March 24, 2005 4:00 AM PST

Programmers bypass Red Hat Linux fees

It took Red Hat 16 months to produce the newest version of its premium Linux product, which went on sale in February for as much as $2,499 per computer per year.

It took a group of programmers less than two weeks to release a free clone. But the move could help Red Hat as much as it appears to hurt it.

The clone is from a project called CentOS--Community Enterprise Operating System--one of several "Red Hat rebuilders" that have partially nullified Red Hat's business decision in 2003 to stop giving away its supported and certified product for free. CentOS and others--Lineox, White Box Linux, Tao Linux, X/OS Linux and Scientific Linux--all rebuild a copy of Red Hat Enterprise Linux from the source code components Red Hat releases.

News.context

What's new:
Free clones of Red Hat's premium Linux product are readily available.

Bottom line:
Though that might seem like a threat to Red Hat's business, the company says the clones--unsupported as they are--could actually help, by getting people hooked on the OS and getting them to think about the benefits of a support package. Still, some say support is unnecessary.

More stories on Red Hat

The clones are both a boon and a bane for Red Hat, which used an aggressive pricing plan to profit from its status as the top seller of the open-source operating system.

On the one hand, the rebuilders draft off Red Hat's labors while depriving the company of potential customers for its software and the support that goes along with it. On the other, though, they help cement the dominance of Red Hat's software and spread it to those who might eventually decide Red Hat's services and reliability are worth the price.

It's clear, however, that many Red Hat clone users aren't likely to embrace the original anytime soon.

"I don't pay for Linux, and I have absolutely no need for a Red Hat-style subscription (for) support," said Collins Richey, a Denver Linux enthusiast who uses CentOS on his personal computers to keep them compatible with work machines. "I'm considering recommending CentOS for limited use as a trial project...at work."

Red Hat chooses to see the glass as half full, with spokeswoman Leigh Day calling the clones "good news" because they could attract new customers.

"If they try versions that are not supported or supported inadequately, they will get a hint of the value propositions that are available for Linux

CONTINUED:
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77 comments

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Mandrake
Am I way off base or didn't Mandrake used to be a repackaged version of Redhat back in the day? I seem to remember when I ran RedHat 7 (or maybe it was 6.1) that the two were unbelievably similar, right down to the installer... It's probably not the case anymore but I could have sworn that's how it was about or six years back...
Posted by tocam27 (16 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Re: Mandrake
Yes, Mandrake was originally more or less Red Hat plus KDE, back when Red Hat would not include KDE in their distribution. Like most other distributions that originally started with Red Hat Linux, they eventually began building their own packages and doing other things to distinguish themselves from Red Hat and others. I haven't used either one very much for several years, so I don't know how different they are by now.
Posted by acrider (14 comments )
Link Flag
could have sworn
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.analogstereo.com/subaru_baja_owners_manual.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.analogstereo.com/subaru_baja_owners_manual.htm</a>
Posted by George Cole (314 comments )
Link Flag
Mandrake
Am I way off base or didn't Mandrake used to be a repackaged version of Redhat back in the day? I seem to remember when I ran RedHat 7 (or maybe it was 6.1) that the two were unbelievably similar, right down to the installer... It's probably not the case anymore but I could have sworn that's how it was about or six years back...
Posted by tocam27 (16 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Re: Mandrake
Yes, Mandrake was originally more or less Red Hat plus KDE, back when Red Hat would not include KDE in their distribution. Like most other distributions that originally started with Red Hat Linux, they eventually began building their own packages and doing other things to distinguish themselves from Red Hat and others. I haven't used either one very much for several years, so I don't know how different they are by now.
Posted by acrider (14 comments )
Link Flag
could have sworn
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.analogstereo.com/subaru_baja_owners_manual.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.analogstereo.com/subaru_baja_owners_manual.htm</a>
Posted by George Cole (314 comments )
Link Flag
RPMS needed
If redhat decided to stop shipping source rpms their value would be diminished to their existing customers as this makes it simple to make customizations or optimizations e.g. for a specific processor family.
Posted by unoengborg (19 comments )
Reply Link Flag
RPMS needed
If redhat decided to stop shipping source rpms their value would be diminished to their existing customers as this makes it simple to make customizations or optimizations e.g. for a specific processor family.
Posted by unoengborg (19 comments )
Reply Link Flag
aren't all distros of linux the same
I mean, in theory, if everyone uses the same kernel, what in the hell is the difference. I bet there are people out there who buy a version because it's version's logo is prettier than another.
Posted by jamie.p.walsh (288 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No.
No, they aren't all the same. And assuming they are all using the same kernel is also no guarantee. Linux can be modified in any way by anybody and rereleased as a new distro. But hey... since its open source, you can get the source code for each distro and compare them line by line to find the differences! Won't that be fun?

LoL.... Fragmentation and splintering were things that the GPL people claimed would not be a problem in the future. Looks like now it is cutting into the profits of the largest Linux company. You have to wonder if the GPL authors didn't know and anticipate this.... after all, they generally have a very anti-capitalistic attitude. OTOH, RedHat should have seen this coming a mile away.

"Hey, I have an idea! Lets charge large sums of money for a product that can be obtained freely!"

Red Hat reminds me of Eric Cartman when he was trying to represent Token in the music industry... "We need to convince him that he needs us, when really, he doesn't."
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
No
Even if two distros use the same kernel, they often have different file layouts, different configuration tools, different packaging methods, and different sets of optional patches applied to software.

So yes, there ARE very important differences.
Posted by (84 comments )
Link Flag
everyone uses the same kernel
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.analogstereo.com/daewoo_musso_owners_manual.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.analogstereo.com/daewoo_musso_owners_manual.htm</a>
Posted by George Cole (314 comments )
Link Flag
aren't all distros of linux the same
I mean, in theory, if everyone uses the same kernel, what in the hell is the difference. I bet there are people out there who buy a version because it's version's logo is prettier than another.
Posted by jamie.p.walsh (288 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No.
No, they aren't all the same. And assuming they are all using the same kernel is also no guarantee. Linux can be modified in any way by anybody and rereleased as a new distro. But hey... since its open source, you can get the source code for each distro and compare them line by line to find the differences! Won't that be fun?

LoL.... Fragmentation and splintering were things that the GPL people claimed would not be a problem in the future. Looks like now it is cutting into the profits of the largest Linux company. You have to wonder if the GPL authors didn't know and anticipate this.... after all, they generally have a very anti-capitalistic attitude. OTOH, RedHat should have seen this coming a mile away.

"Hey, I have an idea! Lets charge large sums of money for a product that can be obtained freely!"

Red Hat reminds me of Eric Cartman when he was trying to represent Token in the music industry... "We need to convince him that he needs us, when really, he doesn't."
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
No
Even if two distros use the same kernel, they often have different file layouts, different configuration tools, different packaging methods, and different sets of optional patches applied to software.

So yes, there ARE very important differences.
Posted by (84 comments )
Link Flag
everyone uses the same kernel
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.analogstereo.com/daewoo_musso_owners_manual.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.analogstereo.com/daewoo_musso_owners_manual.htm</a>
Posted by George Cole (314 comments )
Link Flag
If they make money from service...
...then they have no incentive to make the software easier to use and maintenance-free.
Posted by Chung Leong (111 comments )
Reply Link Flag
From the author: I beg to differ
Red Hat indeed makes money from service, but because services are sold in the form of annual subscriptions, not per incident, there is a powerful financial incentive to minimize technical support calls. The more that customers never need to call Red Hat for support, the fewer employees Red Hat has to hire to help them.

And far more important, a customer that bought software that turns out to be buggy or difficult to use isn't likely to be a repeat customer. Auto dealerships make lots of money off service, but nobody likes buying a lemon.
Posted by Shankland (1858 comments )
Link Flag
If they make money from service...
...then they have no incentive to make the software easier to use and maintenance-free.
Posted by Chung Leong (111 comments )
Reply Link Flag
From the author: I beg to differ
Red Hat indeed makes money from service, but because services are sold in the form of annual subscriptions, not per incident, there is a powerful financial incentive to minimize technical support calls. The more that customers never need to call Red Hat for support, the fewer employees Red Hat has to hire to help them.

And far more important, a customer that bought software that turns out to be buggy or difficult to use isn't likely to be a repeat customer. Auto dealerships make lots of money off service, but nobody likes buying a lemon.
Posted by Shankland (1858 comments )
Link Flag
Why not SuSE
I currently use SuSE 9.1, and it's great. It does wireless networking very nicely. It automatically mounts USB flashdrives. All that kind of thing.

They've developed a very nice system for desktop with lots of applications.

I haven't tried using it as a server, but that isn't the market they are specifically going after either. They are pursuing the desktop market, and therefore adding all the value that Red Hat doesn't have in that market for a typical user.

Plus it's price is comparible to MacOS or Windows XP.
Posted by kxmmxk (320 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Linux Servers
Don't be fooled, Novell (who now owns SuSe) is working hard to make Suse Linux the #1 server choice. They have one major advantage over other linux distro's. eDirectory. I don't really know of any other directory services that is a good as eDirectory (that includes Active Directory). I think that Novell is going to make it available to all compatible linux distro though.

As far as splintering goes. I have to agree that one of the major downfalls to Linux at the moment is the many variations. Without some kind of unification I fear that linux is always going to have problems growing in the desktop market. It can be to costly for developers to try and make their software work with 100 different version of linux. I know this goes against the idea of linux, but they really need to make a core linux that all distro's use that allows a programmer to create one version of a program that doesn't require multiple builds.
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
Link Flag
Why not SuSE
I currently use SuSE 9.1, and it's great. It does wireless networking very nicely. It automatically mounts USB flashdrives. All that kind of thing.

They've developed a very nice system for desktop with lots of applications.

I haven't tried using it as a server, but that isn't the market they are specifically going after either. They are pursuing the desktop market, and therefore adding all the value that Red Hat doesn't have in that market for a typical user.

Plus it's price is comparible to MacOS or Windows XP.
Posted by kxmmxk (320 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Linux Servers
Don't be fooled, Novell (who now owns SuSe) is working hard to make Suse Linux the #1 server choice. They have one major advantage over other linux distro's. eDirectory. I don't really know of any other directory services that is a good as eDirectory (that includes Active Directory). I think that Novell is going to make it available to all compatible linux distro though.

As far as splintering goes. I have to agree that one of the major downfalls to Linux at the moment is the many variations. Without some kind of unification I fear that linux is always going to have problems growing in the desktop market. It can be to costly for developers to try and make their software work with 100 different version of linux. I know this goes against the idea of linux, but they really need to make a core linux that all distro's use that allows a programmer to create one version of a program that doesn't require multiple builds.
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
Link Flag
Come on CNET
"On the other, though, they help cement the dominance of Red Hat's software and spread it to those who might eventually decide Red Hat's services and reliability are worth the price."

Red Hat could have released their own "trial" version if they wanted too. This will hurt Red Hat, but they have it coming to them anyway. Red Hat wants to monopolize on Linux services.
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Come on CNET
"On the other, though, they help cement the dominance of Red Hat's software and spread it to those who might eventually decide Red Hat's services and reliability are worth the price."

Red Hat could have released their own "trial" version if they wanted too. This will hurt Red Hat, but they have it coming to them anyway. Red Hat wants to monopolize on Linux services.
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The talk was about Linux kernel forks
It didn't happen. Linus's kernel tree is still the authoritative source. Regarding distributions, there have been more than one even before 1.0 was out. Red Hat, Debian and Slackware being some of the oldest.

Existing binary incompatibilities are between different library or kernel *versions*. Linus is against keeping backwards compatibility with old kernel versions if it makes things easier. Binary incompatibility is irrelevant for open source apps, because you can just recompile your app. Linux is POSIX, so any app targetted at that will compile, on any Linux version or platform. The problem only exists for closed source apps. Like Oracle.
Posted by quasarstrider (439 comments )
Reply Link Flag
But
But how does that help your standard user?

Thye won't even know what the term 'Recompile' means, much less on how to do it.
Posted by Sboston (498 comments )
Link Flag
The talk was about Linux kernel forks
It didn't happen. Linus's kernel tree is still the authoritative source. Regarding distributions, there have been more than one even before 1.0 was out. Red Hat, Debian and Slackware being some of the oldest.

Existing binary incompatibilities are between different library or kernel *versions*. Linus is against keeping backwards compatibility with old kernel versions if it makes things easier. Binary incompatibility is irrelevant for open source apps, because you can just recompile your app. Linux is POSIX, so any app targetted at that will compile, on any Linux version or platform. The problem only exists for closed source apps. Like Oracle.
Posted by quasarstrider (439 comments )
Reply Link Flag
But
But how does that help your standard user?

Thye won't even know what the term 'Recompile' means, much less on how to do it.
Posted by Sboston (498 comments )
Link Flag
Supposedly. But!
But they get paid a flat-rate for support, not per issue. So the relation is not linear.
Posted by quasarstrider (439 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Supposedly. But!
But they get paid a flat-rate for support, not per issue. So the relation is not linear.
Posted by quasarstrider (439 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The premise of Linux
Lets not flame or fight over this as the point here is open source. Red Hat is complying very nicely with the GPL. I am a SuSe linux user who used to be a red hat user. I didnt like the fact that i had to pay for something that other distribs give for free. SuSe is free as long as you dload the ISO/DVD yourself and live without support. Red Hat removed this and thus lost me as a user.. its ok though.. because the premise of Linux is still there and string. This is what makes this OS great.. competition here spurs inovation by the community to develop to a need.. the corporates can have their paid Red Hat and SuSe and the rest of us can have the free SuSe or copy cats.. either way.. we all come out head.. and without big profits driving it.. linux has developed by leaps and bounds compared to the Windows advancements.. look at windows changes for the last 5 years.. then look at linux due to the community doing the deveoplement and distributions based on needs and goals.. rather than the bottom line..

We all win here.. in the end.. Its Linux..
Posted by (55 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The premise of Linux
Lets not flame or fight over this as the point here is open source. Red Hat is complying very nicely with the GPL. I am a SuSe linux user who used to be a red hat user. I didnt like the fact that i had to pay for something that other distribs give for free. SuSe is free as long as you dload the ISO/DVD yourself and live without support. Red Hat removed this and thus lost me as a user.. its ok though.. because the premise of Linux is still there and string. This is what makes this OS great.. competition here spurs inovation by the community to develop to a need.. the corporates can have their paid Red Hat and SuSe and the rest of us can have the free SuSe or copy cats.. either way.. we all come out head.. and without big profits driving it.. linux has developed by leaps and bounds compared to the Windows advancements.. look at windows changes for the last 5 years.. then look at linux due to the community doing the deveoplement and distributions based on needs and goals.. rather than the bottom line..

We all win here.. in the end.. Its Linux..
Posted by (55 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What about Fedora Core
is it not true that Fedora core is part of Red Hat? Last i checked they just released FC4 test 1, i am downloading it as we speak by torrent. Core 3 was great very clean.
Posted by Martin_Jozef (21 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yep -- FC3 is 99% RHELinux
I also am a Fedora Core 3 user. I like it a lot. It's very developer friendly, and Red Hat did a good job providing tools to easily update all the install packages.

I'm not sure why this article was even written -- Linux has always had many distributions. I guess tech journalists don't have much "tech" background. If they did, they would realize this kind of thing has been going to for what, a decade now? In fact, isn't this basically the same story of how Mandrake came into existence? They took other existing distributions, added a nice installation front-end, and released it as their own. This CentOS doesn't appear any different.
Posted by Richard G. (137 comments )
Link Flag
What about Fedora Core
is it not true that Fedora core is part of Red Hat? Last i checked they just released FC4 test 1, i am downloading it as we speak by torrent. Core 3 was great very clean.
Posted by Martin_Jozef (21 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yep -- FC3 is 99% RHELinux
I also am a Fedora Core 3 user. I like it a lot. It's very developer friendly, and Red Hat did a good job providing tools to easily update all the install packages.

I'm not sure why this article was even written -- Linux has always had many distributions. I guess tech journalists don't have much "tech" background. If they did, they would realize this kind of thing has been going to for what, a decade now? In fact, isn't this basically the same story of how Mandrake came into existence? They took other existing distributions, added a nice installation front-end, and released it as their own. This CentOS doesn't appear any different.
Posted by Richard G. (137 comments )
Link Flag
This Article has Ulterior Motives...
Whether Red Hat is having people using Red Hat clones is not the purpose of the article.

This is an attempt from the writers at E-Week to create distrust within the Open Source community in my opinion.

Be on guard people and see things for what they are.

The enemies of Linux and Open Source will try anything to destroy the community.

You'll be seeing more articles and attempts like this in the future.

You can say all the bluff and doublespeak you want but I can say that I'm not the only person who has this perspective.

Cheers,

Nick
Posted by NicholasDonovan (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
From the author: my alleged ulterior motives
You write: "This is an attempt from the writers at E-Week to create distrust within the Open Source community in my opinion."

I'm not certain how exactly this article would create distrust, but I am certain I work for CNET News.com, not eWeek. The intent of the article was to share news of what I viewed as an interesting development in the balance of power between Red Hat and open-source programmers, not to undermine Red Hat, the open-source community, the Red Hat rebuilders or anyone else.

You also write: "The enemies of Linux and Open Source will try anything to destroy the community."

This might be true, but I don't think this article is such an attempt. To the contrary, I suspect that many people in the community will be interested in learning about or trying the Red Hat clones and that the clones' existence demonstrates the community's vitality. Red Hat may or may not like people using the clones, but that's a separate issue. If my goal had been to destroy the community, I would have been better off avoiding reporting on the issue altogether. Read my work and judge for yourselves: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://news.search.com/search?q=shankland" target="_newWindow">http://news.search.com/search?q=shankland</a>

If you could be specific about how exactly this article is an attack, you might be more persuasive. Feel free to post here or e-mail me directly--my e-mail address is a mailto link at the top of the story.
Posted by Shankland (1858 comments )
Link Flag
This Article has Ulterior Motives...
Whether Red Hat is having people using Red Hat clones is not the purpose of the article.

This is an attempt from the writers at E-Week to create distrust within the Open Source community in my opinion.

Be on guard people and see things for what they are.

The enemies of Linux and Open Source will try anything to destroy the community.

You'll be seeing more articles and attempts like this in the future.

You can say all the bluff and doublespeak you want but I can say that I'm not the only person who has this perspective.

Cheers,

Nick
Posted by NicholasDonovan (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
From the author: my alleged ulterior motives
You write: "This is an attempt from the writers at E-Week to create distrust within the Open Source community in my opinion."

I'm not certain how exactly this article would create distrust, but I am certain I work for CNET News.com, not eWeek. The intent of the article was to share news of what I viewed as an interesting development in the balance of power between Red Hat and open-source programmers, not to undermine Red Hat, the open-source community, the Red Hat rebuilders or anyone else.

You also write: "The enemies of Linux and Open Source will try anything to destroy the community."

This might be true, but I don't think this article is such an attempt. To the contrary, I suspect that many people in the community will be interested in learning about or trying the Red Hat clones and that the clones' existence demonstrates the community's vitality. Red Hat may or may not like people using the clones, but that's a separate issue. If my goal had been to destroy the community, I would have been better off avoiding reporting on the issue altogether. Read my work and judge for yourselves: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://news.search.com/search?q=shankland" target="_newWindow">http://news.search.com/search?q=shankland</a>

If you could be specific about how exactly this article is an attack, you might be more persuasive. Feel free to post here or e-mail me directly--my e-mail address is a mailto link at the top of the story.
Posted by Shankland (1858 comments )
Link Flag
Well, my comment comes WAY after this article was written, but a few years later, the only surviving "clone" in the sense of being source code compatible with Red Hat Enterprise Linux is CentOS, which has been doing very well. White Box Linux and Lineox, both of whom were also in this space, have dropped out of site. Fortunately, CentOS is doing well, perhaps better than ever.
Posted by masinick (15 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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