Walter Rumsby
Monday, September 22, 2003

"Uh... who is the primary authour of Tomcat - a Sun employee; the primary authour of Struts - the SAME Sun employee; who developed Xerces - IBM; who developed Xalan - IBM."


which directly proves that Tomcat, Struts, Xerces and Xalan all depend rather strongly on either IBM or Sun.

what was your point again?

FullNameRequired
Monday, September 22, 2003

My point was that the original commentor seemed to suggest open source software didn't need commercial company backing - but some of the most widely used open source Java libraries were written largely by IBM and Sun.

Walter Rumsby
Monday, September 22, 2003

"My point was that the original commentor seemed to suggest open source software didn't need commercial company backing"

well, not really.  He specifically stated that _Linux_ didn't need commercial company backing.

and it provably does not, it went without it through the early years and even now is definitely not in any way dependent on it.

The thing about open source software IMO is that if its really needed, someone somewhere will be working on it.

Show me some open source software that would actually die completely without commerical backing and Ill show you software that was not being used much except by the companies concerned.

Tomcat for instance, if its commercial backing disappeared then either some new developers would step forward or they would not. 
If they do not then obviously none of the developers who are using it want it badly enough to do so, and therefore it pretty much deserves to die.
If they do then development on it will continue.

As  a closed source developer I find that the scariest thing of all,  Open Source software is actually bloody hard to stop.  It moves forward very slowly in some cases, and pauses for long periods in others, but overall it has an almost unstoppable momentum.

(as a programmer though I _like_ the idea of OSS and reusable code, Im just not enjoying having to compete with it...its actually beginning to slowly bite my ass now, and between that and losing work to cheaper overseas developers I can see the end of an era coming...Im not going to be seriously worred for another couple of years at least but it will happen...)

So no, I dont believe that the 'important' OSS requires commercial backing. 
Obviously enough though having it will move the various projects forward with a greater speed and more certainty than would happen otherwise.

FullNameRequired
Monday, September 22, 2003

"why ruin a perfectly good article by dressing it up with facts, figures and references?  "

Exactly.  If I wanted facts I'd head of over to slashdot and set the filter at -1 ;)

Mike
Tuesday, September 23, 2003

FNR,

I do not believe that in the end competing with OSS is really any different from traditional competition. It seems the real business models are not really different or new at all. Sure, there are software compliments that act as loss leaders to prop up other business, but we have these in closed source as well. Sure, giving the source code away makes it easier on the pirates, but it does seem that they operate quite efficient without looking at your sourcecode. Those that are trying to live of software, seem not able to realy compete on price with their closed source competition (cfr. RHEL), but are in fact more expensive out of the box.
What is tough is that for the moment you have to compete with a chimera. OSS is a flag that covers a lott of divers cargo that has not much in common. The OSS propaganda/sales picks and chooses just the highlights from the different crops, not informing that they don't mix. Sure, there is decent support for certified Linux systems.  Sure there is "free" Linux. But if you want the former, you can't have the latter.
As the OSS bubble bursts, people will realize this. In the mean time, you have to hang in there.

What does sicken me is that once again political agendas dominate the IT industry. Clueless Euro polititians that couldn't tell the difference between an email and a harddisk if it hit them in the face, stand up in parlement to demand te exclusive use of "free software" to "set an example". Once again, it will be us, the taxpayers, that can cough up the cash for their raging incompetence.

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Stop posting crap. There are too many slashdot type posts here.

Look, use whatever you like, don't want to use OSS? fine, don't use it. Don't bash it. Don't want to use any software which will lock you to a platform? Fine...go with OSS.

Linux is a kernel, a kernel, I honestly think the userland makes the big difference anyway, I personally use debian on all machines, apt-get makes life so easy, security updates on tap, it's quite amazing that it works so well, yet I run the same kernel version as some redhat releases, so the userland makes the difference anyway.

fw
Tuesday, September 23, 2003

There are an aweful lot of trolls here, mostly by people who are generally smart enough to know better. I'm particularly suprised that Philo was contributing to the fray; he seems to normally have his head about him.

There are plenty of good reasons why a company would choose open source software, and politics is only one very small one. When no commercial package meets the needs of an organization, and that need is important, open source software offers a real solution. No commercial package offered a reasonable solution to providing e-mail for 300,000 users with secure mail and good anti-spamming features. So my last employer built a system with open source software.

My point? This evil "open source" software is suceeding not because of crazy political agendas, but for the basic reason that any business suceeds.  It meets a need that others do not. Before you write off open source developers as crazy zealots, ask yourself why they're suceeding where you're not. I'll be that RedHat has market share for the simple reason that it works better for some situations than other operating system distributions.

Clay Dowling
Tuesday, September 23, 2003

> This evil "open source" software is suceeding not because of crazy political agendas, but for the basic reason that any business suceeds.  It meets a need that others do not.

Exactly. Well said.

In business terms, OSS also has very low barriers to entry. No forms to fill out, no need to beg for a budget. Just download and go.

I could petition to get a RemotePC license for my machine, or I could just download VNC. RemotePC might even be the better solution, but if I use VNC, I'm already up and going. It's the path of least resistance.

Portabella
Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Clay,

"There are plenty of good reasons why a company would choose open source software"
I agree
"and politics is only one very small one"
except in the euro public sector, where it dwarfs all others.
"So my last employer built a system with open source software."
Did he release it as Open Source?
"This evil "open source" software"
I never say it is "evil", in fact, I claim there is not much difference, besides in the OSS case you always get to look at the source.
Portabella,

"In business terms, OSS also has very low barriers to entry. No forms to fill out, no need to beg for a budget. Just download and go"

This depends. It is not because the source is there that you are allowed to compile and run it. That said, the "trialware" in OSS is most often the whole shebang minus support, or a nice approximation package that will do for an extensive trial. I do not know how this will continue in the future. In non-OSS business people fear that a trial that is too unrestricted cuts into their sales. Maybe OSS business might have to revise this when forced to make post-bubble profits, maybe non-OSS will have to accomodate more to compete? We'll have to see.

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Hmm, rereading that last paragraph I fear it does not truly reflect my feelings on the issue.

I wholeheartedly agree that this has been a big plus for OSS software, Portabella. I just wanted to make a very minor sidenote that this is something OSS >might< have to change to become more profitable. Maybe.

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, September 23, 2003

>> "In business terms, OSS also has very low barriers to entry. No forms to fill out, no need to beg for a budget. Just download and go"

> This depends.

On what? I can see that you're trying to make a point here, but I'm afraid I'm not getting it.

On the low to medium end, the process works exactly as I described. One of the major financial companies in my town replaced PCAnywhere with VNC exactly as I described: they downloaded it, installed it and simply stopped paying Symantec.

Many J2EE development shops do the same thing with the open source JBoss application server: no more checks to BEA or IBM.

My point was *not* that this is necessarily a good idea, but that because it's the path of least resistance, it will continue.

Portabella
Tuesday, September 23, 2003

OK, take out prominent, and replace that with anyone who has ever submitted a patch or code change. 

nat ersoz
Tuesday, September 23, 2003

I'll admit that I'm scared of open source software.  When I worked for a services company I thought it was the best thing since sliced bread.  Now I work for a product company and it scares me because I don't think it HAS to be profitable to survive.  Whoever said it was like a virus is right.  These people are happy to get non-monetary rewards for their efforts.  I just don't get it.  Who the hell wants to code for free? 

   
Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Portabella,

I hope this isn't sounding too pedantic, but your arguments are correct for software that can be downloaded and does not cost any money (needs no advance purchase approval). Not all open source software falls into that category, and not all non-open source software is excluded from it.

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, September 23, 2003

> Not all open source software falls into that category, and not all non-open source software is excluded from it.

I think I agree... but could you be a little more pedantic and provide some examples?

I'll help you out a little: free, non open source packages like WinZip, WinAmp, the various Instant Messengers etc. are examples on one side. Users don't really care if the source is free, as long as they don't have to pay or undergo the tedium of eval versions, which just delay the pain, or else set up a tedious recurring task (re-installing the eval).

The meme here is definitely "free and easily available, with little or no strings attached", not open source per se.

Portabella
Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Example of OSS that is not free:
- RedHat Enterprise Linux? I'm deliberatly choosing this one just because I am still trying to find someone that shows me you can get this and run this for free.

There are of course many that are useless without the non-free compliment, or that are only free for other GPL'ed stuff, or non-commercial use etc.

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Open Source does not change anything.

Previously, your competition was older versions of your own software.

Now, competition is new versions of free software.

The solution is the same.  In order to stay profitable, you have to continue to innovate  and deliver quality software with compelling features.

If this ruins someone's "I'll lock my customers into a subscription plan and then stop doing any work and just let the yearly fees roll in" business model, I'm not crying any tears.

Richard Ponton
Tuesday, September 23, 2003

You want pedantic?

Here goes: WinZip's not free.

Walter Rumsby
Tuesday, September 23, 2003

what amazes me is the unerring ability of rick chapman to choose topics that are guaranteed to collapse into petty argument.
This one is the worst of the lot IMO.

FullNameRequired
Tuesday, September 23, 2003

> - RedHat Enterprise Linux? I'm deliberatly choosing this one just because I am still trying to find someone that shows me you can get this and run this for free.

For RHEL: if you can't get the source, and you can't redistribute it, then in what sense is it OSS? It sure sounds like it should be called "proprietary extensions".

Here's the game as I see it: to be profitable, RedHat needs to charge on a per-seat basis(*), but there is no reasonable way to do that in the OSS model if the source is available freely, because then your customers can just buy X number of seats from you (for support, etc), and fill Y number of seats for free.

* I think we can assume that they've thought about the alternatives a lot and haven't come up with any. The only one I can think of is differential pricing: you charge Joe's garage $25, and you charge Chase Manhattan Bank $1,000,000.

> what amazes me is the unerring ability of rick chapman to choose topics that are guaranteed to collapse into petty argument.

The thread will still be ok if you just ignore chapman.

> Here goes: WinZip's not free.

Yeah, you're right. I think I even paid for it... once. I tried to get one of the companies I worked for to pay, and just gave up; it was simply way too much hassle.

WinZip does remain one of the few programs unassimilated by Microsoft; it's been traditionally one of the first programs installed, along with Abode Reader.

Portabella
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

> WinZip does remain one of the few programs unassimilated by Microsoft; it's been traditionally one of the first programs installed, along with Abode Reader.

Doesn't XP treat ZIP files as directories?

jason

JasonB
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

"For RHEL: if you can't get the source, and you can't redistribute it, then in what sense is it OSS?"

Which is exactly what I meant with "facing the chimera". Take the OS market: you can not on the one hand claim that OSS has a successful enterprise story for general purpose server software, while OTOH placing the Suse and RedHat enterprise offerings outside of OSS.

Just me (Sir to you)
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

The people (person) who writes/wrote WinZip should have just said to MS "Here it is. Include it on every CDROM and disk image. Pay me a fraction of a cent per copy. Thank you, I'm now very rich. I'm outta here."


Wednesday, September 24, 2003

> Take the OS market: you can not on the one hand claim that OSS has a successful enterprise story for general purpose server software, while OTOH placing the Suse and RedHat enterprise offerings outside of OSS.

If you read the Slashdot thread on this subject, some folks use Debian in the enterprise, and either self-support or buy 3rd party support. *They* seem happy with the results, but obviously that is not a satisfactory answer for everyone.

So the objection is not the software quality and capabilities, but the inability to have  both software freely available to the customer and a profit margin to sustain a publicly traded company; in short, the business model. 

Drilling down a little, the problem with the business model is the licensing money: as soon as that's on the table, the customer wants it.

Again, I see this not as right or wrong: ("The right model is a for-profit company that controls the OS" vs "The right model is OSS"), but an economic tug-of-war between software suppliers and consumers.

Portabella
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

The point of the original poster, I think, was that one of the primary claims of OSS advocacy is looking increasingly shaky.

That point is backed up by some of the confusions in the discussion above. For example, Rumsby points to Sun and IBM paying for development of some of OSS products without clearly stating the relevance, but it seems to be to dispute that OSS is detrimental to the interests of developers.

The Rumsby claim fails to recognise that Sun and IBM's aim is to benefit other parts of their businesses by commoditising software. Let Sun and IBM execs trumpet about this, but developers should understand their business better.


Friday, September 26, 2003

Sir, you wrote:
"Example of OSS that is not free:
- RedHat Enterprise Linux? I'm deliberatly choosing this one just because I am still trying to find someone that shows me you can get this and run this for free."

Again I must tell you that RedHat Enterprise Linux is not Open Source, because RedHat Enterprise Linux is not software.

The RedHat Enterprise Linux family of products are composite products, consisting of both Open Source software, service and support, installation media, printed documentation, and who knows what else.

Bottom line: RedHat Enterprise Linux is not, and can not be Open Source software, simply because it isn't software!
It's a bundle of goods, _containing_ Open Source software (eg. Linux kernel) - you can get all the Open Source software contained in the RH Enterprise Linux bundle you want for free.
I hope that even you understand that eg. service and support isn't free (as in beer)...

("Open Source" according to OSI definition, see http://www.opensource.org/docs/definition.php)

Martin A. Boegelund
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Just when you thought the thread was dead :)

> It's a bundle of goods, _containing_ Open Source software (eg. Linux kernel) - you can get all the Open Source software contained in the RH Enterprise Linux bundle you want for free.

I don't think this is true, unfortunately. It *is* true for other distributions (eg, Mandrake Linux), but not RedHat.

A thought experiment: if it *were* true, then I could just copy the RedHat CDs and make them available myself. Right? So where are these CDs?

I see two possibilities:

1. RedHat has extensions to the Linux kernel that they do not release. I think this is quite likely, and not necessarily even a bad thing, since it is well known that Linus does not accept all patches.

I think it's fairly doubtful that the patches make Linux dramatically better or more stable.

2. All of the software is free, and you are free to assemble it into a distrubtion yourself, but RedHat does not make their distro available. But when you take the "distribute" out of distribution, what's left?

Portabella
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

It's not kernal extentions, since those would have to be GPL'd and, therefore, available for redistribution. Alan Cox, one of the main Kernel programmers, works for Red hat and I don;t think he'd allow them to do this without raising a stink.

Not all of the software in a distribution has to be Open-Source, however. There are probably some propritary programs included and this would make direct redistribution of the CD's a copyright violation. You *could* copy everything but the propritary programs, however.

IIRC, several distrubutions do similar things. IIRC, the SUSE installer is closed-source (but they allow anyone to copy it with the rest of SUSE, you just can;t use it for your own distribution).

RocketJeff
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Portabella, you wrote:
"A thought experiment: if it *were* true, then I could just copy the RedHat CDs and make them available myself. Right? So where are these CDs?"

Now take a look at what RedHat says about this:
http://www.redhat.com/software/whichlinux.html
"Red Hat Enterprise Linux is sold through a one-year subscription and it does have a licensing agreement. But before you mention the "p"-word ("proprietary"), understand that the code is open and protected by the GPL license. It's not proprietary. We're licensing the services, not the software. The source code files can be downloaded by anyone, and you still have the right to use the software after the license and services expire.

You're simply paying for the value Red Hat adds: The enterprise enhancements, the ISV and IHV certification, the support services included with the product, and the security and software updates through Red Hat Enterprise Network."

'nuff said!

Martin A. Boegelund
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

I better post a link to a place where you can get the sources of the RH Enterprise Linux family of Open Source software...
http://ftp.freshrpms.net/pub/redhat/linux/updates/enterprise/

The RedHat ftp server was busy when I tried, but I bet you can get the sources there too.

Martin A. Boegelund
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

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