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Open Source Software Up the Stack

Dennis Byron

Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5 Released

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This is not really a big surprise given earlier posts here about Fedora but I need to mention it, given Red Hat's prominence in the open source software (OSS) community. The March 14 press conference was more of a chance to compare itself with and "constructively criticize" other suppliers' business models and less about what the product does.

Red Hat said there were three key points they wanted to make:
-- RHEL 5 delivers on the "Open source architecture." There is really nothing new in the architecture in my opinion, just good execution on the OSS development model. But RHEL 5 is the next generation of Red Hat's platform, supporting the whole array of systems architectures at a price point of the current RHEL Advanced Server (and a huge disruption to anyone still paying traditional prices for UNIX and VMware or like operating system add-ons). Built-in virtualization at no extra cost. No separate charges for volume management and other features such as security, smartcard support and a list of other features. People can mix and match stack components if they want (VMware instead of Xen, e.g.) but the point is: why would you want to? The JBoss middleware is still priced separately and not part of the RHEL 5 packaging.
-- Participation of the partner community. AMD and Intel talked via video at the press conference to talk about how their latest greatest silicon and systems software will take advantage of RHEL 5. In addition, Red Hat announced an expanded partner program to expand the open source ecosystem, particularly applciation ISVs. They call it Red Hat Exchange and is modeled after salesforce.com's program called AppExchange. Compiere and Jaspersoft are signed up already along with others.
-- Improved customer experience in terms of transparency,, problem resoution, and collaboration was new news. This is good news for Red Hat customer and prospects because it provides the sort of coverage larger enterprise expect (and it certainly competes with what Oracle is trying to do in supporting Red Hat Linux, as announced in November 2006).

Red hat also talked about pre-configured solutions for Data Center, Database Availability, and High Performance Computing all of which are packaged to solve specific configuration issues that Red Hat has heard about from its customers. For example, virtualizing database instances could save users thousands of dollars in database license fees each month. Red Hat will probably extend this concept by packaging some JBoss and SOA components to make other packages.

There is an interesting pricing story under the covers of the packaging announcement relative to pricing virtualized operating systems. If anyone cares, send me a comment and I'll dig into it.

In terms of the constructive criticism, it was veiled for Oracle and more direct for Microsoft. Microsoft doesn't get it according to Red Hat. For example,
-- Red Hat says it sees no buzz around Vista. The problem is that Red Hat doesn't know where to look. As of March 1, a month after consumer Vista became available, nearly 100,000 emails and faxes were still backed up at Moduslink, the supply chain company that will provide free upgrades to people who bought a PC before the holidays. Microsoft has reserved $1.6 billion to pay for that program alone. And that is not counting those that bought PCs earlier and are upgrading at their own cost or those that have bought PCs since who get Vista automatically (and therefore aren't likely to buzz about it). In my opinion, the OSS community has got to get over its fixation with the desktop; that ship has sailed.
-- Red Hat says Microsoft Windows runs on the RHEL 5 virtualization platform in testing and they will support Windows in some way as a virtualized guest. It's up to Microsoft to make it work the other way (How about a phone call guys? The market wants open choice. It would have been better to have these answers out of the gate.)

Red Hat is right that Microsoft still doesn't get the subscription model idea, as I have posted on extensively at my own site (see My Other Work link at right).

Dennis Byron’s blog on open source software: A longtime market research analyst follows what “the movement? means to business integration—in applications, infrastructure, as services, as architecture and as functionality.

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