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Paid Support Not Critical For Linux Adoption 199

Posted by Soulskill
from the why-buy-the-milk-when-you-can-get-the-cow-for-free dept.
ruphus13 writes "At the LinuxWorld expo, an analyst for the 451 Group pointed to a growing trend in enterprise — the increase in adoption of community-supported Linux distros. From the article, 'Companies are increasingly choosing free community-driven Linux distributions instead of commercial offerings with conventional support options. Several factors are driving this trend, particularly dissatisfaction with the cost of support services from the major distributors. Companies that use and deploy Linux internally increasingly have enough in-house expertise to handle all of their technical needs and no longer have to rely on Red Hat or Novell.'"
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Paid Support Not Critical For Linux Adoption

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  • Support is Better (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kcbanner (929309) * on Saturday August 09, 2008 @12:07AM (#24534923) Homepage Journal
    When the person giving it to you knows what they are doing. If that person actually uses the software then they probably know alot about it. This is why community-driven support works, if you manage to keep the "kiddies" out so that they don't clog up the forums with lots of repeated/redundant questions then everything goes quite smoothly. Arch Linux does a very good job of this; it's a simple distro to use for the experienced user, so you get alot of good questions being asked with lots of good answers. Community support > paid support any day.
  • Re:first post (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 09, 2008 @12:12AM (#24534943)

    We can't. We suck cock, go ask the asshole-eaters.

  • by perlchild (582235) on Saturday August 09, 2008 @12:17AM (#24534959)

    How much of that experience is due to the "for the experienced user" selecting criteria? Commercial support costs a lot, because there are a lot of calls, which requires lots of people, which means you have more level 1 and less level 3 people(proportionately anyways), which makes those people overworked, which lowers the qualify of their work(again if only proportinately). But the costs don't go down(indeed, they tend to go up). So the perceived value of support goes down.

  • Re:easy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by iceeey (842254) on Saturday August 09, 2008 @12:23AM (#24534997)
    The paid support is for businesses who can't waste their time scouring the Internet and posting in forums for solutions. Time is money, and the sooner they get the help they need, the better. The same is true for Windows. You think Microsoft doesn't have expensive paid support? Guess again. They basically have a monopoly on it, whereas with Linux, any company can support the software competently, since the source code is available.
  • by rronda (1139207) on Saturday August 09, 2008 @12:48AM (#24535135)
    Those same kiddies that you talk about are users that don't have institutional support or enough nerdy friends when something "comes up" in linux. I understand the repeated-redundant questions clogging up the expert forums but usually the technical level needed to solve some specific problem is very high (and specially to understand what one is doing). And it gets high so quickly sometimes that a new user can not discriminate whether her question is being answered or not in an old post. I think everybody would benefit from a newbie forum (I've been a newbie Linux user for almost 10 years now) so that one can ask stupid questions and get well explained answers from some generous more advanced users. Just last week I had to replace my video card. I have it working after several hours, but it still looks like an Atari. I am looking forward having some time to spare from my research to see if I can make it work in 3-D.
  • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Saturday August 09, 2008 @01:01AM (#24535189) Homepage Journal

    RedHat is too corporate and server oriented.
    Debian is a big bunch of bureaucratic nerds.
    All the other distros are too small.

    When Ubuntu came along it offered the technical prowess of Debian, without the bureaucracy, a big financial backer, and a focus on the desktop instead of the server. That's why it took off.

  • by Psychotria (953670) on Saturday August 09, 2008 @01:04AM (#24535207)
    It really depends on the business. However, the advantage that Linux has is that it has become 'common'. Linux admins and programmers are fairly easy to find these days; as opposed to, say, HP/UX (and others) that is harder, arguably, to find competent people to admin and program for. On the flipside, if you're a large enough business to pay for several sysadmins and programmers, then I would guess that the annual support fee is worth it--in effect the paid support is an ex-situ 'employee' that is available 24/7 and is not ONE employee but a team of employees. The ex-situ employee is not going to decide to go work for somebody else either...
  • by emaname (1014225) on Saturday August 09, 2008 @01:14AM (#24535245)

    ...and if I might add this to the abstract above, they also don't need Microsoft support.

    But the fact that these companies have chosen to use FOSS and GNU/Linux has given them that edge. They are not subject to lock in and some proprietary code of questionable quality. So they can go it alone.

  • by xdancergirlx (872890) on Saturday August 09, 2008 @01:16AM (#24535257)

    Don't forget though that the ability of bigger enterprise-driven companies like Redhat and Novell to pay full-time linux programmers has had a tremendously postive effect on community distros.

    It is hard to imagine what the linux desktop would look like today without the contribution of Redhat and Novell programmers during the last 5 years.

  • Re:easy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gujo-odori (473191) on Saturday August 09, 2008 @01:26AM (#24535285)

    The fact that time is money is the reason more businesses are going to community-supported distros and moving away from things like Red Hat. For many problems, you can find the solution in less time than it would take to open a support incident, then get to work on implementing the solution. Even if you use vendor support and they tell you the solution, you're still the one that has to do it. As someone else mentioned, vendor support mostly comes in handy when there isn't a work-around and the vendor is your only option. That's true for Microsoft support as well.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 09, 2008 @02:11AM (#24535447)

    So how do Red Hat and Novell pay full-time Linux programmers in the future when no one needs paid support any more because community support is better going forward?

  • Wow, How Timely (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CrankyFool (680025) on Saturday August 09, 2008 @02:14AM (#24535457)

    I work at a Fortune 500 non-tech company, with responsibility for, among others, the UNIX side of the house which has been Solaris until now. After months of discussions, we finally got the go-ahead yesterday from our CIO to move forward with Linux support; the intention is to have Linux be our #1 choice for UNIX[ish] deployments, with Solaris only being used when we absolutely, positively, can't use Linux or Windows.

    For us, we're going with RedHat primarily for two reasons:
    1. We're very conservative -- the whole "supportable platform" thing scares the crap out of some of my coworkers, especially on the applications side, so we absolutely require commercial, neck-on-the-line support;

    2. We intend to primarily use Linux as the underlying infrastructure for commercial applications, so one obvious question we had to ask was: What Linux distro is most likely to be supported by our vendors (DB2, Oracle, various Symantec products, etc)? It came down to SLES and RHEL, and ... well, I don't like SLES :)

    It's worth noting that while I've got really smart Solaris system engineers working for me, the standard I use is: Can my engineer support this system at 2AM, with one hand tied behind their back, blindfolded, having been woken up from a drunken, drugged stupor? We're not quite there yet with Linux, so it's helpful to have robust support. I've had experience with RHEL support in a previous company and was duly impressed.

    I suspect that, 2-4 years from now when we've developed the skill level to support Linux very well without having to rely on Support much (and the good news is, in this environment it's likely most of my well-performing engineers will still be here in 2-4 years), we'll reconsider the commercial support necessity and revisit this. But application compatibility will still be key, so unless mainstream enterprise vendors (see names above) start supporting dists such as Ubuntu, chances are we'll still stick with one of the big commercial distributions.

  • by ClosedSource (238333) on Saturday August 09, 2008 @02:59AM (#24535601)

    This outcome will be inevitable as Linux adoption grows and users become more comfortable with it.

    Further proof that making money off of FOSS by offering "service" is not a viable long-term strategy in most cases.

  • by jcnnghm (538570) on Saturday August 09, 2008 @02:59AM (#24535603)

    That's easy, it's polished Debian. Debian Stable is absolutely wonderful for server environments. Security support tends to last years, most everything "just works", packages are thoroughly tested, and apt cures dependency hell, but packages aren't always very recent. Ubuntu essentially was taking Debian's unstable branch, stabilizing it, and releasing it every six months to act as a desktop OS. It's kind of a best of both worlds situation, up to date and stable packages.

    I maintain that the single largest advantage that a Linux desktop has over a Windows desktop is package management. With synaptic (and apt) you can easily and quickly search for and install software. This is the killer app. Ubuntu does, imho, more right than any other desktop linux has before, although I still think there's a bit more work to do to be ready for prime time.

  • Not "Buying" It (Score:4, Insightful)

    by br0k_sams0n (848842) on Saturday August 09, 2008 @03:47AM (#24535697)
    Small to mid-sized shops who get by with less than a dozen SAs and who don't have WAN volume replication concerns might go this route, but there is too much risk for Fortune 500. It mostly boils-down to 3rd party applications, hardware and drivers. If you're a F500, you probably have proprietary storage of some sort and you probably rely on volume replication across the WAN. You want to hook into that storage from Linux, you need a "certified" platform and that ain't going to be an arbitrary set of Ubuntu packages. Sure it will probably work from Ubuntu, until you get kernel panics under load. Then your in-house Linux "experts" call support for the storage vendor and they ask what distro version and driver you're using. When you say "Gutsy Gibbon recent" they laugh and refuse to support you. At that point, your idea of community support doesn't look quite so hot considering nobody in the community can repro your hardware/driver issue.
  • by foobsr (693224) on Saturday August 09, 2008 @04:25AM (#24535813) Homepage Journal
    Company execs also prefer knowing that someone is ultimately responsible if something does not work.

    Company execs also prefer knowing that someone other than themselves is ultimately responsible if something does not work.

    !!!

    CC.
  • by perrin (891) on Saturday August 09, 2008 @06:43AM (#24536231)

    At work we would only be happy to pay for commercial support and updates, but we choose to use Fedora instead of RedHat Enterprise simply because Fedora is a better product for what we do, and Redhat does not offer commercial support for it. The enterprise version is geared toward network administration and services, but for a development shop, having access to the add-on Fedora repositories like livna, more up to date software versions, and the greater user base makes Fedora a far better platform.

    Seems like RedHat missed the boat on desktop Linux, and Ubuntu ate its lunch in that market. I wonder if they will ever try to make a comeback, or if they will be happy in the network niche.

  • by Daengbo (523424) <daengbo AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday August 09, 2008 @06:55AM (#24536263) Homepage Journal

    they have no forum that I know of

    Debian Forums [debian.net]

    The Debian forums are full of people who have no qualms about saying "Go troll somewhere else!" Even given that negative, I still prefer the Debian forums to the Ubuntu ones because I can't handle the kind of user who posts an error message which contains instructions on what to do, then asks what to do.

  • by ozphx (1061292) on Saturday August 09, 2008 @07:29AM (#24536355) Homepage

    Your RHEL support money goes into funding development (eg kernel dev) as well.

    Its going to lead to the odd situation where the companies that are actually _contributing_ to improving Linux won't be able to provide competitive support.

  • by reidconti (219106) on Saturday August 09, 2008 @03:48PM (#24539127)

    It's been true for at least 5 years. It used to be easy to find intelligent people online who ran into the same problem. Now all you find is rank amateurs posting stupid questions that happen to contain some words that are relevant to your search.

[Crash programs] fail because they are based on the theory that, with nine women pregnant, you can get a baby a month. -- Wernher von Braun

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