Open Source Market Segment LS
Open Source Market Segment RS
Monday, 07 March 2011 11:11

Red Hat bid to undercut Oracle, Novell

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Red Hat has decided to release its kernel source with all patches pre-applied to make it difficult for its competitors to lure away its customers.

Brian Stevens, the chief technical officer of the company, who offered this explanation towards the end of an eight-paragraph blog entry attempting to explain the sudden change, did not respond directly to questions sent to the company by iTWire.

As reported in these columns, the change was first publicised in an interview given by Maximilian Attems, a member of the Debian kernel team. It received further publicity on the Linux Weekly News website.

A number of other publications have since reported the issue.

Stevens spoke to the British technology website, The Register, and named the two competitors for whom Red Hat wanted to make life difficult – Oracle and Novell.

However, Stevens said nothing about the fact that Red Hat could well be violating the GNU General Public Licence under which the Linux kernel is released.

The GPL specifies that additional restrictions cannot be placed on redistribution of GPL-ed sources. Red Hat's policy now is to cancel the support options for any of its subscribers who redistributes the source of its kernel.

In his blog entry, Stevens said Red Hat's competitors had now changed their tactics, and, instead of offering their own GNU/Linux contributions as alternatives, were trying to lure away its customers by offering to support its own enterprise distribution, Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

"Frankly, our response is to compete," Stevens wrote. "Essential knowledge that our customers have relied on to support their RHEL environments will increasingly only be available under subscription.

"The itemisation of kernel patches that correlate with articles in our knowledge base is no longer available to our competitors, but rather only to our customers who have recognized (sic) the value of RHEL and have thus indirectly funded Red Hat's contributions to open source that will advance their business now and in the future."

Red Hat's tactic does not prevent either Oracle or Novell taking out a single subscription each to RHEL and profiting from all the work done by Red Hat.


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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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