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Red Hat Is "Growing Up"

Will loyal users be left looking elsewhere?

Today’s confirmation from the Red Hat Network that support for Red Hat 7.x and 8.0 is ending in December 2003 and that Red Hat 9.0 support will end in April, 2004, has all the trappings of a company that is growing up and growing out of its freely downloadable history. I sadly mark it as an end of an era - and yet another sign of the OSS movement moving toward the enterprise and maturing as it goes.

As a Red Hat user since 1995, I know there are simply too many people in my boat for us to go without great alternatives going forward. Perhaps these will come from within Red Hat, but if not, certainly outside Red Hat there will continue to be a lot to choose from as distribution vendors race to fill a void and provide migration plans. Having used Debian at home a lot, I know that picking any well-known Linux distro is going to be a safe bet for folks running basic Internet and database servers like myself.

Red Hat is pointing users interested in free downloads to the Fedora project - which Red Hat sponsors - but I can tell you I will not be using it. I used Red Hat all these years and even occasionally bought their boxed set (not because I needed it but because I owed it to them), because it was a viable and stable product. Fedora is a nice idea but Red Hat does not support it and makes no claim to it being stable or production-ready. Fedora is an experiment and, really, an answer from Red Hat of how to provide something like the old Red Hat Linux without cutting into their Enterprise business. So, down go support, stability, and production-quality values and in it’s place is experimentation – it’s a marketing move in the purest sense.

I run co-lo servers for various clients and I provide system administration to other servers that I do not have direct responsibility for. The focus for me now is to determine, for the first time since 1995, what my migration path is going to be during the coming year. I have always liked Debian’s apt system but their install process, particularly for configuring X, has not been a favorite. I’m interested in seeing how this affects Mandrake but that’s probably not a distro I would look at really closely. FreeBSD will get another close look and I will look at Gentoo to see if I should look more closely at it. I’ll also have my eyes and ears open, not for the ensuing distro wars but for good information on migration options in general. I know I won’t have problems.

As the Red Hats of the world continue to sharpen their organizations toward the enterprise target, perhaps the low-end of the market – the ISP and the independent –  will be left a little high and dry. That’s OK, we have other alternatives. . .but it’s looking less and less as if one of them will be Red Hat.

More Stories By Paul Nowak

Paul Nowak first used Linux in 1995 while migrating from Sun to Linux at the University of Michigan. He used Linux in subsequent IT projects including web, telecom, telemetry and embedded projects and is currently CIO of a small professional association based in Washington D.C.

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