Red Hat's move damages Linux

I shouldn't be grizzling about Red Hat's moves to "enterprise-ify" Linux once again, but I can't help it. A few weeks ago, I and many other users registered with the Red Hat Network (RHN) received an email explaining that that was it.

I shouldn't be grizzling about Red Hat's moves to “enterprise-ify” Linux once again, but I can't help it. A few weeks ago, I and many other users registered with the Red Hat Network (RHN) received an email explaining that that was it. No more support for the Linux distribution that's arguably the most popular in the world.

With immediate effect, Red Hat will cease support for version 7.x and 8.0 of its Linux distribution, whereas users of the latest instalment, 9.0, have a slightly longer period of grace – until April 30 next year.

If you do want a supported distribution from El Sombrero Rojo, you need to buy into the new Enterprise programme. Or, you could take your chances with the free “community” version,

Fedora . It's unsupported, but has Red Hat developers working on it, and Red Hat reckons it will appeal to those who've downloaded the previous distributions for free.

That's fine. Red Hat developers, corporate managers and the ventures capitalists supporting the Virginia outfit need to eat too. However, the killing off could have been done in a less abrupt way. There are still plenty of Red Hat 7, 8 and 9 boxes out there that will need security updates in the immediate future. Somehow I don't think a customer buying Red Hat Linux 8 or 9 recently did it with the expectation that the software would become unsupported well before its end of life. Nor can I imagine said users thought they would face a choice of either going with one of two unknown choices to replace their current operating systems, or face the pain of migrating to a different platform altogether.

Then again, many Red Hat Linux users got the distribution for the cost of the bandwidth expended in downloading it. Maybe they stashed away the monies saved on licensing fees into an emergency platform upgrade fund or something, in case their freebie distro disappeared. Perhaps Red Hat certified engineers will be get a discount on qualification upgrades for the new Enterprise stuff.

I was a bit surprised, however, to find an email from the Red Hat Network about a “demo account” (free, but with access and service limitations) expiring for one of my machines. Because I needed access to security patches for that box, I filled in the web survey to extend the demo account and saw that Red Hat was still selling entitlements for the RHN. So it's business as usual with the RHN, except it'll go away completely in six months' time. Let's see, should I buy a one-year subscription then?

By leaving a bunch of users, some paid up, others who've downloaded the distribution because it's open source, Red Hat is damaging the reputation of the software that created the company.

Let's hope Novell will take a different route with SuSE Linux.

Saarinen is an Auckland IT consultant and IDG contributor. Send letters for publication in Computerworld NZ to Computerworld Letters.

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