Red Hat's source code shift may hurt third-party support but help RHEL

Although some Linux proponents dislike Red Hat's new source code policy, they're necessary to fund RHEL development

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However, as Stevens indicates, although RHEL usage and demand for RHEL skills may be increasing, Red Hat is no longer the only vendor to offer RHEL support. In fact, third-party vendors that offer cheaper RHEL support enjoy the added benefit of not having to invest in developing RHEL, or an RHEL clone, to the degree that Red Hat does. This lower level of investment allows the third-party vendors to pass on their savings.

The long-term competitive implications of cheaper Linux offerings

Some companies are attracted to these cheaper RHEL support providers. However, you have to question the value that these third parties deliver to the Linux market and their effect on paying Red Hat customers, especially in light of Red Hat's decision surrounding kernel and fix packaging.

It's well documented that Red Hat invests significantly in Linux community projects. These investments are funded by revenue from RHEL customers. Third-party RHEL providers are significantly less active in the Linux community, as necessitated by their business model of lower investment to allow lower pricing.

It's difficult to argue that the Linux community is better off when a customer willing to pay for RHEL support does so through a third party. The customer does benefit from lower costs in the short term. But the long-term impact is the risk of a less competitive Linux, unless and until these third-party RHEL providers step up their community Linux investments.

Although RHEL may have the dominant market share in the enterprise, Red Hat is trailing in areas such as virtualization and cloud deployments. A growing revenue base helps Red Hat, like any vendor, invest in new areas and close the competitive gap in areas where it's trailing.

How Red Hat's new policy may affect your company

Red Hat's new policy has little, if any, impact on Red Hat customers, as Network World's Stephen Walli concludes. Walli suggests that the recent negative press about Red Hat's has blown the situation out of proportion.

If you're paying for a RHEL clone, don't be surprised if your costs go up as your vendor may have a harder time keeping in sync with RHEL. It's also possible that your RHEL clone provider will have a more difficult time claiming full compatibility with RHEL, thereby presenting more of a challenge to run RHEL-certified applications on your RHEL clone. As a result, your company may be faced with a decision at some point of continuing to use the RHEL clone with third-party support or moving to Red Hat for support.

I tend to agree with Walli. It's not only Red Hat's right to compete, but it's in the best interests of its customers and the Linux community as a whole.

Follow me on Twitter at SavioRodrigues. I should state: "The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions."

This article, "Red Hat's source code shift may hurt third-party support but help RHEL," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Savio Rodrigues' Open Sources blog and follow the latest developments in open source at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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