Linux professionals are giving Red Hat the raspberry following its decision to drop support of all but its Red Hat Linux Enterprise Edition line. Consultant Chris Ridley sums up their feelings thusly: "Ptooey!"
Raleigh, N.C.-based Red Hat will stop support and maintenance of Red Hat Linux 9 on April 30, 2004. Support for previous releases will end in 2003. After April 30, the company will only support Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Previously, Red Hat Linux 9 users could buy incident-based support plans, even for multiple copies of a single purchased product. The new support policy calls for a per-system fee.
SearchEnterpriseLinux.com asked IT pros whether Red Hat's support announcement would change their plans. Most said "yes." Not one of the 28 readers who replied to our query favored the move.
Overall, IT administrators and consultants expressed their disappointment that Red Hat is, in their view, following in the footsteps of proprietary Unix vendors and Microsoft. In fact, those like Ridley, a consultant for Litchville, N.D.-based OnCall Solutions, who have evangelized for Red Hat Linux, said that the Linux distributor has thrown proverbial eggs in their faces.
Red Hat is going to lose business customers as a result of this new policy, IT pros said. Businesses that have chosen lesser products than Red Hat Enterprise Edition aren't going to move to Red Hat's new "hobbyist" client product, Fedora, they said. So, it's either pay up and sign up for RHEE, or find another Linux distribution.
Several IT pros said that they're moving their companies' servers off of Red Hat. Red Hat isn't the only Linux distribution in the IT sea, these IT pros said. Ridley will "exit stage left to Knoppix/Debian." Others are considering moving to SuSE or Mandrake.
Some are halting planned migrations to Red Hat Linux. "Shame to Red Hat," said Pierre-Marie Waridel of Service Informatique in Nyon, Switzerland. "I just decided to prepare to migrate from Windows servers to Red Hat. I'm obliged to stop the process."
Red Hat's abandonment of Red Hat 9 support kills the cost advantage that has been pulling many businesses to Linux, IT pros said. "With Red Hat's move and cost structure, an enterprise is in a similar price point with Sun and Microsoft, and becomes locked into the Red Hat subscription model," said Mike Andrewjeski, a Linux supporter who works in a major financial corporation. "Not attractive in my view."
With Red Hat 9, Julio Perez could assemble a low-cost network and be sure that good support was available. That opportunity was a big plus for those who were and are "reluctant to go to a Microsoft-based solution due to costs," said Perez, senior operating systems programmer for the Miami-Dade Police Department. "Come April 30, 2004, that opportunity comes to an end."
Some Red Hat Linux evangelists feel betrayed. "I have pushed and sold [Red Hat] to my customers in the SMB area, only to have the rug pulled out from under me and [them]," Ridley said. "Red Hat has proved that it does not take its customers' or distributors' interests or well-being to heart. I will vacate any and all Red Hat associations to make sure I and my customers do not get burned in the future, regardless of what whiz-bang technology they come out with."
Others don't like the direction that Red Hat is taking. Several IT pros said they fear that this move is part of the company's makeover into a proprietary vendor. "I do not believe that this is another Redmond in the making, but apparently the mentality still lives on, and who knows where this will go?" said Charles Lee Ying, a Windows administrator who is rethinking plans to move servers to Red Hat Linux.
Waridel thinks that Red Hat has played right into Microsoft's hands: "It is a very great deception for me, but I think that Microsoft will definitely win the war."
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