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Is CentOS Hurting Red Hat? 370

AlexGr writes "Jeff Gould raises an interesting question in Interop News: Why does Red Hat tolerate CentOS? The Community ENTerprise Operating System is an identical binary clone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (minus the trademarks), compiled from the source code RPMs that Red Hat conveniently provides on its FTP site. It is also completely free, as in beer. CentOS provides no paid support, but it does track Red Hat updates and patches closely, and usually makes them available within a few hours or at most a few days of the upstream provider, which it refers to for legal reasons as "a prominent North American Enterprise Linux vendor." Free support for CentOS can be found in numerous places around the web, and a few third parties offer modestly priced paid support for those who want it."
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Is CentOS Hurting Red Hat?

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  • by yagu ( 721525 ) * <yayagu@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Sunday November 04, 2007 @01:21PM (#21232519) Journal

    I'm going to have to go with "doesn't hurt Red Hat" on many counts.

    • There's no such thing as bad publicity.
    • CentOS users are likely users who were looking for free anyway so the alternative would have been some other free distro.
    • A natural migration path for free CentOS users would be to require more support and since their universe is Red Hat-centric, the "pay for" version they'd likely choose would be Red Hat.

    I doubt too many sales are lost here.

    And the article's example doesn't really prove the point. So a shop of Red Hat users balked at upgrades and associated fees, and decided to go CentOS because they were a seasoned Linux shop. If it weren't CentOS, it would have been something else. The veteran shops will run Linux for free because they don't need the support, period. And they will find the distro that lets them do that.

    (And I'm not quite sure what the referenced Google graph is supposed to demonstrate. I suspect he's claiming the higher count and increase in hits for CentOS indicates more popularity, and lost revenues for Red Hat, but I see it as those needing to do their own support pretty much start with Google. Red Hat licensees will start with Red Hat support.)

    • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @01:23PM (#21232561)
      I tend to agree with you. The article sounds a lot like the RIAA claiming that every illegally downloaded song directly equates to lost revenue, and it is just as flawed a perspective.
      • by Jezz ( 267249 ) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @04:04PM (#21234239)
        Well even if we accept that CentOS does hurt RedHat, what can RedHat actually do about it? The GPL stops them from squashing the product (which is exactly the point of the GPL). The GPL provides CentOS with a cast-iron defence from RedHat's legal team. Even if it didn't the reaction of users if RedHat did move against CentOS would be quite something.

        I'm pretty sure RedHat hate CentOS, why all the coy legal mumbo jumbo about who the upstream vendor is otherwise? But actually I see no real downside for RedHat. If you want to "learn" RedHat then CentOS is as good as the real thing (for that) and it really doesn't hurt RedHat to have more people skilled in their product.

        I actually like the CentOS product a great deal - and it fills the void left by RedHat Desktop 9.
        • by dekemoose ( 699264 ) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @04:58PM (#21234695)
          They have to make the source available, but not convenient. Currently they make SRPMs available, which makes the life of Whitebox, CentOS, et al, much simpler. If they really hated such efforts they'd just resort to making only tar balls available. Granted it's a short leap from tar ball to SRPM, but it's a step Red Hat doesn't have to take.
          • by ePhil_One ( 634771 ) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @06:13PM (#21235327) Journal
            If they really hated such efforts they'd just resort to making only tar balls available.

            They need to make SRPMS available to customers. Its trivial for CentOS to be a customer, hence fighting that battle is a losing proposition.

            That said, plenty of evidence exists that Red Hat is OK with CentOS, they are just protecting the Trademarks to avoid losing them.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            Currently they make SRPMs available, which makes the life of Whitebox, CentOS, et al, much simpler. If they really hated such efforts they'd just resort to making only tar balls available.

            The GPL says otherwise: "For an executable work, complete source code means all the source code for all modules it contains, plus any associated interface definition files, plus the scripts used to control compilation and installation of the executable." It would be a prohibitive amount of work to package up the installation scripts in tarball form (if that is even possible) and then there would be the PR cost of being perceived as a GPL evader.

        • by hollywoodb ( 809541 ) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @05:52PM (#21235141)
          RedHat does *not* hate CentOS... the issue has come up on the mailing lists over the years, and some see CentOS as the "gateway drug" that eventually brings more users to RHEL. Others feel that having CentOS around increases the RHEL{,-derived} userbase and therefore indirectly helps increase the quality of RHEL itself.

          In fact, CentOS and Fedora shared a developer booth at FOSDEM this year.

          Additionally, it would have taken the author of TFA about 10 minutes of reasearch to turn up the FOSDEM tidbit and these little bits that make TFA completely irrelevant:
          (scroll down to the RH Q&A) on the second link.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by m2943 ( 1140797 )
          Well even if we accept that CentOS does hurt RedHat, what can RedHat actually do about it? The GPL stops them from squashing the product

          Linux isn't entirely covered by the GPL; parts of it are BSD, Apache, and other licenses. Furthermore, RedHat could easily use a non-GPL license for some of their contributions.

          CentOS exists because RedHat made the choice to keep things open and available.
        • by gdek ( 202709 ) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @09:06PM (#21236565)
          "I'm pretty sure RedHat hate CentOS."

          1. No, we don't. At least, not most of us -- because most of us actually *understand* the business we're in. That's why we're making all this nice money. If we did hate CentOS, we could make it awfully difficult for them in any number of ways -- delaying updates, hiding marks and making them play "where's Waldo" every release, that sort of thing.

          2. The "coy mumbo jumbo" about the upstream vendor has to do with trademark protection, not hate. We don't want "Red Hat" to turn into "Kleenex".

          3. Here's a question: why is there no CentOS equivalent based on SuSE products? Think about it.

          4. A lot of the significant people in the CentOS community are actually important and respected members of the Fedora community as well. That way, Red Hat benefits from the work of the more savvy CentOS users. That's how open source works, you see.

          5. It's Red Hat, with a space. Not RedHat. Get it right, or we'll send you a cease-and-desist letter. (I'm kidding. Probably.)
          • by QuasiEvil ( 74356 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @02:14AM (#21238427)
            I'm glad Red Hat's folks "get it". Personally, I have no need for a multi-gazillion dollar support contract for my home webserver. But it's sure nice to have one that has the same sort of product support lifecycle as RHEL, and is set up exactly the same. In return, you know what gets specified as the OS of choice on all of my mission-critical boxes at work? You got it - RHEL, with support contracts. Because at work, my boss feels I have more important things to do than compatibility testing and chase around weird OS bugs, and we've been pretty happy with RH so far.

            A big thanks to RH for continuing to support the community by not throwing a wrench into projects like CentOS, Whitebox, etc...
          • by dpilot ( 134227 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @11:53AM (#21241781) Homepage Journal
            Please stop having such reasonable and enlightened attitudes.

            People here want to see Red Hat as turning EVIL, and you're making problems with that perception.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      True. One thing you forgot to mention.

      RedHat does lots of partnerships with ISVs. That ensures that the ISVs will not support their software on CentOS, but genuine, licensed RedHat systems _only_. That's what made my employer buy some RHEL AS licenses.
      • by nicolaiplum ( 169077 ) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @02:36PM (#21233385)
        Indeed! My company will (for the foreseeable future) need some RHEL licenses for the applications which the vendor only supports on RHEL, like SAP. We may run other things on CentOS, but if we didn't run them on CentOS, we'd probably run them on Debian; it's all either common free software or software we wrote ourselves and we don't feel like paying Red Hat for their product. SInce we can, effectively, run one quite similar OS all over without having to pay Red Hat for all of it, we do, and that's why we're not entirely leaving Red Hat. I can't believe we're the only company doing this. If Red Hat demanded that anything we ran that looked even vaguely like their OS had to be paid for, we would run entirely Debian/Ubuntu and start pressing application vendors to support Debian/Ubuntu and we would not be alone, and application vendors would give in, and then Red Hat's market would entirely evaporate.
        (Red Hat are not endearing themselves to us any by being further behind the feature curve than we would like, and by generally having quite unhelpful support if we have a problem - we perceive their added value to be small)
      • Meh, my vendors will not "support" it, but if you've paid for support from them, they'll "try" to get it working. Which of course almost always works identically to RHEL.

        and by my vendors I mean Dell, Commvault, EMC.
        and by metaphorically, I mean get your coat.
        • by SuperQ ( 431 ) *
          Yep, I was running a Fedora box connected to an EMC array. We had a few issues with failover, and the people that supported the EMC kept saying "It's Fedora, you're not running redhat". So I re-installed the machine with CentOS. Still didn't work, so they said "CentOS isn't Redhat". Which is true, but bullshit. Finally one of the other guys supporting the server went over to the EMC admin's office, read the EMC manual for a bit and found that the EMC admin had no clue what he was doing and fixed the se
    • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @01:49PM (#21232885)
      In the early days, MS gave the impression of tolerating piracy. Whether they did or not it's widely believed it helped them more than it hurt them. Centos is not piracy but it can help Redhad spread itself.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by timeOday ( 582209 )
        I'll go a step further, I don't think whether CentOS hurts RedHat matters. If RedHat wants to have a go at writing and selling proprietary software, fine, and good luck. But so long as they sell others' software, they can't demand exclusivity.
        • The fact that Red Hat do alright by selling software which is available and accessible costfree to anyone, means that the assumptions made in this article (and by much of the proprietary software industry) are obsolete.
    • by kebes ( 861706 ) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @01:49PM (#21232901) Journal

      And I'm not quite sure what the referenced Google graph is supposed to demonstrate. I suspect he's claiming the higher count and increase in hits for CentOS indicates more popularity, and lost revenues for Red Hat, but I see it as those needing to do their own support pretty much start with Google. Red Hat licensees will start with Red Hat support.
      Not only that, but it's entirely possible that people who have Red Hat systems (and Red Hat support) but are looking for a quick answer might do searches on CentOS sites. Similarly if you have an Ubuntu system you may very well do searches on Debian support (or vice versa) since the answers are usually interchangeable.

      As you said, if you have a supported Red Hat install, you're not very likely to be doing as many random Google searches in the first place. The rise in CentOS searches since its inception points to more interest in that distro, yes, but that by association also means more interest in Red Hat systems.

      I should also note that when I played around with Fedora, I found it somewhat unstable (not trying to start a flamewar here!)... which in a sense made me wonder about Red Hat as a distro. But then my experiences with CentOS showed me how stable and well put-together it actually is, which increased my opinion of RHEL.

      What I'm trying to say is, the fact that CentOS is such a solid distro is good publicity for Red Hat, because people get to sample the enterprise-quality polish and updating before they commit to support contracts. Red Hat's secret sauce has never been the binaries; it's always been the reputation for good support. And CentOS adds to this perception of a quality product; a net gain for Red Hat.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by boer ( 653809 )
      Too bad you are conveniently "forgetting" the corporate customers who are likely to skip the RH license because of the free alternative. Say you have 20 identical server hardware? Why waste money for 20 licenses when you can buy one and install the free alternative on the other systems? In practise you get the support for all the 20 systems since the probelems are likely the same anyway.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by cHiphead ( 17854 )
        Too bad your are conveniently forgetting that REAL corporate customers want someone to sue when things go wrong. Short from some web based startup companies, not many will let a free OS with no support license or warranty get near their important data, especially when their less than technical lawyers read the terms of the GPL and say NO due to the viral nature of code linking to it (and not understanding how things can be linked with GPL code without getting sucked into the GPL).

        The problems among 20 iden
        • by mOdQuArK! ( 87332 ) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @02:08PM (#21233097)

          Too bad your are conveniently forgetting that REAL corporate customers want someone to sue when things go wrong.

          That always makes me laugh. I've heard it repeated so many times, yet I don't think I've heard of a single high-profile case where a software-provider has been sued successfully for providing a defective product.

          • by vakuona ( 788200 ) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @02:48PM (#21233511)
            It's not so much that they want someone to sue, but companies have to demonstrate that they took care to avoid unnecessary losses. Having a support contract with a company such as Redhat goes a long way to absolving managers of responsibility if something bad happens.
            • It's not so much that they want someone to sue, but companies have to demonstrate that they took care to avoid unnecessary losses. Having a support contract with a company such as Redhat goes a long way to absolving managers of responsibility if something bad happens.

              So, explain why they buy Windows, then.

        • by jZnat ( 793348 ) *
          Ever read the EULA for proprietary software? They give no warranty and all other sorts of legalese which translates to, "You can't sue us even if our software causes a nuclear catastrophe."
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Too bad your are conveniently forgetting that REAL corporate customers want someone to sue when things go wrong.

          This is either a moronic thing to write, or you're trying to write something else and this came out instead. Contrary to popular opinion, companies don't like to sue. Suing is expensive, time-consuming, and puts the issue in the hands of third-party: companies only like to sue when they're virtually assured of winning, or when some other consideration is in play that means they don't even have to win the battle to win the war, if you will

          What companies are trying to do is ensure

          • That they do due diligenc
        • The perception is that there is someone to be held accountable but we know there are clear and obvious limits just as in the case of Microsoft. Microsoft makes no guarantee that their software is suitable for anything at all and if it fails or causes a problem, it's on you. But it's certainly true that corporate decision makers lean in favor of the perception that there is someone that can be held accountable.
      • by Cecil ( 37810 ) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @02:01PM (#21233025) Homepage
        I don't know what kind of corporations you tend to work for, but every one I have ever worked for has considered OS licences part of the cost of doing business. They have no issue at all buying thousands of Windows licences, or a handful of $10,000 Oracle licences, why would they care about $100 RedHat licences? They really, truly don't. Besides, they're afraid of "free" things and that includes CentOS. They really like things that come with support, even if it's redundant and they have their own in-house team of developers. I've never worked at a company that whined about the cost of RedHat, most of them consider it remarkably cheap and an excellent bargain.
        • My company, which is not so small (some hundreds employees, some hundreds millions Euro revenue/year, growing fast), uses CentOS (as well as RHEL) because it's cheaper, the cost difference is noticeable. We also use MySQL partly because it's cheaper. But we also like the ability to deploy rapidly, and not have to manage licenses, and so on, and we do pay for MySQL support and RHEL support when we use it.
          Not all companies consider $10k Oracle licenses to be an inevitable cost of business, nor having to have
    • What about a shop that purchases a couple support Red Hat subscriptions, one for each of their hardware architectures, and then runs CentOS on the dozens or hundreds of similar servers sitting in the same server room? These shops leverage their single subscription to get technical support with all their servers, at a fraction of the "legitimate" price.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by schnikies79 ( 788746 )
      I'm a bit off-topic here but I had to bring up what you stated, "There's no such thing as bad publicity." I don't know why people say that, the only thing I can think of is that they have no experience what-so-ever in marketing. A simply Marketing 101 will teach you otherwise.

      Bad publicity has destroyed products, bankrupted corporations and bankrupted people. Bad publicity definitely does exit.
    • besides it's hard to stay mad at those CentOS kids when they flash a big grin and hold up the roll of candy. it's not called The Freshmaker for nothing, what a clean-cut wholesome bunch
    • Redhat doesn't really sell their operating system. They sell an "entitlement," for support of their operating system. As long as you dance carefully around whatever few proprietary elements they intermingle, one doesn't even have to get packages from CentOS. Free support for your redhat is had as close as a Yum rebroadcaster away. I.e., get your patches once, with one entitlement, and rebroadcast all the updates for free.

      Redhat makes money basically because organizations are lazy.

      No big surprise, really. Th
    • I'm going to have to go with "doesn't hurt Red Hat" on many counts.

      Then there's the PHB factor. The mid-level manager mindful that no one ever lost their job buying Microsoft. Many would pay the RHEL license cost just to have a throat to choke in the event something goes wrong. I've heard that discussion with my own ears. Decision makers wanting to know who was on the hook if something went bad.

      If RedHat itself fielded an exact, unbranded, unsupported copy I bet many companies would still opt for t

      • by epine ( 68316 )
        I've been hearing this "throat to choke" meme circulate for twenty years, yet I've never managed to form a concrete image of it working out as advertised.

        In fact, working mostly for very small companies, I've never seen any throat of upstream vendor take as much as a deep gulp. Even with fairly expensive software products, you still get a junior tech who usually insists for the first week (or more), despite comprehensive technical attachments to the contrary, that somehow you aren't using the expensive pro
  • by ThrobbingGristle ( 62723 ) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @01:23PM (#21232555) Journal
    I would have thought that would have been obvious... maybe I'll go RTFA now.
  • Simple: Support (Score:5, Insightful)

    by emgeemg ( 182902 ) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @01:24PM (#21232575) Homepage
    The type of organizations that want Red Hat Enterprise Linux want it for the support Red Hat offers. Take that away and there's not really any competition.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by fitsnips ( 187974 ) *
      Have you ever tried Red Hat support? I have used RH for year and most companies are know are moving to CentOS for things like web servers. Oracle,Websphere, and the like still get Red Hat license for Oracle support but Red Hat support is horrible and always has been. I have never gotten a good answer from them, and usually its the same thing that the first hit on google finds. Last time they took me though a whole mess to run dumps for them and such and told me it was a bad power supply, luckily I did n
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rucs_hack ( 784150 )
        Red Hat support is horrible and always has been

        Ah, so that explains how they've built a multi billion dollar business on providing software services and support. Wait, what?
      • Last time they took me though a whole mess to run dumps for them and such and told me it was a bad power supply, luckily I did not believe them and when IBM ran the diags it was a bad cpu ... nice job guys.

        You think that RedHat support, over the phone, could CONCEIVABLY be able to tell the difference between a defective CPU and a flaky power supply, particularly when they have no association with the hardware maker, and PSUs don't have any kind of data interface to the rest of the system?

        The fact that they

    • The type of organizations that want Red Hat Enterprise Linux want it for the support Red Hat offers. Take that away and there's not really any competition.

      Which is exactly what Red Hat have always been mindful of. After all they have Fedora too, and Red Hat have released everything they do as open source from the very beginning. They really sell the support infrastructure, although they do add a lot to the linux they provide.

      I don't doubt they'd love their version of Linux to become the next Debian, used as
  • why??? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WwWonka ( 545303 ) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @01:26PM (#21232603)
    "Why does Red Hat tolerate CentOS?"

    um...because they have too?!

    "open source" look it up on wikipedia...on second thought...
  • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @01:27PM (#21232615)
    CentOS essentially acts as advertising for the Enterprise RedHat editions. It allows sysadmins to stick with the same familiar set of tools on both systems where it is considered desirable to have a support contract and systems where this is less of an issue.

    RedHat can't do much to curb this anyway - most of what they produce is standing on the shoulders of other GPL software - but if they did, I'd imagine we'd see a commensurate rise in the use of Debian, Ubuntu and (gasp!) SuSE/OpenSuSE.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by fearlezz ( 594718 )
      Indeed, it is.
      After running Zoot (Redhat 6.2), I decided RH wasn't the distribution for me. I've run (and still are running) several other distributions after that, including Slackware 7-10, Debian Potato, SLES and OpenSuSE. Since the Novell-MS deal, I cannot trust SuSE enough, and I switched again... to CentOS. And now I'm considering the next servers to get a paid-for RedHat.

      If it weren't for CentOS, i would not have bought anything from RH...
  • GPL FTW.
  • by Lulu of the Lotus-Ea ( 3441 ) <> on Sunday November 04, 2007 @01:27PM (#21232619) Homepage
    It is a bit of an asinine question why Red Hat "tolerates" CentOS. Red Hat has no option here--nor should they. By distributing code or binaries that were created by people other than Red Hat, and licensed under GPL, Red Hat has explicitly agreed that CentOS (or anyone) has the right to do the same.

    Red Hat is welcome to hold whatever opinion they want on whether they *like* CentOS to do what they do... but in the end, it's none of their damn business how someone else decides to distribute GPL'd code (within the license terms, of course... Red Hat is also a creator of a significant body of GPL code).
    • No it isn't (Score:3, Insightful)

      by scheme ( 19778 )

      Red Hat is welcome to hold whatever opinion they want on whether they *like* CentOS to do what they do... but in the end, it's none of their damn business how someone else decides to distribute GPL'd code (within the license terms, of course... Red Hat is also a creator of a significant body of GPL code).

      Redhat doesn't have to distribute the packaging or configuration information to satisfy the gpl. For example, they could provide a cvs or svn repository with just the code or tarballs of the source. The

      • Re:No it isn't (Score:5, Informative)

        by Danathar ( 267989 ) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @02:08PM (#21233111) Journal
        Not entirely correct. Installation scripts and interfaces definition files must be included. Access to CVS/CVN of the code without these would not satisfy the GPL (v2).

        "The source code for a work means the preferred form of the work for
        making modifications to it. For an executable work, complete source
        code means all the source code for all modules it contains, plus any
        associated interface definition files, plus the scripts used to
        control compilation and installation of the executable. However, as a
        special exception, the source code distributed need not include
        anything that is normally distributed (in either source or binary
        form) with the major components (compiler, kernel, and so on) of the
        operating system on which the executable runs, unless that component
        itself accompanies the executable.
        • by scheme ( 19778 )

          Not entirely correct. Installation scripts and interfaces definition files must be included. Access to CVS/CVN of the code without these would not satisfy the GPL (v2).

          Wasn't aware of that, but you still need the configuration files. E.g., httpd.conf, etc. for the various configurations. A lot of these are readily available but things like Selinux policy files, pam configurations, etc. are redhat specific and wouldn't need to be distributed or may be distributed using a restrictive license.

    • by kasperd ( 592156 )

      Red Hat is also a creator of a significant body of GPL code

      And in that area, they do have a choice. For all those GPL components where Red Hat owns the copyright, they could decide to change future versions to a different license. So far they haven't done this, and I don't think they are going to. I can think of a few reasons why Red Hat would not close those components:

      • There might be small parts of the code which is not owned by Red Hat.
      • They might think the improvements that other parties can make to th
  • I looked into RHEL when they dropped support for RH 8/9, and they wanted far more money than I was willing to pay to kick around the tires at home or on my development box. When time came to look at 'enterprise' grade distributions, SuSE made it much easier on the developers. Fast forward and I found that I never bothered to even try RHEL 3, 4, and 5. Same went for Oracle's branded version. With no easy way to patch and having to deal with accounting to get a license, meh.

    What changed it for me was Centos. I found that I could use the free as in beer versions for all my personal/internal needs, and it was so dang close to OEL and RHEL it became a no-brainer for testing and some dev work. With the internal blessings from our side that our code would work, QA did the formal testing on the branded versions of Linux. Folks running our product, of course, would want OS support - so they purchased the formal 'supported' OS from the commercial vendors. I suspect Centos is saving RHEL/OEL sales that might have gone to Ubuntu or other variants.
  • Red Hat makes money selling services to big companies who can't afford to be wrong. They sell CYA insurance to suits. CentOS is probably a plus, as it lets people test drive the real thing for free. When you have to put your career on the line in a large company, you pay Red Hat to Cover Your Ass. They are good at it, and the rate of pay reflects it.
    • by Tuoqui ( 1091447 ) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @02:14PM (#21233163) Journal
      Yeah when I was doing a Computer related degree in College they used CentOS because of that fact. The thing is you're more likely to encounter RHEL than Debian, Ubuntu and such for server work. They exploited the fact that CentOS was a free version of RHEL and now RHEL has about 20-30 more people with college degrees that have been introduced to their work.

      Myself I've used Ubuntu series of Linux on my home machine because its better for desktops but if I were to run a server I'd probably choose CentOS for myself (or a small business), RHEL if I had a big budget in a major company.
  • by allthingscode ( 642676 ) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @01:30PM (#21232641)
    Did we miss the point of the GPL? The instance of the software is owned by the user. They can do what they want with it. If they feel like doing everything on their own, they can do so (CentOS). If they want to pay someone else to make their life easier, they can do so (RedHat). RedHat knows this. "Choosing" to tolerate is the one choice RedHat doesn't have: If RedHat wants to use GPL'd software, they have to let other people play by the same rules they do. CentOS isn't going to hurt RedHat any more than Debian does.
  • I don't think Red Hat is tolerating it. They simply have no choice. The OS and most of the components installed with it are licensed under the GPL, which states that exactly this sort of thing can happen.
  • It's all (I believe) GPL, so they HAVE to provide the source, and there's nothing to prevent someone else compiling and releasing it as CentOS does. They'll just have to deal with it.
  • by caseih ( 160668 ) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @01:31PM (#21232677)
    One of the things that makes CentOS a clear winner is that because it is a completely compatible recompilation of RH, going from a test CentOS install to a fully supported RH entitlement is very easy. Thus I install CentOS initially on all my servers initially and then when I put them into production, I convert them to RHEL and buy an entitlement for them. Some of my less important servers remain CentOS. One of the main reasons for converting my servers to RHEL is that I can watch over them all, in terms of patches and security eratta, from the RHN.

    In other cases, I can convert a RHEL box to CentOS, then build the replacement server with its entitlement, allowing me to keep the original server in production for a few weeks or months while the new server is ramped up.

    So if anything CentOS actually increases RH usage because it is so easy to, at any time, buy entitlements from RH, convert the CentOS machines, and get whatever level of support you deem necessary at the time.
    • by merreborn ( 853723 ) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @02:09PM (#21233115) Journal
      CentOS also has a much larger set of available binary software packages than redhat.

      Of course, you can use those packages with either redhat or CentOS. So while CentOS benefits from all of redhat's core OS work, Redhat benefits from all of CentOS's package maintenance work.

      Without a doubt, each project benefits the other directly.
  • The author seems to think that the cheapest subscription available is $799. This is not the case. You can purchase a 1 year subscription for $349. While it is not quite $99, it is still a darn sight cheaper. There are also discounts available for certain organizations (charities and education, for example.)
  • It works both ways (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bjkrz ( 151582 )
    I work for a company with ~20 employees that sells a software package that needs its own unix server.

    It doesn't matter how many times I say 'CentOS is 100% compatible, and FREE! (w00t)' to my boss. When a machine goes to a customer, it goes out with Red Hat. Even if no one ever calls Red Hat for support, that warm fuzzy CYOA feeling of having a big well known company behind your product is irreplaceable. At the same time, we have a stack of CentOS machines and VMs in the office for testing and developmen
  • Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rindeee ( 530084 ) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @01:36PM (#21232751)
    That's like asking why I "tolerate" the speed limit, or why I tolerate my bank demanding I pay my mortgage after signing the contract to do so (okay, so those are kind of crappy examples). Their product is licensed such that CentOS can and (I must say I am very grateful for) does make use of the source code. What's the problem? It's not as though RedHat has any say in the matter. The article even points out; "After all, the vast majority of the packages in RHEL were not created by Red Hat, and they are all governed by the GPL, which is absolutely clear about the obligation to redistribute code." Well duh! Someone could just as easily claim that MySQL is losing money because distro XYZ includes it when the end user could be paying MySQL for installation and configuration support. And so on. The article is basically drivel IMO by someone who comprehends what the GPL is, but doesn't "get it" or the real value it represents.
  • Red Hat tolerates Cent-OS because they are two different types of OSes. Red Hat is for mostly businesses who need solid support, Cent-OS is for hobbyists and smaller businesses who don't need much support. Also, Cent-OS gives more or less a "trial version" of Red Hat because Red Hat isn't selling the OS like MS and Apple does, they sell support for the OS and theres nothing worse then having a potential big customer decide that the differences between Red Hat and Windows are "too great" and they don't use R
  • Redhat support (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SolusSD ( 680489 ) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @01:38PM (#21232771) Homepage
    I work from a company that runs most of its products on top of Redhat EL3 and EL4. While there is something to be said about Redhat's quality of support- for inhouse development wortk it isn't so important. Its value comes form supporting our customers at an OS level alleviating us from supporting the OS. (We require our customers to purchase Redhat support contracts). What I believe _is_ hurting redhat is how their sales department insists that making copies of Redhat is illegal. We have been told time and time again that it is illegal for us to run copies of Redhat that are not paid for within our support contract. The truth is- as long as you aren't expecting support for the unpaid for copies and you are not selling them to other companies (alone or as part of your product, because of redhat trademarks) it is fine to use as many inhouse copies as you want. It took me monthes to convince management at our company that Redhat Licensing is completely different beast than, say, Windows Server licensing while at the same time fighting a battle with the software programmers trying to convince them that Linux is _not_ freeware. The concept of GPL'd software seems to be lost on members of the IT management sector. CentOS has become a good inhouse alternative to redhat since it is binary compatible, but it does not displace any copies of Redhat sold with our product. So, while Redhat may be losing some marketshare for inhouse deployments, they are only losing cusotomers that didn't want the support or that they were essentially *lying* to by requiring them to purchase licenses they were not obligated to purchase.
  • Wrong question (Score:5, Informative)

    by rrohbeck ( 944847 ) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @01:41PM (#21232809)
    You might ask just as well why the Linux community tolerates RedHat.
    It's the way it's supposed to work.
    On the other hand, the only reason why CentOS exists is that RHEL can't be downloaded for free like the older versions. If RedHat wanted to kill CentOS they would just have to allow that.
  • by BlueParrot ( 965239 ) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @01:44PM (#21232827)
    Red Hat probably realises that people using CentOS are people who may just like it so much they they come back for more, and since they don't make their money on the software, but rather supporting it, CentOS just means more potential customers in the long run...

    Some companies are control freaks who prefer to sue potential customers, Red Hat has picked a slightly more sane aproach.
  • by RobBebop ( 947356 ) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @01:49PM (#21232895) Homepage Journal

    RHEL, CentOS, and Fedora are all competing brands under the same umbrella. Fedora is great for cutting edge developers and home users. CentOS is good for people who desire the better tested software. RHEL is targeted at enterprises (hence the 'E' in the acronym) who need things working all the time (99.9999%). The three different markets are comparable to the different brands offered by Microsoft (Server, Workstation, Home). The only difference is that Red Hat doesn't make any money from CentOS or Fedora.

    But take a step back and think about Microsoft a bit more. Imagine you have a business laptop which was provided to you by your company. It runs 2000 or XP or (god forbid) Vista and the company has a site license for you to run that software. Microsoft is happy to slash margins for the individual site license which you have as long as they can continue to service the servers and infrastructure which run the business critical systems of your company. Similarly, if you are a developer or home user... your copy of Windows came from an OEM or you pirated it. Sure, Microsoft gets money from Dell and the other OEMs... but (I imagine) so do the Linux companies who have been able to get involved in that method of distribution.

    In the end, you help Red Hat by using CentOS or Fedora just like you help Microsoft by using pirated Windows. Simple enough?

    • by crush ( 19364 )

      The CentOS Project is a completely independent organization, separate from Red Hat, so it's not really accurate to say that it's under the "same umbrella" in the way that the Microsoft OSes are.

      Also, Fedora differs greatly in that it has a very rapid development cycle and effectively acts as a preview and test-bed for features which often make it into RHEL.

      Your statement that "CentOS is good for people who desire the better tested software. RHEL is targeted at enterprises (hence the 'E' in the acronym) wh

      • Thank you for your clarification about CentOS. I stand-by my assertion that if I have a need for a system that needs to work that my target is still RHEL and that Fedora is like OEM/pirated Windows.

        Unless there are system administrators who would defend state that they would prefer CentOS over RHEL, I don't think Red Hat's core market is at risk... because those big customers running mission critical systems are where the money is.

  • This comment especially for those clever asses who will say "because they have to!" before reading the article: the author is not contending that Red Hat could somehow prevent CentOS from being made. He is wondering why Red Hat doesn't provide a low-cost, no-support, barebones edition of Red Hat to try and take some of the CentOS user share. And he has a fairly good answer to the question, too.
    • by Greg_D ( 138979 )
      Why would Redhat waste their time releasing a "low-cost, no-support, barebones edition" when CentOS releases the full enterprise version of Redhat's OS? There's not many large businesses out there who would install a beast like Redhat on their servers without support, and small businesses are generally going to have intelligent people who have more say, and why would any intelligent person pay for a non-supported, pared down version when they can get the full thing for free?

      Even when you consider businesse
  • Although I don't have data to prove it, I'm convinced

    What a great basis to bash an organization...
  • Fedora? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by melonman ( 608440 ) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @02:00PM (#21233011) Journal

    Not only does Redhat 'tolerate' CentOS (see above), it also puts money into encouraging people to use Fedora, which is not only free but generally significantly more advanced than RHEL. For people who want free software and enjoy recompiling their kernel, Fedora is a much more obvious choice than a clone of CentOS.

    There was never any money in selling distros to dorm-room techies, and RHEL was never a good distribution for that market, because it's so conservative. I run Ubuntu on my desktop machines, because it's free, and it works, and it has all the multimedia stuff that RedHat don't ship as standard. On my company's production servers it's RHEL every time, because it's stable, because it will still be supported in 5 years' time if necessary, and because RHEL is a de facto standard in hosting terms. If a client's code doesn't work with RHEL, we can tell them to fix their code. If we were running some wacky, customised version of Gentoo they'd tell us to fix our server (whether or not anything was broken).

    Running CentOS would give us the conservatism of RHEL without any of the respectability. I can't see how that would be useful to us.

  • by burnin1965 ( 535071 ) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @02:23PM (#21233227) Homepage
    1) Its open source, its not a question of tolerating Centos, its the way open source works.

    2) The anecdotal evidence is seriously flawed. His buddy was running an old and unsupported version of Red Hat Linux (7.3), and they were not paying for a service subscription, and they decided to go with Centos and continue to not pay for a support subscription. Uhh, clue here, this did not effect Red Hat in any way, they are not Red Hat's target market, if it wasn't Centos it would have been some other distro.

    3) And again, the conclusion is completely clueless. Red Hat does not change the way they do business becuase their business is based on open source. If Red Hat decided to develop their own closed source proprietary operating system they would lose the support and synergy of the massive open source community and their business would flop.

    These articles are tiresome and poorly researched. Why is it that everyone believes the only way to have a viable business today is to create a monopoly and change the way you do business to ensure there is no competition that can "sting" you. Red Hat is doing an outstanding job of monetizing a viable market, linux service, support, and training. If Jeff wants to understand why Red Hat does not change their business model all he has to do is read up on the history of Caldera/The SCO Group to see what happens when a linux distributor changes their business model and tries to monetize off the "IP" instead of the service and support they were originally established to provide as a business model.

  • They are nice guys
  • by straponego ( 521991 ) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @02:26PM (#21233263)
    The CentOS userbase is an incentive to make your software Redhat-compatible. If there were not a free and painless option that is compatible with RH, many more people would have switched to SuSE, Ubuntu, etc.

    CentOS is actually significantly better than RHEL in one respect, though. The package management system, yum, has always been more reliable for me than RHEL's up2date. Even now that RH uses yum, their reposistories seem to be down or slow fairly often. And I can't stand using RHEL's web site. It's much faster to deploy a CentOS server than a Red Hat one, enough so that the price difference seems almost secondary. On the other hand, if you install a lot of machines, you shouldn't be doing it from scratch.

    Eh, but Red Hat's done far more good things than bad things. I think CentOS (and to a lesser extent, White Box and others) have a nice symbiotic relationship with them. Some users will prefer or need officially supported software, and that's why they're still turning nice, but not monopolistic insane profits. It would be a mistake to think that they'd get many of the CentOS users if they could only work around that pesky GPL and force them to buy from Redhat. Quite the opposite; they'd ruin themselves.

  • Nobody will read this since its at the bottom of the page, but lots of major software vendors will not provide support on CentOS.

    For example, Oracle will only provide support if its installed on the RHEL version of Linux.

    My IT department isn't concerned about the support involved with Linux, but they DO want to make sure they are supported for the big dollar, and incredibly important (data!) side of the business--so they pay for RHEL for production servers.

    In test and development arenas we use CentOS.
  • This hurts my head (Score:2, Insightful)

    by lluBdeR ( 466879 )

    From TFA:

    Until fairly recently they ran this web site on an old version of Red Hat with essentially no outside support.


    But even if they run RHEL on a mix of two and four socket machines, they're still looking at $50K per year minimum for the privilege of sticking the little red logo on their servers.

    From what I gather (and I haven't been awake very long, so I might be wrong) they've been maintaining Linux boxes on their own for years (about 5, IIRC Redhat 7.3 came out 2002-ish), and the reason they're ditching Redhat is it costs too much for support they didn't need previously? If I might go on a limb and make a bizarre suggestion: Don't pay it.

    They know that the engineering effort at Red Hat costs serious money and that someone has to pay for it

    I don't really think this is that true. I was under the impression (and unless this [] is wrong too) RHEL forked off Fedora whenever

  • I still believe that the reason why Microsoft software is so widely used is because of the piracy or the economics of piracy that surround Microsoft products.

    It is a natural extension to get your product into as many hands as possible and then collect on all of the "possibilities" that might develop.

    For example, if you do not economically restrict the number of machines that you can deploy a product on, this naturally creates a demand for software from the creation of such a large number of users.

    That is ju
  • Because RedHat have always been a good citizen in the Linux world, that's why. They use GPL code, and they release their developments under the GPL. Like any good Linux distro, you can compile any of the Redhatified binaries from the Redhatified source and install them as RedHat packages. That's because their distro is fully open, just like it should be.

    Of course, that means anyone can copy it, and they know that. That's why they don't really sell Linux as such. What they really sell is support. You can't c
  • The benefit to the end user of using a Red Hat clone rather than Red Hat is that it's a well supported ecosystem within the larger Linux ecosystem. The benefit to Red Hat of an end user using a Red Hat clone rather than another Linux distro is that it increases the size of the Red Hat ecosystem.

    If someone buys Red Hat's supported linux product, they're buying it for the support. That's the product Red Hat is really selling. If someone uses CentOS or Fedora or White Box they're more likely to buy support fro
  • Although the GPL gives RH some obligations, they go beyond the requirements therein. The key point is that: the GPL requires you to distribute source to people you distribute the binaries to. Red Hat goes beyond this by making their source available online to all, not just to RHEL customers (which is all they were strictly obliged to do). To the best of my knowledge, they make proper Source RPMs available (rather than a less convenient format from the point of view of rebuilders like CentOS) on their FTP
  • This is the whole point of the GNU GPL.
  • by Eskarel ( 565631 ) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @09:11PM (#21236595)
    It's very simple. Red Hat Enterprise Linux is for the Enterprise, that's what they sell. Same thing for SuSe(though with some extensions). They sell rather expensive support contracts to organizations large enough to require them, folks don't pay that kind of money because they can't get the product some other way, they pay it to not have to have linux developers on staff, and to have support and limited culpability from a third party. Red Hat might lose a few boundary cases(people who want an enterprise style system but don't want support), but it's not going to be a major drama for them.

    That said I think that Enterprise systems are pretty terrible and I've never really liked Red Hat's product. But that's a story for another time.

  • by wikinerd ( 809585 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @10:26AM (#21240853) Journal

    My servers run Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 etch amd64. If for any reason I couldn't get Debian and I wanted a RedHat-like distro, then I would examine CentOS. If it suited me, then I would examine the pure RedHat. But if I couldn't get CentOS, then there would be absolutely no chance of even thinking about RedHat.

    To summarise... If I were a CentOS user I would be willing to consider RHEL, but if there were no CentOS I would *never* buy RHEL. I wouldn't get RHEL even if it, its updates, and its support were offered for free.

    Let me explain my reasoning as a user: RHEL is supported by a company. CentOS is supported by a community. Companies may die or bought by a bigger company and leave their users unsupported. Communities, while having no obligation to support the users, tend to live on and almost never die. "Dead" communities are usually just replaced by a new more vibrant one. The reason is that communities are formed because of the needs of developers and users, so for as long as users have the same needs there will always be communities covering these needs. Companies, however, are usually formed for profit, so if you have obscure needs that cannot bring profits to an enterprise then you may be unable to buy a commercial solution to your needs. A company can cease its operations for various reasons. This can't happen with a community. With an active CentOS community around, this means that upgrading to the enterprise support offered by RedHat is safe: Even if RedHat can't support me, I can always just revert back to CentOS and carry on my business as before with no changes. But if CentOS didn't exist, then getting RedHat would mean that you would assume the risk of having business continuity problems if your support provider went out of business etc. With CentOS around acting as a backup, RedHat is a much more safer choice.

    Let's use an actual example: I still have a Commodore 64 home micro from the 1980s with its sexy tape drive, but Commodore is no more and doesn't support this old model anymore. I have to rely to an informal community to get spare parts from auctions, classified ads, etc. The company has stopped supported the C64 users, but the C64 community is still alive and supports its members very well.

    Really, the knowledge that CentOS has good compatibility with RHEL and that I will *never* face the same situation as my did with my C64 makes me a thousand times more willing to buy RHEL if I ever need their enterprise support. Buying RedHat means that if I can't continue running it then I can just revert back to CentOS with little effort.

    In this sense, every commercial distributors should seek to support a compatible community-led parallel distro alongside their commercial offering. Community distros that are compatible with commercial versions achieve synergy benefits for both the community and the commercial vendor. Furthermore, companies should not be afraid of losing customers from the community version, as commercial and community distros are meant for very different kinds of users. In the CentOS/RHEL example, the difference between CentOS and RHEL is that with CentOS you are responsible for keeping your machines operational, while with RHEL you can sign a contract and give portions of your responsibility to RedHat. This usually appeals to middle level managers who get to make a choice between distros and have a higher boss to report to in case somethings gets broken. But CentOS, just like Debian, will appeal to techies and entrepreneurs who either know what they are doing or have no one above them to fear getting fired. So, really, these distros target very different markets and very different psychologies of customers.

Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance. -- James Bryant Conant