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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.
    • 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:Support is Better (Score:4, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 09, 2008 @01:54AM (#24535393)

        Working in paid support I don't want to mention any names. But you've got a point. I'm pretty good but can't know it all. And sometimes get thrown onto supporting stuff I have little to no training in. The sad thing is a lot of people calling in know even less. So they're sometimes paying for me to search google, forums, internal knowledge bases, on their behalf.

        But as someone else pointed out, people pay for the 24x7 and to leverage the organization's knowledge. If I don't know, I can run over to someone who presumably will. Also good to be able to tell the boss someone owns the problem. But I can also see it's kind of hard for support organizations to hire ppl who know what they're doing into phone support. It has a stigma about it. Not sure how long I want to stick around doing it either for that reason.

      • I've very few had a problem with Arch that took more experience than scanning through the forums for an answer that was all ready there rather than asking the same question 50 times. When I did have a problem the required some experience they always fell into one of three catagories
        failure to update frequently enough update fail because your packages were to far out of date, which usually means having to rename a file in /etc. On very rare occasions you can get a corrupt package which will stop your upgrade

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by supernova_hq (1014429)
      For the average semi-tech-savy person yes, for those that don't know how to use a forum (I know quite a few), it is much easier to call someone (or even email them) and know that they are paid to help you. Company execs also prefer knowing that someone is ultimately responsible if something does not work.

      Now before you start in on the "Microsoft support is crap", "no support for OEM" and "Canonical does offer paid support", I just want to say that for most users that know a little (less than power user,
      • Re:Support is Better (Score:5, Interesting)

        by zappepcs (820751) on Saturday August 09, 2008 @01:04AM (#24535209) Journal

        Can I add a bit to that? ok, sure I will.

        Businesses like to have 24/7 support so they can point fingers at someone else. Anyone who has supported Solaris for the last 10 years knows that supporting Linux is a walk in the park. Having forums and "The Google" is a bonus.

        In my current day-time job, they are adopting F/OSS based on cost. After the initial 2-4 year honeymoon the PHBs have finally realized that the knowledge base in-house is as good as what they can pay for, and community support is often faster than a phone call, things have worked out smoothly. We pay for minimum support to ensure timely patches, that's it. Some systems that are not 100% mission critical fall to Fedora or CentOS and in-house admins to manage it.

        We have 40-75% of hardware hitting end-of-life and the choice to move to commodity hardware with Linux OS is becoming very easy, almost expected. Its a point where is seems a no-brainer, just whack in a blade server with a LAMP stack and configure.. what's the hold up? what do you mean it will be 3 weeks? Seriously. Now that they see the competence of F/OSS on commodity hardware it is the go-to configuration because of in-house knowledge and skill and the fact that owning the skills makes it a true zero cost option compared to others.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by jav1231 (539129)
          Where I work Linux adoption mainly comes through 3rd parties. The idea of having someone to blame, I suppose but to me that was always an odd argument. So many justify using Microsoft for this but Microsoft specifically obfuscates itself from harm in it's EULA's. Sure they'll help troubleshoot a situation and support you through the issue but you have no recourse through them at all. If a MS-SQL bug costs your company millions, they won't take responsibility.
      • 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 Kjella (173770)

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

          While true, I've also found that execs get slapped with how they're doing on the bottom line whether it's their fault or not. Even if you get concessions from a vendor (typically free consultant/support hours without formally admitting to anything) because a product sucks it'll hardly make up for the lost business time. And if you could sue over costs due to bugs Microsoft would be poor not filthy rich, I'm sure someone has recovered a bit through the legal system but I'm pretty sure it didn't cover the rea

        • They are not going to get that they have two choices;
          1. Pay some outside company like sun or Microsoft to be not responsible, or
          2.Not pay some outside company like sun or Microsoft to be not responsible.
          It's a case of "But Darling you knew when you signed the contract we weren't responsible, we just pretended to be responsible to get your money and let you feel warm and cozy"

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rronda (1139207)
      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 w
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It's called the ubuntu forums. Seriously.

        Not trolling. Really.

      • somebody needs to read through the forums and move the frequently asked questions into the frequently asked questions, Doah. Wow I just realized that was a reverse version of the good 'ol "RTFM n00b"

  • by JoeCommodore (567479) <larry@portcommodore.com> on Saturday August 09, 2008 @12:25AM (#24535009) Homepage

    We started with RHEL3, especially since we ordered a Dell Server and it could come with the server, thus I knew RH would just work on it. Never seemed to get my money's worth out of support (if you are going to administer it, you might as well learn it, so I answered most questions by myself.) A year or so later, instead of going RHEL4 I went to CentOS 4 next, as it had the same necessary apps and updates, support didn't matter so I had the OS without the bothersome RedHat Network license validation nag screens.

    About a year after that I got tired of CentOS - when I started looking at options for a cross-platform backup solution, CentOS was the low man on the compatible distribution totem pole, sometimes not even there at all, most support requestes ended with some vague problem with dependencies and an 'oh well'.

    Also learned to shy away from SuSE then too, as I noticed around that time any Novell associated projects usually dropped any non-SuSE binaries (i.e. iFolder).

    But Ubuntu had just about everything there, was well updated, and a lot of forums with solutions. Granted, Ubuntu lacked the nice SAMBA admin program (GSAMBAD needs help), but I never have any problems finding apps or resolving installation issues quickly.

    • by Dice (109560)

      Amanda [amanda.org] is very good for backups across various *nix systems. I'm running it on Solaris, CentOS, RHEL, Fedora, and Ubuntu machines at various locations. There's a bit of administrative overhead in the initial setup, but it's bullet proof once you have it running. Combine it with a large disk array and some software VTL and you have a backup system that requires basically zero overhead.

      • by Jailbrekr (73837)

        I found the same thing with Bacula. My only minor complaint was its command line interface for restorations and administration. Apart from that it was bullet proof and really well laid out.

        • Cross platform (i.e. Linux/Mac/Windows) we are currently using Unison (lower setup/install on client and server) but probably will go to Backula next. Looked at Amanda, it seemed to have pretty steep setup curve (at least at the time I was looking at it).

          • I use Unison, too, and love it! Not many backup solutions support backing up OS X resource forks and metadata to Linux servers. I use it in combination with a GFS-like shell script that performs a hard-link copy of the current backup state to another folder named after the current date and time, and backups older than a couple of months are deleted except for the last backup of each month. It's space efficient and longitudinal :-)

            I wish the restore interface was as nice as Apple's Time Machine, but it's not

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ozphx (1061292)

      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.

      • Well then the few hundered of our dollars contributed. Just to clarify, people don't need to pay Red Hat to support Linux, just in case you were thinking Red Hat != Linux, there are many many other co.s and individuals supporting Linux development as well.

        Red Hat isn't bad, I stated that it wasn't as necessary for us as I had initially expected and we don't really require that much TA through a paid service like theirs. I can see it could be a benefit to those places that want turn-key Linux solution supp

  • by VoyagerRadio (669156) <harold.johnson@gmail.com> on Saturday August 09, 2008 @12:33AM (#24535055) Homepage Journal
    How did Ubuntu get such a huge community so quickly? I remember hearing about Ubuntu shortly after I installed Xandros on my system, about three or four years ago. I began looking into Ubuntu, and its community was exploding, and still seems to be. I wouldn't be surprised if alot of enterprises are installing this distro now, based on its community. Yet still: why Ubuntu? Why not one of the other similar distros? Is it the name? The slogan? The color scheme? Mark Shuttleworth? What's the deal?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Culture20 (968837)

      I wouldn't be surprised if alot of enterprises are installing this distro now, based on its community. Yet still: why Ubuntu? [...] The color scheme?

      Baby poop brown is so non-fun that it must be a serious business application.

      • Ubuntu's colors are "Starbucks"* Orange & Brown. Or a close-up of an elephant's side.

        *I don't know if Starbucks invented the color scheme, but they sure did use it to death. And every "trendy" mass-market "bistro" repeats the refrain ad nauseum.

      • by Larryish (1215510) <larryish&gmail,com> on Saturday August 09, 2008 @02:45AM (#24535553)

        Baby poop brown is so non-fun that it must be a serious business application.

        Baby poop also comes in green and yellow.

        Oh shit I hope Intrepid Ibex isn't green and yellow.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Tubal-Cain (1289912)

      It is as stable as Debian but much more polished.
      (To the point that I switched to Debian when I realized my learning was hampered by Ubuntu's ease-of-use)

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        Ubuntu isn't even close to being as stable as debian
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by keeboo (724305)
          Ubuntu isn't even close to being as stable as debian

          Please tell that to the Sun Enterprise 450 I've got at work.
          And we're talking about a SPARC-based server, it's not really that obscure.

          Now the irony is the fact that ~2 years ago I got a old HP (PA-RISC-based) server and the only Linux which installed without glitches was Ubuntu (5.10). After the reboot the X started and we had a graphic login (horribly slow, the machine is a dinossaur, but still).

          I like Debian, it's my preferred Linux for anything
    • by supernova_hq (1014429) on Saturday August 09, 2008 @12:50AM (#24535141)
      I don't know about everyone else, but the reason It was recommended to me (and why I recommend it to everyone else), is the amazing hardware detection and driver list that is automatically installed. When looking at other distros (slackware, fedora, etc.) I was looking up down and upside down finding sound drivers, wireless drivers, video drivers, and so on; but Ubuntu found and installed them, then ASKED if I wanted the binary ones as well!
      • by jhol13 (1087781)

        The binary only (proprietary) drivers was the reason for me.

        It is the only desktop distribution taking care of the huge PITA binary drivers are in Linux.

        Unfortunately it does not solve the problem wholly, e.g. DVB card support is a bit behind (you may have to compile the sources going back to square one - every kernel update "breaks" your computer).

    • by theheadlessrabbit (1022587) on Saturday August 09, 2008 @12:52AM (#24535155) Homepage Journal

      because after installing some other linux distros and having a horrible time getting anything to work right, i gave ubuntu a shot, and everything just worked right away.

      why ubuntu?
      because it works.

      i want my time on the computer to be wasted reading slashdot, not wasted by pointless driver/hardware issues.

    • by chthon (580889)

      It is called marketing, and, while considered a naughty word on Slashdot, I do recommend Marketing for Dummies [amazon.com], which I find puts things in perspective about what marketing really is (not every company is a lying, cheating, robbing Microsoft).

    • by nschubach (922175) on Saturday August 09, 2008 @01:48AM (#24535359) Journal

      I just bought a Lenovo Thinkpad T61 with SLED10 ($50) and I wiped it for Ubuntu. Why? I use Gnome. I didn't like the "XP/Vista like" application menu. I didn't like the package manager... I tried using it for a few days, but went back to Ubuntu figuring that I just spent $50 to give Linux one more OEM sale instead of Windows. Sure, I had to tweak the Thinkpad buttons a bit, but after that everything just worked.

      • by nschubach (922175)

        Oh, and for the record, I tried Mandriva 2008.1 Spring before going back to Ubuntu. Same deal. My hardware wasn't working without some major fuss. I wanted to try another distro, but none of them seem as dedicated to setting up the multitude of config files to make their distro work out of the box.

    • by symbolset (646467)

      Why? It's easy to install. It's easy to administer. It's Open, available and Free. It's secure by default (no open ports). It has repositories for thousands of useful and free apps that you can get from their repositories instead of downloading them from random Internet sites. It supports nearly all the hardware you've ever heard of. Server is free. Client is free. Thin client with servers is free. Clustering is free. Did I mention that client licenses are free? You can boot it from nearly any rea

    • 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.

    • I used to love redhat, RPM's made quick work of things.. (I hated Configure;make;make install and keeping it up to date). At the time, redhat, with its up2date program rocked. However, on the desktop at home, I got fed up with dependancy hell. Was talking to a friend that worked at ximian (now novell) he said he was using ubuntu, and liked it.. I started playing with it. It has now been my main desktop at home for quite some time. (I dual booted XP for a while.. Felt really good to delete that windows

    • For me, and I think a lot of others, it's because it was effectively debian for the desktop. Stable and up-to-date. On the desktop most people want the latest shiny packages and the six-month release cycle of ubuntu gave them a stable debian distro with that.
    • by subreality (157447) on Saturday August 09, 2008 @06:38AM (#24536219)

      I was a Debian user for a very long time at home, and on my personal servers, and I supported Red Hat Enterprise at work, which was a necessary compromise. I experimented with other distros many times, but always kept coming back to Debian, because in the long run, it ran smoothest. Setting it up as a desktop (or laptop!) required a lot of work, but when done, it was bulletproof.

      One day I tried Ubuntu in my usual spirit of checking out what the competition was up to... And I was blown away. Everything Just Worked even on my balky laptop. And yet, under the hood, it is just a refined Debian system, and when I need to change something (rare, due to the attention to detail in the base install) it could be done easily without breaking things, or fighting against a configuration system... Fully easy and refined, yet fully hackable.

      There's no going back, the same as I would never go back to Red Hat from Debian, or to Slackware from Red Hat.

      Other important factors are:

      • Fast release cycle to keep apps up to date (Gentoo does well here, RHEL was fair, Debian was failing miserably)
      • Good QA before release (Debian's has always been excellent, RHEL fair, Gentoo fair)
      • A good security update process (Debian's excellent, RHEL usually worked OK in exchange for money, Gentoo... should not be used on a server.)
      • It Just Works (RHEL fair, Debian poor, Gentoo is aimed at a different market, so I won't say they failed, but it certainly doesn't Just Work)
      • A pragmatic approach to handling non-free components (RHEL and Debian make you deal with Nvidia drivers yourself, and when they upgrade the kernel and it breaks X, and you need to work... you go deal with it yourself. Again. And again. Fail. Debian is all about Free, so their lack of codecs is understandable, but if you want it to Just Work, Debian doesn't. Ubuntu struck a good balance, nagging you that you were using non-free software, but happily installing and maintaining it for you if that was your choice.)
      • Commercial support (RHEL is obviously a leader here, support for Debian is only fair since it requires third parties, and Gentoo is simply not aimed at people who want support)
      • Available software (RHEL's pretty good with a number of people producing RPMs, especially if you need closed-source software; Debian's good with an extremely large package selection; most other distros have a fairly small package base, and few people interested in supplying third-party packages, so poor. Ubuntu shares Debian's excellent pre-built selection, and most third-party packages for Debian install smoothly.)
      • Putting the user's interests first (Debian puts Freedom first - many people value this, but Ubuntu gives the option to prioritize Just Works, while maintaining a general commitment to software freedom. RHEL made me waste a lot of time managing licenses so I could update; while understandable, they're putting their profits ahead of my interests.)

      So in my view, it's no one thing - they've just managed to do well in many areas, without screwing up any major aspect.

      • All true, and excellent points, but an important addition has been a constant focus on the community. It's an easy community to be part of. Of course that's not something that Ubuntu has better than Debian, but it is what differentiates it from Redhat and SUSE. Not that those don't have a sort of community, it's just not the same. The things you mentioned are indeed what catapulted Ubuntu ahead of Debian though. It's what most people wanted anyway, an easier to use Debian. A lot of people that if someone p
    • by bazorg (911295)
      It could be in part because it felt new. People who tried linux but couldn't use it permanently because of a minor thing might have been more tempted to try Ubuntu than to have another go at Red Hat, Mandrake, ... if a significant number of those started talking about the wonders of a LiveCD it's only natural that the reputation would go far.
  • by Jailbrekr (73837) <jailbrekr@digitaladdiction.net> on Saturday August 09, 2008 @12:40AM (#24535095) Homepage

    And while we *do* pay for support and it has come in handy on occasion, I have found that google is a far more valuable tool than their support services. First off, it doesn't take 2 days to get a response when you are using google. Second, you aren't forced to do a sysreport by some 1st tier keyboard jockey in Bangalore before they will even consider thinking about the problem you are reporting.

    Now, having said that, when you manage to escalate your problem to someone high enough up, you do get quality support. you just have to jump through hoops to get there, which really does IMO make the value of the paid support rather questionable.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 09, 2008 @05:10AM (#24535913)

      (AC for obvious reasons)

      That's funny, because I work at Red Hat, in Raleigh, and sit right next to the L1 bullpen for RHEL support. I know Raleigh is in the South, but it's not Bangalore. So at least some of the time, you're talking to an actual American. Most of them are pretty cool and know their shit, and there isn't a script in sight. And, oddly, not a one of them is south asian. So YMMV by timezone. Welcome to the global economy...

      -Shadowman!

    • by dodobh (65811)

      Redhat support is Pune, not Bangalore

  • by Nymz (905908) on Saturday August 09, 2008 @12:42AM (#24535103) Journal
    Why buy the milk and eggs bundled, when you can easily feed the chickens yourself, thus making the bundle price, overpriced, when compared to the cost of milking the cows yourself.
  • by fyrie (604735) on Saturday August 09, 2008 @12:43AM (#24535109)

    As a professional programmer and hobbiest computer builder, I've found that support is almost always done better by the community except for true core bugs/issues that don't have a work around. When there is no work around, the vendor is becomes the sole source of support in most cases.

    • That's why I think some company should offer a per-issue support for Debian/Ubuntu. Not cheap, but good. Not just per phone, but by e-mail too. Maybe a webbased-ticked-system with e-mail updates ?

      • Difficult to do. Most of the kinds of problem where you'd actually want paid support are 'I've come across a bug in package X and it's stopping my company from doing what we need to do.' The support company would need to have expertise to have someone investigate and fix the bug for every package. Probably the best way of doing it would be to act as a liaison and pay the upstream developers to fix the bug, work with them to identify it, and give the customer a single contact point.

        • Difficult to do well, valuable for the customer... something people would pay for... sounds like a great business opportunity for someone that's able to do it. That's the real definition of value added before the marketing droids got their hands on the term.
  • ...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.

    • 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?

      • by icebike (68054)

        Mod Parent up!!

        At last someone asked the obvious question.

        Novell and RedHat have all but moved out of the paid boxed set linux distro, hoping to make money on the high-priced "Enterprise" versions (with paid support, which mostly means downloadable upgrades).

        But when Opensuse and Fedora provide every bit as robust and reliable software and the high priced packages, (to say nothing of Ubuntu), who but the most risk-adverse bean counter will buy them?

        With declining sales, who pays developers?

        The paid boxed se

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ClosedSource (238333)

          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 wrook (134116) on Saturday August 09, 2008 @04:09AM (#24535767) Homepage

        Support is not where the money is for free software IMHO. And actually, although I'm not in the loop for these companies I don't think either of them make most of their money from "commercial" style support.

        The big money is either in custom distribution builds or in custom software development (or both). Usually you sell a "support contract" with it too, but it's more of an extended warranty than a real support contract.

        I once had an interesting talk with a salesman from Novell (who is a big free software fan). He told me that he doesn't try to sell support contracts for Linux. Instead he's more interested in providing upgrade paths for existing Netware customers. These products run on Linux and to compete against Microsoft's offerings they need a full package deal (office suite, email, etc, etc). In fact, from his description of what they were doing, I got the impression that the support side was still being run as a "loss center" rather than a "profit center".

        To make a long story shorter, successful free software companies will make money providing specific solutions to customers. Those that rely on "generic" (IMHO, useless) end user support will die an ugly death. However, I don't believe that any of Red Hat, Novell, Canonical, IBM, Sun, etc, etc are trying to base their business on end user support.

        So we can expect to see more of the same.

      • They won't, but who cares? There are two facets of support:
        1. 'I can't work out how to do X, help me!'
        2. 'This software can't do X, fix it!'

        The first can be done in-house or by third parties easily. Microsoft built a huge ecosystem of MCPs and MCSEs to do this for Windows. The same sort of thing is happening for Free Software - either you employ someone in-house who knows stuff, you employ someone (cheaper) who knows a little and can use Google to learn the rest, or you put a consultant on retainer to hel

      • There are more ways to make money on F/OSS than paid support. IBM can more easily sell a mainframe if one of the selling points is that the customer gets the code to the OS. What does IBM care, as long as it moves hardware?

        It also helps other hardware vendors, who then no longer have to pay license fees for the OS (phones, mini-laptops, etc.).

        And a lot of F/OSS projects could make millions if they would print high-quality documentation, in an actual BOOK, and sell the damn thing.

        Transporter_ii

  • Although it won't be news to most of us - how many here have actually ever tried getting vendor support on a software application? I've had to call support for obscure hardware and software, but never for an operating system.

    And once business see that Linux runs reliably and problems can be solved efficiently by the people they already pay anyway, the choice to migrate ever-larger systems to Linux becomes not only easy, but natural.

    • by KGIII (973947)

      Then where is the incentive for continued growth in the Linux development arena?

      • by johannesg (664142)

        More business running on Linux --> more software needed on Linux. Development on the kernel will be more the concern of those that need new kernel functionality, like hardware builders.

  • 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.

    • Out of interest, what does Linux offer you that Solaris doesn't?
      • There are two factors here:
        1. We've been burned before by using stacks that are not very popular. For example, we're currently a huge DB2-on-Solaris shop. While DB2 on Solaris is officially supported, it's not a very mainstream configuration, and we've found that we've run into obscure problems because it's not very well implemented. So mainstreamability (yes, I just made that word up) is important to us;
        2. We've pretty much drank the VMware kool-aid. We've not just drank the kool-aid, we emptied the pi

        • For virtualisation, Sun has their own hypervisor on SPARC, supports (and actively contributes to) Xen on x86, and has Zones for almost-virtualisation. Your point about using a minority platform makes sense, and I suspect this is probably the largest barrier to Solaris and BSD adoption - even when they're technically superior they are not as well supported by third-party products.
          • If you look at virtualization as a commodity -- being able to run multiple VMs on a single physical box -- there are hordes of solutions out there, and certainly Sun has some nice options. We use LDOMs today on T5240s and like them; Containers are also an option, obviously.

            However, if you look at virtualization as enabling a bunch of other capabilities, and you start asking whether or not Sun enables those capabilities, that's where you get into the area where they're really lacking. They've got the basic

  • 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.
  • Why pay? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by br00tus (528477) on Saturday August 09, 2008 @04:03AM (#24535747)

    My shop has several hundred Red Hat boxes. What do we do with the money we pay Red Hat? Primarily it is to have access to their web site and get the ISOs for different Red Hat versions, as well as individual packages if needed. Or we use up2date/yum on the machine itself to grab packages.

    One thing I can say in favor of Red Hat. I used to use Debian at home (now I use Gnewsense, a knockoff of Ubuntu, which is a knockoff of Debian). For many months, the "search the contents of a package" feature was disabled on Debian's website. So if I wanted the program "sftp" but didn't know it was in package openssh-client, I could search there and discover that. But Debian just decided to take it down for a few months. Red Hat would not do that for so long, if at all, and if they did I could call and complain.

    One problem with Red Hat versus Sun is if a kernel panics or whatever with Solaris, I can send the core dump to Sun and that's it - the control the OS, they control the architecture (except for Host Bus Adapters and the like), and that not only makes core dumps easier (netdump seems to be preferred on Red Hat, which I think blows), but makes them easier to diagnose - it is all coming from one source. With Red Hat you don't know if is Red Hat that did something, or your hardware vendor (Dell/HP/etc.) Which means they can point fingers at one another, with Sun can not do as it is all coming from one source. OS and hardware all from one source has its advantages. Also, the usual answer from Red Hat and the hardware vendors is we should have everything patched to the latest version, which we never do, so reporting it is pointless. Even if we had everything patched, since unlike Solaris it won't be dumping core to a local disk, we would have to go through the effort of a project where all machines could netdump somewhere. As we only have a few systems go out a year, and do not have the resources to keep all machines up to the latest patch levels, system crashes are often a mystery, which irks me, but due to our limited resources and the shortcomings of the Red Hat model, is just how it is.

    The altruistic comments mentioned are silly I think. My boss is not going to shell out money to Red Hat because it goes to "the greater good". If I could get my company to send money somewhere, it would be to the Free Software Foundation.

    One thought that occurred to me is companies like Red Hat might be transitional in some ways. Companies wanting to move to something open want hand holding at first. I can think of many examples like this in my career. I worked at a company where we hired Java developers and started using a professional Java application server, which we became unhappy with and then began using Tomcat. The developers said their confidence with being able to develop for the professional server is what let them try Tomcat, which worked out very well for us. The move from Solaris to Red Hat to free as in beer Linux is another example. I see another example with MySQL recently - looking to save money, a division is going to use MySQL for a new project as opposed to Oracle, which they traditionally use. After a few years, might the DBAs drop professional MySQL and go with a non-supported MySQL? Who knows?

    I think the companies like Red Hat and MySQL, if they are adaptive and fine tune their business strategies, can survive this transitional stuff. The more traditional companies, the Microsofts and Oracles and Suns are who should be worried.

  • I ran and supported my own Linux box for Matlab for a while. It took a fraction of my time to keep things running.

    I also ran one for a lab that paid for migration, OS and Java Desktop support, because I was supposed to be a researcher, not an admin. It took about the same fraction of time to keep things running. A quarter of that fraction was waiting for answers. A quarter was spent getting non-answers from clueless drones reading problem-solution flow charts and having to find a cluefull support person. A

  • If linux is used by someone like me that likes to make my own decisions and research problems paid support isnt critical in most cases. I do like the possibility to get support if i should get stuck but that has only happened with commercial code so far. Linux transparency makes it possible to solve almost any problem by myself.

    But, most shops i know is consultant based. When you need a solution, toss out a hook towards some consultants and when someone bites you buy their solution. Support is a must since

  • by superskippy (772852) on Saturday August 09, 2008 @06:00AM (#24536087)
    I remember talking to a Solaris lover about Linux support once, and how he thought it sucked. This was in the City of London.

    The difference between an old-skool Solaris, or even Windows, is that if you have a bug, if you've got enough money you can persuade the company to get the guy who wrote the code to stop what (s)he was doing, and fix it, right now. Or in other words, most of the code is written by someone who works for Sun/HP/Microsoft/whatever.

    A Linux distribution, as we all know, is software pieced together from all over the place. Fair enough, RedHat do employ a lot of programmers, but most of what comes on that RHEL DVD is written elsewhere. So if you go to RedHat and say "there is a bug in X", they can't often help- they have to go to a third party project and try and persuade them to deal with it. Or they can get a generic programmer, try and get them to look at the code and work out what is wrong. That really doesn't help you above and beyond what you could do yourself.

    What I am trying to say is the "Linux" support (where Linux is a distribution) is not really a thing that is possible in the traditional sense.

    • by rs232 (849320)
      "if you've got enough money you can persuade the company to get the guy who wrote the code to stop what (s)he was doing, and fix it, right now .. What I am trying to say is the "Linux" support (where Linux is a distribution) is not really a thing that is possible in the traditional sense"

      Speaking from personal experience, I have contacted a lead programmer directly and got back a reply within a day. I've even had a response from Linus Torvalds, didn't cost me a penny. Can't say I've ever had the same res
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)

      If you've got enough money you can usually persuade the author of a piece of Free Software to fix it too (I'd certainly be very happy for people to pay me for bug fixes and new features). Often the amount you need to pay them is low, or even nothing (although an offer of payment is likely to increase the priority of your fix).

      The difference is that for traditional UNIX, you don't have to talk to the programmer. You have one phone number and the person on the other end is responsible for finding whoever

  • 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.

    • I think we all know that commercial software support is next to worthless; by the time you've spent 4 or so hours exhausting all possibilities on your own, you will call up the vendor and spend DAYS trying to get them to understand the process you went thru, and yes, the system is plugged in, and on and on thru their support script. And in the end you resolve it yourself anyway because nobody you can get on the phone is any more skilled than you are.

      I like dealing with Sun equipment because they're general

  • Not so good... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by LVSlushdat (854194)

    I'm a recent convert to Ubuntu, but have been in the trenches with Linux since 1994. I've asked several questions on the Ubuntu community forum, questions which were Ubuntu-specific, gave plenty of info, was very polite, and as of yesterday, one question had been there two weeks, and the other, one week, with zip answers.. I'm in the process of weaning my employer off RedHat, in favor of CentOS, on several new servers.
    The CentOS forums are what I'd expect of excellent community support.. Several questions w

  • Wouldn't companies that don't have any LINUX gurus in-house be totally screwed even with support? And who other than the Linux savvy IT guy even choose to use Linux? If no one is pushing it, I doubt any company would stray from the norm, and if the in-house Linux guru pushes for Linux, I am guessing being free is the biggest (if not only) thing going for it...

    "It's just as good as... and free."

    Not that I like ms, but seriously, what does Linux have going for it other than cost? There is nothing I can think

  • BUYING support is NOT critical for Linux adoption, and never was.

    What is critical, is for it to exist. The day my in-house setup Linux network gets pwned because of a mistake I made and can't figure out, or that I lose my main senior Linux sysadmin, or if I want to start a migration before I can hire in-house people to do it, or even more, if my company is too small to have the people it takes, and so on, I want to have something to fall back to, -if- necessary.

    Very few types of software can be adopted into

  • At our place, we run a *LOT* of sun kit (we have like 2 windows boxes) and when we are changing out the sun hardware, we are replacing it with Intel i386 boxes and Redhat.

    Compare the cost of i386 and redhat and support compared to a "proper" sun box, it still works out a LOT cheaper. This is important, especially if you are the one paying for it.

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