Red Hat defends its subscription license model for Linux

Company officials stress ROI, TCO at conference; projects for Ruby app server, ease of use also highlighted

Anyone finding Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) subscriptions a tough sell for management used to Microsoft's one-time license fee for Windows must emphasize that there are more factors to be considered, chiefly return on investment, Red Hat officials said Friday.

The issue was raised by an attendee during a question-and-answer session between high-ranking Red Hat officials and the audience at the Red Hat Summit 2009 conference in Chicago. The attendee said it was difficult to persuade decision-makers to move away from Windows and buy Red Hat's Linux. They are sold on Microsoft's one-time acquisition fee and security updates, he said. "With the subscription model for RHEL, you have to keep paying," the attendee said.

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Technically, Linux is more stable and better than Windows but management looks at the duel from a different perspective, he said. Management sees "a subscription model as an expense that you have to keep forever," said the attendee, who asked for an approach to persuading management to embrace open source.

Red Hat officials stressed return on investment (ROI) and total cost of ownership. "We have many, many, much data and many models to prove that what we have is a better investment over time," said Paul Cormier, Red Hat's executive vice president and president for products and technologies.

Red Hat Linux can save on personnel costs pertaining to IT management, said Katrinka McCallum, vice president for the management solutions business unit at Red Hat. "[Users] are able to do a lot more with some of the management tools," she said. Buyers must consider hard dollars, business value, reliability, and people costs, McCallum said.

From a total cost of ownership (TCO) perpsective, Red Hat comes out ahead every time, claimed Marco Bill-Peter, vice president of the Red Hat support group.

App server for Ruby apps
Also at the conference this week, company officials touted separate projects to provide an application server for Ruby applications and also to make it easier to use Red Hat technologies.

TorqueBox is a project to provide an application for running Ruby applications. A successor to the JBoss Rails project, TorqueBox is an open source effort that may or may not become a product, said Bob McWhirter, a JBoss engineer at Red Hat.

With TorqueBox, Ruby applications could gain benefits akin to what Java applications have had with Java application servers. It could run Ruby on Rails applications also.

"I think just as we saw that [as] Java matured through the years, we ended up getting an application server for Java," McWhirter said. "Application servers solve a lot of problems that we have developing enterprise software and Ruby has no application server. Ruby has not gotten that maturity yet. I think by providing an application server to Ruby, it makes life easier for those developers."

The Andiamo initiative
Red Hat with its Andiamo effort seeks to make it easier to use its products. Primarily a JBoss initiative, Andiamo is intended to make Red Hat products more approachable to more people. Technologies such as the JBoss Enterprise Application Platform would be fitted with Andiamo technologies. Andiamo is an Italian word for "onward," said Mark Little, Red Hat's vice president of engineering for middleware.

"The whole effort is about improving our out-of-the-box experience, making it easier to manage everything we do," such as configuration and runtime management, Little said. "Our target audience has changed a lot," Little said. "It's not just cutting edge developers [anymore]."

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