Red Hat turns on Oracle and other Red Hat Linux clone-makers

Red Hat turns on Oracle and other Red Hat Linux clone-makers

Summary: No more Mr. Nice Linux, Red Hat is making life harder for its imitators: CentOS and Oracle.

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Red Hat has decided it's no going to be Mr. Nice Linux anymore for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) clone makers such as Oracle and CentOS . Sure, in open-source, you share the code. That's rule one. But, that doesn't mean you need to make it easy for your rivals.

What Red Hat has done, for the last several months, is release its version of the Linux kernel with all its own patches incorporated into the RHEL code. Before that, pre-RHEL6, which was released in November 2010, Red Hat released the vanilla Linux code with its improvements and fixes in separate patches. This method made it very easy for an Oracle or another Linux distributor to see exactly what Red Had had done and thus made it easy for them to pick and choose which patches they'd adopt. Now, it's much harder both to do this and to copycat RHEL.

As Joe Brockmeier aptly put it, "It's sort of like asking someone for a recipe for the family's chocolate chip cookies, and getting cookie batter instead." Sure you can tease out what the ingredients are, but it's not easy.

That was by design. Bryan Stevens, Red Hat's CTO and VP of worldwide engineering, explained in his blog,

Our competitors in the Enterprise Linux market have changed their commercial approach from building and competing on their own customized Linux distributions, to one where they directly approach our customers offering to support RHEL.

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

I asked Stevens to expand on this, but he wouldn't comment. Other sources at Red Hat told me what I had already supposed to be the truth. This isn't aimed so much at Red Hat's main server Linux rival, Novell, or RHEL clone makers such as CentOS or the now dormant White Box Enterprise Linux. No, the real target is Oracle.

Oracle, you see, has made no bones about both wanting to replace RHEL with its own RHEL copycat Linux distribution, Oracle Linux.

Larry Ellison, Oracle's CEO and God-King, has claimed "We [Oracle] spend a lot of time finding and fixing bugs in Red Hat Linux, and we have no problem with that-we do that with lots of operating systems. But sometimes when we fix a Red Hat Linux bug, Red Hat can take a very long time before making the fix. We'd fix the bug for our customers, and we'd send the bug off to Red Hat for them to fix, and sometimes the fix would be made very quickly but sometimes not."

I've never seen any proof of this. What I have seen, as has Red Hat, is that Oracle is going out of its way both to woo Red Hat customers away with its own house-brand of RHEL, Oracle Linux.

Page 2: [Red Hat's real target: Oracle] »

Red Hat's real target: Oracle

Some people see what Red Hat as doing as 'obfuscating' its code. They believe that Red Hat, while complying with the letter of open source software law is breaking its spirit. I don't see it that way. The code is still there, it's just that Red Hat isn't going to hold your hand now as you work your way through it.

As Stevens wrote, "Red Hat often talks about upstream first, the practice of openly developing kernel features and bug fixes as part of the most recent upstream kernel before we ship them in Red Hat Enterprise Linux. We know the value of getting code open from day one, debating it in the public forum, and letting it mature through a cycle long before it reaches our customers' data centers. As the kernel community is well aware, it is standard practice for Red Hat to submit fixes that we find in supporting our customers."

"We believe that the open source development model produces the best software on the planet, and Red Hat will continue to increase the resources invested in openly developing software," he continued. These aren't just words. This is what Red Hat has been doing for years.

Red Hat's real goal is not making life hard for developers. No, it's as Jay Lyman, open-source and Linux analyst for The 451 Group, explained, "Red Hat's move shows an intensifying competition in the Linux market, with Red Hat seeking to thwart or slow the copying and reselling of its code. It also highlights the change in positioning of Linux distributions, which are expanding beyond a couple of main distributions to a number of other possibilities, driven primarily by virtualization and cloud computing."

Exactly. Red Hat is a business. It may well become the first purely open-source billion-dollar business. It's not going to do that though if it lets Oracle just walk away with its code. Red Hat is still more than happy to share code, but it's closing the door to the cut and paste school of Linux development.

Topics: Software, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Oracle

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57 comments
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  • RE: Red Hat turns on Oracle and other Red Hat Linux clone-makers

    Perhaps it's not part of this post, but I'm curious what Oracle is planning to do once they lure all those customers away from RedHat. Clearly their model has a bit of a flaw once that goal materializes.
    MvdL
    • RE: Red Hat turns on Oracle and other Red Hat Linux clone-makers

      @MvdL If Oracle is true to from, they'll up their prices, while reducing services and support..

      Truth in advertising: I have No fondness for Oracle.

      Steven
      sjvn@...
      • RE: Red Hat turns on Oracle and other Red Hat Linux clone-makers

        @sjvn@... CentOS developers have said in their blogs that they don't have a problem with this and don't consider it hostile (i.e. "turn[ing] on [them]). Why are you stirring up trouble?
        daengbo
    • They will uppercase everything

      @MvdL In addition to SJVN, the entire OS will switch to UPPERCASE only. Words will be re-encoded in 7 bits so the OS could be compatible with Oracle database products.
      RelaxWalk
    • They will uppercase everything

      @MvdL In addition to SJVN, Oracle will UPPERCASE everything in their OS. All words will be re-encoded in 7 bits to make the OS compatible with Oracle database products.
      RelaxWalk
  • RE: Red Hat turns on Oracle and other Red Hat Linux clone-makers

    Sounds like now linux is getting copy protection and anti-pirate mechanisms. I remember this other company that was getting blasted for doing the same thing from linux users. Oh how the tables have turned. But still, with all this inner subculture fighting between linux companies I can't use it or recommend it until all the issues are resolved. You never know where a linux company will be in 6 months.
    Loverock Davidson
    • Well said

      @Loverock Davidson To be safe, everyone should buy and install Microsoft Windows®.
      Robert Hahn
    • RE: Red Hat turns on Oracle and other Red Hat Linux clone-makers

      @Loverock Davidson

      Go to kernel.org and download your copy of un-copy-protected linux, devoid of any "anti-pirate mechanisms" whatever they are.
      a238324
      • RE: Red Hat turns on Oracle and other Red Hat Linux clone-makers

        @a238324
        LD I trolling, nothing new.
        choyongpil
    • RE: Red Hat turns on Oracle and other Red Hat Linux clone-makers

      Those evil communists will be slipping code into the obfuscated binaries and eves dropping on Uncle Sam, gathering up all our industrial and state secrets.

      Get windows 7, you know it makes sense. Just slip you feet into a bowl of it and your athletes foot will be history - mine was.
      Rubberduck Rabidson
      • RE: Red Hat turns on Oracle and other Red Hat Linux clone-makers

        Message deleted
        jeverettk
    • RE: Red Hat turns on Oracle and other Red Hat Linux clone-makers

      @Loverock Davidson So, you can't tell the difference between bundling patches and DRM? Boy, you really are as clueless as everyone says.
      anothercanuck
      • RE: Red Hat turns on Oracle and other Red Hat Linux clone-makers

        @anothercanuck
        He also can't tell the difference between free speech and communism.
        jeverettk
    • RE: Red Hat turns on Oracle and other Red Hat Linux clone-makers

      @Loverock Davidson I don't disagree (same problem with UNIX forking), but I still don't think you've ever even installed Linux...
      happyharry_z
  • I don't believe it. I mean SJVN

    claims this doesn't happen with Linux and open source, that the beauty of it is that everone's 1 big happy family sharing everything!<br><br>Except for kernels, code, money...
    Will Farrell
    • RE: Red Hat turns on Oracle and other Red Hat Linux clone-makers

      @Will Farrell
      What are you talking about, claim what?
      choyongpil
      • RE: Red Hat turns on Oracle and other Red Hat Linux clone-makers

        @choyongpil Isn't this exactly the indemnification situation many anti-open sauce proponents say doesn't happen with OSS yet here it is. Red Hat is angry that some one is using their open sauce modifications.. oh how the pot calls the kettle black.
        jbencivengo@...
      • RE: Red Hat turns on Oracle and other Red Hat Linux clone-makers

        Jbencivengo,

        All Red Hat is doing is keeping Red Hat specific knowledge away from Oracle and a lesser degree Novell.
        daikon
    • RE: Red Hat turns on Oracle and other Red Hat Linux clone-makers

      @Will Farrell
      Dude: even the happiest of families will start lunging at each others throats once money is involved in the argument.
      Yam Digger
  • RE: Red Hat turns on Oracle and other Red Hat Linux clone-makers

    Red Hat Enterprise Linux: Being dicks on the internet and making Linux look bad since '03.
    Onaka