Live blogging LinuxCon: The Changing Linux Landscape

What are the upsides/downsides of the big Linux distros RHEL, SLES, Ubuntu, CentOS?

Jay Lyman, an analyst for The 451 Group likes this Tweet: "If you're not ashamed of your code, you waited too long to put it out." That sums up the feeling with the main Linux distro players, he said during a session at LinuxCon.

Here is my live blog from the session on Wednesday where he ran down the SWOT of each distro: strength weakness opportunity and threats.


The players: RHEL, SLES, Ubuntu, and community versions of Linux (like CentOS). Community is a important to the paid versions. I talked with Jim Whitehouse after his keynote and he said a lot of Red Hat's growth comes from CentOS.

The OS that ships with the server isn't the same as the OS that eventually operates on it ... perhaps half the time it is changed.

RHEL: x86 strength, JBoss, leader in paid use (a lot of times when there's a shift to paid use, its to RHEL). Red Hat supports Fedora for latest and greatest cutting edge features laser focus on x86 server caused them to be slow to say cloud computing, go to it. Linux becomes an abstraction -- all kinds of things run on Linux, but I frequently run into enterprise users that don't know open source and Linux. Subscription Linux constriction meaning that customers thinks that a Red Hat subscription is not flexible enough, for customization of what can add to operating system. Red Hat has responded, RHEL 6 did make changes of packaging and pricing.

SUSE: x86 strength, SUSE Studio and appliances. If you look at Top 500 supercomputers we see a lot of SUSE Linux in HPC, ahead of Red Hat in that regard, OpenSUSE users tend to go to the paid model from the free model, slow to cloud, Attahcmate-Novell uncertainty -- we saw statements of support from Attachmate group, but still see development. Weakness and strength is the Microsoft deal -- its been commercially beneficial to both of them. Recently renewed through 2016. But hearing in the market still confidence in SUSE and the Microsoft deal provides longevity which is important to enterprises.

Ubuntu: very popular in cloud -- Canonical was early and aggressive to attack the cloud. Also its developer strength, very popular with developer. , Key partnerships, Eucalypts, OpenStack and saw a partnership with VMware. Also, Canonical does a mobile device and the Unity interface with touch capability. Only one getting onto netbooks and maybe tablets. No major pre-installs, paid challenge.

I think Unity and Gnome can co-exist like KDE and Gnome. We might see a case where they revert back to Gnome for server and desktop and push unity for netbooks and tablets. Ubuntu is upstream to other versions of Linux (Mint).

I've been hassling them for for years don't have a pre-installed server deals. I expected it when getting pre-installed on Dell Latitude, but hasn't happened. Not on HP or IBM servers. Do a lot of certifciation, and that gets back at how many times the OS that ships is not the one that gets used.

Adds to challenge of getting paid. Most of Ubuntu use is not paid. Full version is available for free. Its the same code. Not a second version makes the leap to paid challenging for Canonical.

Oracle: Oracle has done the most to usher in greater Linux credibility in enterprise by bringnig their database and did a lot of work on filesystems, contribute a lot to Linux. To certify first to Linux and not Windows? I thought that was amazing. Oracle Linux we see mostly used by Oracle shops for their database (but that's a big market). I'm not sure they fully understand community. [Crowd in the room laughs and nods.] We've seen that with OpenOffice. Oracle still works with Red Hat but Whitehouse said that's not as helpful as it was before. I haven't seen much backlash. If you are an Oracle shop, Oracle Linux is attractive to you. But we don't see enterprises standardizing on Linux.

[Comment from attendee: Oracle won't support anything but OEL, but no other ISV support for OEL, so you have to have more than one Linux in house.]

CentOS, facinating -- no corporation backing it just a bunch of guys that love that project. CentOS still around and doing well and enjoys enterprise use. Lots of flexibility and cost savings, but no paid support, lack of credibility. Interestingly, some surprise companies are taking up support including HP (unofficially) and Microsoft has taken up support support of CentOS. Donated some code under the GPL for general Linux.

Red Hat's growh often comes from CentOS users wantting to go paid for a production system.

72% of Linux users are using unpaid distros (mostly CentOS and Debian). The largest corporations, Fortune 50, have the talent to support it themselves. 26.2% of organizations use a combo of unpaid and paid.

Things are different then they were a couple of years ago ... There is no evil Microsoft to contrast to. Microsoft supports Linux. VMware is Red Hat's No. 1 competitor right now. Going at it in middleware.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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