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Is CentOS Hurting Red Hat?

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the can't-imagine-it-would dept.

Red Hat Software 370

AlexGr writes "Jeff Gould raises an interesting question in Interop News: Why does Red Hat tolerate CentOS? The Community ENTerprise Operating System is an identical binary clone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (minus the trademarks), compiled from the source code RPMs that Red Hat conveniently provides on its FTP site. It is also completely free, as in beer. CentOS provides no paid support, but it does track Red Hat updates and patches closely, and usually makes them available within a few hours or at most a few days of the upstream provider, which it refers to for legal reasons as "a prominent North American Enterprise Linux vendor." Free support for CentOS can be found in numerous places around the web, and a few third parties offer modestly priced paid support for those who want it."

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nope, doesn't hurt RH (5, Insightful)

yagu (721525) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232519)

I'm going to have to go with "doesn't hurt Red Hat" on many counts.

  • There's no such thing as bad publicity.
  • CentOS users are likely users who were looking for free anyway so the alternative would have been some other free distro.
  • A natural migration path for free CentOS users would be to require more support and since their universe is Red Hat-centric, the "pay for" version they'd likely choose would be Red Hat.

I doubt too many sales are lost here.

And the article's example doesn't really prove the point. So a shop of Red Hat users balked at upgrades and associated fees, and decided to go CentOS because they were a seasoned Linux shop. If it weren't CentOS, it would have been something else. The veteran shops will run Linux for free because they don't need the support, period. And they will find the distro that lets them do that.

(And I'm not quite sure what the referenced Google graph is supposed to demonstrate. I suspect he's claiming the higher count and increase in hits for CentOS indicates more popularity, and lost revenues for Red Hat, but I see it as those needing to do their own support pretty much start with Google. Red Hat licensees will start with Red Hat support.)

Re:nope, doesn't hurt RH (5, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232561)

I tend to agree with you. The article sounds a lot like the RIAA claiming that every illegally downloaded song directly equates to lost revenue, and it is just as flawed a perspective.

Re:nope, doesn't hurt RH (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21232793)

True. One thing you forgot to mention.

RedHat does lots of partnerships with ISVs. That ensures that the ISVs will not support their software on CentOS, but genuine, licensed RedHat systems _only_. That's what made my employer buy some RHEL AS licenses.

Re:nope, doesn't hurt RH (4, Informative)

nicolaiplum (169077) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233385)

Indeed! My company will (for the foreseeable future) need some RHEL licenses for the applications which the vendor only supports on RHEL, like SAP. We may run other things on CentOS, but if we didn't run them on CentOS, we'd probably run them on Debian; it's all either common free software or software we wrote ourselves and we don't feel like paying Red Hat for their product. SInce we can, effectively, run one quite similar OS all over without having to pay Red Hat for all of it, we do, and that's why we're not entirely leaving Red Hat. I can't believe we're the only company doing this. If Red Hat demanded that anything we ran that looked even vaguely like their OS had to be paid for, we would run entirely Debian/Ubuntu and start pressing application vendors to support Debian/Ubuntu and we would not be alone, and application vendors would give in, and then Red Hat's market would entirely evaporate.
(Red Hat are not endearing themselves to us any by being further behind the feature curve than we would like, and by generally having quite unhelpful support if we have a problem - we perceive their added value to be small)

Re:nope, doesn't hurt RH (1)

meatspray (59961) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233531)

Meh, my vendors will not "support" it, but if you've paid for support from them, they'll "try" to get it working. Which of course almost always works identically to RHEL.

and by my vendors I mean Dell, Commvault, EMC.
and by metaphorically, I mean get your coat.

Why did MS like piracy? (5, Insightful)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232885)

In the early days, MS gave the impression of tolerating piracy. Whether they did or not it's widely believed it helped them more than it hurt them. Centos is not piracy but it can help Redhad spread itself.

Re:nope, doesn't hurt RH (5, Insightful)

kebes (861706) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232901)

And I'm not quite sure what the referenced Google graph is supposed to demonstrate. I suspect he's claiming the higher count and increase in hits for CentOS indicates more popularity, and lost revenues for Red Hat, but I see it as those needing to do their own support pretty much start with Google. Red Hat licensees will start with Red Hat support.
Not only that, but it's entirely possible that people who have Red Hat systems (and Red Hat support) but are looking for a quick answer might do searches on CentOS sites. Similarly if you have an Ubuntu system you may very well do searches on Debian support (or vice versa) since the answers are usually interchangeable.

As you said, if you have a supported Red Hat install, you're not very likely to be doing as many random Google searches in the first place. The rise in CentOS searches since its inception points to more interest in that distro, yes, but that by association also means more interest in Red Hat systems.

I should also note that when I played around with Fedora, I found it somewhat unstable (not trying to start a flamewar here!)... which in a sense made me wonder about Red Hat as a distro. But then my experiences with CentOS showed me how stable and well put-together it actually is, which increased my opinion of RHEL.

What I'm trying to say is, the fact that CentOS is such a solid distro is good publicity for Red Hat, because people get to sample the enterprise-quality polish and updating before they commit to support contracts. Red Hat's secret sauce has never been the binaries; it's always been the reputation for good support. And CentOS adds to this perception of a quality product; a net gain for Red Hat.

Re:nope, doesn't hurt RH (2, Interesting)

boer (653809) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232903)

Too bad you are conveniently "forgetting" the corporate customers who are likely to skip the RH license because of the free alternative. Say you have 20 identical server hardware? Why waste money for 20 licenses when you can buy one and install the free alternative on the other systems? In practise you get the support for all the 20 systems since the probelems are likely the same anyway.

Re:nope, doesn't hurt RH (2, Interesting)

cHiphead (17854) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232989)

Too bad your are conveniently forgetting that REAL corporate customers want someone to sue when things go wrong. Short from some web based startup companies, not many will let a free OS with no support license or warranty get near their important data, especially when their less than technical lawyers read the terms of the GPL and say NO due to the viral nature of code linking to it (and not understanding how things can be linked with GPL code without getting sucked into the GPL).

The problems among 20 identical servers might occasionally be the same, but Murphy's law always dictates that they won't be.

Cheers.

Re:nope, doesn't hurt RH (5, Insightful)

mOdQuArK! (87332) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233097)

Too bad your are conveniently forgetting that REAL corporate customers want someone to sue when things go wrong.

That always makes me laugh. I've heard it repeated so many times, yet I don't think I've heard of a single high-profile case where a software-provider has been sued successfully for providing a defective product.

Re:nope, doesn't hurt RH (4, Insightful)

vakuona (788200) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233511)

It's not so much that they want someone to sue, but companies have to demonstrate that they took care to avoid unnecessary losses. Having a support contract with a company such as Redhat goes a long way to absolving managers of responsibility if something bad happens.

Re:nope, doesn't hurt RH (1)

jZnat (793348) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233359)

Ever read the EULA for proprietary software? They give no warranty and all other sorts of legalese which translates to, "You can't sue us even if our software causes a nuclear catastrophe."

Re:nope, doesn't hurt RH (5, Interesting)

Cecil (37810) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233025)

I don't know what kind of corporations you tend to work for, but every one I have ever worked for has considered OS licences part of the cost of doing business. They have no issue at all buying thousands of Windows licences, or a handful of $10,000 Oracle licences, why would they care about $100 RedHat licences? They really, truly don't. Besides, they're afraid of "free" things and that includes CentOS. They really like things that come with support, even if it's redundant and they have their own in-house team of developers. I've never worked at a company that whined about the cost of RedHat, most of them consider it remarkably cheap and an excellent bargain.

some companies like "free" and "easy" (2, Informative)

nicolaiplum (169077) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233447)

My company, which is not so small (some hundreds employees, some hundreds millions Euro revenue/year, growing fast), uses CentOS (as well as RHEL) because it's cheaper, the cost difference is noticeable. We also use MySQL partly because it's cheaper. But we also like the ability to deploy rapidly, and not have to manage licenses, and so on, and we do pay for MySQL support and RHEL support when we use it.
Not all companies consider $10k Oracle licenses to be an inevitable cost of business, nor having to have people to track the licensing to be an inevitable drag.

Re:nope, doesn't hurt RH (1)

moggie_xev (695282) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233271)

One reason corps buy real licenses is that they want to run packages which are only certified on Redhat and not on Centos. Its the support of the package which is important not the OS.

Re:nope, doesn't hurt RH (1, Offtopic)

Thwomp (773873) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233071)

Sorry I modded you down by accident. For some reasons the drop downs aren't working in firefox at the moment. This is the only way I know of undoing it. Cheers.

Re:nope, doesn't hurt RH (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21233187)

Redhat draws income from a lot more than selling Linux. They sell support, training among other things. That explains a lot of things.


Second, contrary to what members of the community have suggested or thought over the years, Redhat is a community oriented company that has always given back and supported the community. Why shouldn't they allow/tolerate a community version of their code? They give it all away and know it's possible for that to exist.

Re:nope, doesn't hurt RH (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21233209)

you're right and its obvious. Is this article anything more than an advertisement for Cent OS? Redhat provides services over cent OS thats it. Redhat must comply with the GPL (which it is very happy to do) To top it off google is the determining factor? why not just judge a distro by hits on distro watch? PClinux is #1 on clicks.

I'm not sure what the discussion should actually be here.

Re:nope, doesn't hurt RH (1)

argontechnologies (865043) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233285)

I think of it like this. Similar to MySql, smaller firms will start off with CentOS, then as money, and business demands allow and require it to, they move to RedHat. I think this is good for RedHat. The large an installed base, the more growing companies will migrate to it.

Re:nope, doesn't hurt RH (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21233341)

Yep, CentOS really isn't much different than Fedora, which Red Hat *gasp* sponsors.

It's a stepping stone to the enterprise edition.

Re:nope, doesn't hurt RH (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21233547)

A well known company in my area has converted all Red Hat systems to CentOS systems, except where 3rd party vendor support contracts specify RHEL. They rarely used Red Hat support. From Red Hat's perspective this means a loss of $1.5 to 2 million per year that required virtually no effort on their part. Anecdotes aren't statistics, but surely this cannot be an isolated case, and it cannot be seen as a "positive" for Red Hat.

That said, I love CentOS. I'd never be able to justify a RHEL license for my home servers, so CentOS lets me use the same OS at home and at work.

Re:nope, doesn't hurt RH (1)

matthewcraig (68187) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233643)

What about a shop that purchases a couple support Red Hat subscriptions, one for each of their hardware architectures, and then runs CentOS on the dozens or hundreds of similar servers sitting in the same server room? These shops leverage their single subscription to get technical support with all their servers, at a fraction of the "legitimate" price.

Re:nope, doesn't hurt RH (2, Insightful)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233761)

I'm a bit off-topic here but I had to bring up what you stated, "There's no such thing as bad publicity." I don't know why people say that, the only thing I can think of is that they have no experience what-so-ever in marketing. A simply Marketing 101 will teach you otherwise.

Bad publicity has destroyed products, bankrupted corporations and bankrupted people. Bad publicity definitely does exit.

Because they don't have any choice? (3, Informative)

ThrobbingGristle (62723) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232555)

I would have thought that would have been obvious... maybe I'll go RTFA now.

Simple: Support (4, Insightful)

emgeemg (182902) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232575)

The type of organizations that want Red Hat Enterprise Linux want it for the support Red Hat offers. Take that away and there's not really any competition.

Re:Simple: Support (2, Interesting)

fitsnips (187974) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232669)

Have you ever tried Red Hat support? I have used RH for year and most companies are know are moving to CentOS for things like web servers. Oracle,Websphere, and the like still get Red Hat license for Oracle support but Red Hat support is horrible and always has been. I have never gotten a good answer from them, and usually its the same thing that the first hit on google finds. Last time they took me though a whole mess to run dumps for them and such and told me it was a bad power supply, luckily I did not believe them and when IBM ran the diags it was a bad cpu ... nice job guys.

Looks like the kernel is not the only one who was "Dazed and confused"

Joshua SS Miller

Re:Simple: Support (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21232881)

In their defense, the "Dazed and confused" messages typically do come from bad power supplies since abnormally low or high voltages on the mobo cause them. Our appliances (saying AC, sorry) have that issue a lot, and many times pulling out and re-seating the replaceable power supplies fixes the issue.

Re:Simple: Support (2, Interesting)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232911)

Red Hat support is horrible and always has been

Ah, so that explains how they've built a multi billion dollar business on providing software services and support. Wait, what?

Re:Simple: Support (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21233145)

Ah, so that explains how they've built a multi billion dollar business on providing software services and support. Wait, what?

Red Hats support is not their selling point. Their software services and training may be; their updates and RHN another. Their so called support is a joke for all but the very largest enterprise customers. I should know, I manage the Red Hat relationship for a Fortune 500 company with thousands of RH seats. We have currently 100+ open support issues on the Evolution mail reader alone where Red Hat support have does absolutely nothing. Their standard response is that "it will be corrected in a future release" but that makes their service not what I would call support, it is accepting bug-reports.

Re:Simple: Support (-1, Troll)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233737)

I manage the Red Hat relationship for a Fortune 500 company with thousands of RH seats

You don't exactly stand as an example of professionalism, if indeed you're being truthful, discussing private business matters on a public website.

Re:Simple: Support (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233081)

Last time they took me though a whole mess to run dumps for them and such and told me it was a bad power supply, luckily I did not believe them and when IBM ran the diags it was a bad cpu ... nice job guys.

You think that RedHat support, over the phone, could CONCEIVABLY be able to tell the difference between a defective CPU and a flaky power supply, particularly when they have no association with the hardware maker, and PSUs don't have any kind of data interface to the rest of the system?

The fact that they conclusively informed you it was a hardware fault, rather than a software bug, is the most you could possibly ask from the best support service, anywhere. This is the direct opposite of Microsoft, who CONSTANTLY blame perfectly good hardware, when (eg.) 99% of the time it is in fact some bug in their software.

Re:Simple: Support (1)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232743)

The type of organizations that want Red Hat Enterprise Linux want it for the support Red Hat offers. Take that away and there's not really any competition.

Which is exactly what Red Hat have always been mindful of. After all they have Fedora too, and Red Hat have released everything they do as open source from the very beginning. They really sell the support infrastructure, although they do add a lot to the linux they provide.

I don't doubt they'd love their version of Linux to become the next Debian, used as a base for new distro's. That means they absolutely must not hammer anyone else who uses their stuff. I don't see it as likely that they will pursue anyone to end an unofficial version, that would likely be something they wouldn't even consider, so long as their Mark is respected.

It is helping Red Hat (1)

uuxququex (1175981) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232585)

Not everyone needs or can't afford the support of Red Hat for themselves. Having a free (as-in-beer, gratis) alternative can be a solution.

The user benefits because it is almost a binary copy of an enterprise class GNU/Linux. And Red Hat benefits because of the increased familiarity in a potential userbase.

why??? (4, Insightful)

WwWonka (545303) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232603)

"Why does Red Hat tolerate CentOS?"

um...because they have too?!

"open source" look it up on wikipedia...on second thought...

Re:why??? (1)

ynososiduts (1064782) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232779)

You beat me to it. This really isn't a story as this is what OSS is all about.

Re:why??? (1)

empaler (130732) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233583)

If it wasn't for the FOSS part of RHEL, there wouldn't really *be* RHEL - the article is pretty much a moot point.

RH lost 10k licenses from us (2, Funny)

mikek2 (562884) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232611)

In my previous gig, we ran ~10,000 RH7.3 servers. Like the author's colleagues, we got to the point where we needed to upgrade. We were amazed that RedHat refused to give us a break on cost; they wouldn't shave off a single dollar. On 10k licenses, mind you! So, we waved goodbye to RH & migrated the whole thing to Debian. Much less headaches & drama. I'm not at the point where I want to tell RedHat to go screw, but you gotta question what they're thinking.

Re:RH lost 10k licenses from us (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21233221)

migrated the whole thing to Debian. Much less headaches & drama.
AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Because it's essentially advertising? (4, Insightful)

jimicus (737525) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232615)

CentOS essentially acts as advertising for the Enterprise RedHat editions. It allows sysadmins to stick with the same familiar set of tools on both systems where it is considered desirable to have a support contract and systems where this is less of an issue.

RedHat can't do much to curb this anyway - most of what they produce is standing on the shoulders of other GPL software - but if they did, I'd imagine we'd see a commensurate rise in the use of Debian, Ubuntu and (gasp!) SuSE/OpenSuSE.

It's the license, stupid (2, Insightful)

rjamestaylor (117847) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232617)

GPL FTW.

A little matter of the GPL (2, Insightful)

Lulu of the Lotus-Ea (3441) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232619)

It is a bit of an asinine question why Red Hat "tolerates" CentOS. Red Hat has no option here--nor should they. By distributing code or binaries that were created by people other than Red Hat, and licensed under GPL, Red Hat has explicitly agreed that CentOS (or anyone) has the right to do the same.

Red Hat is welcome to hold whatever opinion they want on whether they *like* CentOS to do what they do... but in the end, it's none of their damn business how someone else decides to distribute GPL'd code (within the license terms, of course... Red Hat is also a creator of a significant body of GPL code).

No it isn't (2, Insightful)

scheme (19778) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232813)

Red Hat is welcome to hold whatever opinion they want on whether they *like* CentOS to do what they do... but in the end, it's none of their damn business how someone else decides to distribute GPL'd code (within the license terms, of course... Red Hat is also a creator of a significant body of GPL code).

Redhat doesn't have to distribute the packaging or configuration information to satisfy the gpl. For example, they could provide a cvs or svn repository with just the code or tarballs of the source. The gpl would be satisfied, but it'd be very difficult to recreate the configuration information required to get a working system. E.g. the selinux policies required to get a working system would take a fairly large project in and of itself.

Re:No it isn't (4, Informative)

Danathar (267989) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233111)

Not entirely correct. Installation scripts and interfaces definition files must be included. Access to CVS/CVN of the code without these would not satisfy the GPL (v2).

"The source code for a work means the preferred form of the work for
making modifications to it. For an executable work, complete source
code means all the source code for all modules it contains, plus any
associated interface definition files, plus the scripts used to
control compilation and installation of the executable. However, as a
special exception, the source code distributed need not include
anything that is normally distributed (in either source or binary
form) with the major components (compiler, kernel, and so on) of the
operating system on which the executable runs, unless that component
itself accompanies the executable.

Re:No it isn't (1)

eldepeche (854916) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233189)

But if a RHEL subscriber acquires the configuration information, there's no way to stop him or her from giving that information to CentOS.

Re:A little matter of the GPL (1)

kasperd (592156) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233329)

Red Hat is also a creator of a significant body of GPL code
And in that area, they do have a choice. For all those GPL components where Red Hat owns the copyright, they could decide to change future versions to a different license. So far they haven't done this, and I don't think they are going to. I can think of a few reasons why Red Hat would not close those components:
  • There might be small parts of the code which is not owned by Red Hat.
  • They might think the improvements that other parties can make to the code is more valuable to Red Hat than the few customers they could lose because of CentOS.
  • There might be Red Hat customers who actually wants those parts to be GPL and would find a different distribution if they were closed.
  • Closing some components of Red Hat might piss off some of their own developers.

Centos brings back the 'play at home' (4, Interesting)

(H)elix1 (231155) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232631)

I looked into RHEL when they dropped support for RH 8/9, and they wanted far more money than I was willing to pay to kick around the tires at home or on my development box. When time came to look at 'enterprise' grade distributions, SuSE made it much easier on the developers. Fast forward and I found that I never bothered to even try RHEL 3, 4, and 5. Same went for Oracle's branded version. With no easy way to patch and having to deal with accounting to get a license, meh.

What changed it for me was Centos. I found that I could use the free as in beer versions for all my personal/internal needs, and it was so dang close to OEL and RHEL it became a no-brainer for testing and some dev work. With the internal blessings from our side that our code would work, QA did the formal testing on the branded versions of Linux. Folks running our product, of course, would want OS support - so they purchased the formal 'supported' OS from the commercial vendors. I suspect Centos is saving RHEL/OEL sales that might have gone to Ubuntu or other variants.

Re:Centos brings back the 'play at home' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21233309)

This is similar to how it is used (at times) where I work.

QA and I&T work with the "real RHEL", and pay for support we will never use, a few developer machines get RHEL too, and the rest get CENTOS.

We pay for RHEL everywhere it is loaded but I doubt that we've ever called support more than once.

Additionally, CENTOS allows us to load up a new machine within a hour or so of our needing it, without having to go through the lawyers and purchasing.

Doesn't hurt them at all..... (1)

budword (680846) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232637)

Red Hat makes money selling services to big companies who can't afford to be wrong. They sell CYA insurance to suits. CentOS is probably a plus, as it lets people test drive the real thing for free. When you have to put your career on the line in a large company, you pay Red Hat to Cover Your Ass. They are good at it, and the rate of pay reflects it.

Re:Doesn't hurt them at all..... (4, Interesting)

Tuoqui (1091447) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233163)

Yeah when I was doing a Computer related degree in College they used CentOS because of that fact. The thing is you're more likely to encounter RHEL than Debian, Ubuntu and such for server work. They exploited the fact that CentOS was a free version of RHEL and now RHEL has about 20-30 more people with college degrees that have been introduced to their work.

Myself I've used Ubuntu series of Linux on my home machine because its better for desktops but if I were to run a server I'd probably choose CentOS for myself (or a small business), RHEL if I had a big budget in a major company.

Umm, that's the point (5, Insightful)

allthingscode (642676) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232641)

Did we miss the point of the GPL? The instance of the software is owned by the user. They can do what they want with it. If they feel like doing everything on their own, they can do so (CentOS). If they want to pay someone else to make their life easier, they can do so (RedHat). RedHat knows this. "Choosing" to tolerate is the one choice RedHat doesn't have: If RedHat wants to use GPL'd software, they have to let other people play by the same rules they do. CentOS isn't going to hurt RedHat any more than Debian does.

Re:Umm, that's the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21232807)

They have to provide the source not the source RPMs. They could simply provide a directory of tarballs and patches and be good, now if they did that it'd take exponentially more time for the CentOS team to put back together a real distribution.

Re:Umm, that's the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21233233)

There's more than that, it's pretty easy to comply with the GPL bits and make it very expensive for third-parties to recreate your work. You only need one critical component under a non-free license (Suse was a past master of 'not really free' distribution with yast, current patented Mono Novell bits is the same, SUN playes the same game, etc).

Red Hat made the strategic choice years ago to release a free/libre distribution. Knowing perfectly well it would give rise to derivatives like Centos, Oracle Enterprise Linux, etc. They do not cheat with the free/libre character of stuff they reuse and they release all their work under free/libre licenses.

They got forked many times by competitors (about as often as Debian). They keep being crucified by analysts that write it's insane they do not work at all to prevent this (the same analysts praise the "pragmatism" of entites like Caldera or Ubuntu, who don't hesitate to play with the free/libre lines).

Yet they're still at the top of the commercial Linux market. A huge part for this is customers which have learnt to trust Red Hat to do the right thing (and currently Centos is living proof Red Hat does the right thing. You want Centos to continue you pay a few RHEL licenses). Red Hat is a pure free/libre Linux player. (but don't expect analysts to understand this).

Re:Umm, that's the point (1)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233617)

This analyst did understand it:

So the answer to the question in the title of this piece is: CentOS stings Red Hat just a little, but it doesn't hurt them badly enough to make them want to change the way they do business. Even better, it helps them hold the heads of the competing Linux server distros under water. The real victims of the roaring success of CentOS are Novell's SLES, Ubuntu Server and Larry Ellison's own RHEL-cloned Unbreakable Linux.

Red Hat has no choice (2, Insightful)

rice_burners_suck (243660) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232659)

I don't think Red Hat is tolerating it. They simply have no choice. The OS and most of the components installed with it are licensed under the GPL, which states that exactly this sort of thing can happen.

What CAN Redhat do about it? (1)

Digital Pizza (855175) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232663)

It's all (I believe) GPL, so they HAVE to provide the source, and there's nothing to prevent someone else compiling and releasing it as CentOS does. They'll just have to deal with it.

Re:What CAN Redhat do about it? (1)

Rob4127 (985483) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233529)

I thought the GPL required Red Hat to provide the source to their RHEL customers. Are they really obligated to run an open FTP site?

CentOS to RH migration (4, Insightful)

caseih (160668) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232677)

One of the things that makes CentOS a clear winner is that because it is a completely compatible recompilation of RH, going from a test CentOS install to a fully supported RH entitlement is very easy. Thus I install CentOS initially on all my servers initially and then when I put them into production, I convert them to RHEL and buy an entitlement for them. Some of my less important servers remain CentOS. One of the main reasons for converting my servers to RHEL is that I can watch over them all, in terms of patches and security eratta, from the RHN.

In other cases, I can convert a RHEL box to CentOS, then build the replacement server with its entitlement, allowing me to keep the original server in production for a few weeks or months while the new server is ramped up.

So if anything CentOS actually increases RH usage because it is so easy to, at any time, buy entitlements from RH, convert the CentOS machines, and get whatever level of support you deem necessary at the time.

Re:CentOS to RH migration (4, Insightful)

merreborn (853723) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233115)

CentOS also has a much larger set of available binary software packages than redhat.

Of course, you can use those packages with either redhat or CentOS. So while CentOS benefits from all of redhat's core OS work, Redhat benefits from all of CentOS's package maintenance work.

Without a doubt, each project benefits the other directly.

How do you validate CentOS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21233697)

One of the things that makes CentOS a clear winner is that because it is a completely compatible recompilation of RH, going from a test CentOS install to a fully supported RH entitlement is very easy. Thus I install CentOS initially on all my servers initially and then when I put them into production, I convert them to RHEL and buy an entitlement for them. Some of my less important servers remain CentOS. One of the main reasons for converting my servers to RHEL is that I can watch over them all, in terms of patches and security eratta, from the RHN.


How do you make sure that CentOS really is identical to what RedHat has provided? In other words, is there an automatic validation process to make sure some joker somwhere in the chain of distribution hasn't thrown in some strange code?

Licensing costs (1)

c_g_hills (110430) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232699)

The author seems to think that the cheapest subscription available is $799. This is not the case. You can purchase a 1 year subscription for $349. While it is not quite $99, it is still a darn sight cheaper. There are also discounts available for certain organizations (charities and education, for example.)

Big companies will buy redhat anyway... (1)

SynFlood (8769) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232711)


I used to work for a large company, and even if CentOS is freely available software such as Oracle, Legato Networker, and others do not provide support for its products on other operating systems that those certificates, redhat, suse or other paid distros.

If you are running an expensive product like Oracle, Legato Networker, HPOV NNM, HP DataProtector and others, and we want to be able to get the support , then you had to buy Redhat.

My humble opinion, I do not believe that CentOS is hurting RedHat, if CentOS did not exist, other distributions take place, and not necessarily clones redhat.

It works both ways (2, Interesting)

bjkrz (151582) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232715)

I work for a company with ~20 employees that sells a software package that needs its own unix server.

It doesn't matter how many times I say 'CentOS is 100% compatible, and FREE! (w00t)' to my boss. When a machine goes to a customer, it goes out with Red Hat. Even if no one ever calls Red Hat for support, that warm fuzzy CYOA feeling of having a big well known company behind your product is irreplaceable. At the same time, we have a stack of CentOS machines and VMs in the office for testing and development for no additional cost to us.

I can honestly say that CentOS made Red Hat a much more palatable choice as we switch away from our previous UNIX- SCO Openserver.

Re:It works both ways (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21233107)

you should give away the software and make your money by providing support. I hope the GPL v4 prevents assholes like you from raping linux.

Hurting who..? (1)

Wowsers (1151731) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232731)

A more important question, are either of them hurting Microsoft?

Huh? (3, Insightful)

rindeee (530084) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232751)

That's like asking why I "tolerate" the speed limit, or why I tolerate my bank demanding I pay my mortgage after signing the contract to do so (okay, so those are kind of crappy examples). Their product is licensed such that CentOS can and (I must say I am very grateful for) does make use of the source code. What's the problem? It's not as though RedHat has any say in the matter. The article even points out; "After all, the vast majority of the packages in RHEL were not created by Red Hat, and they are all governed by the GPL, which is absolutely clear about the obligation to redistribute code." Well duh! Someone could just as easily claim that MySQL is losing money because distro XYZ includes it when the end user could be paying MySQL for installation and configuration support. And so on. The article is basically drivel IMO by someone who comprehends what the GPL is, but doesn't "get it" or the real value it represents.

Re:Huh? (1)

iggy_mon (737886) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233571)

That's like asking why I "tolerate" the speed limit, or why I tolerate my bank demanding I pay my mortgage after signing the contract to do so (okay, so those are kind of crappy examples)

you are right, let's fix that now. "That's like asking why I "tolerate" the speed limit in my Pinto, or why I tolerate my bank demanding I pay my mortgage on said fine automobile after signing the contract to do so (okay, so those are kind of NOT crappy examples)"

see...? your examples are now less crappy because they reference cars AND simultaniously rise to the /. level.

;-)

Because Red Hat isn't MS (1)

webmaster404 (1148909) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232763)

Red Hat tolerates Cent-OS because they are two different types of OSes. Red Hat is for mostly businesses who need solid support, Cent-OS is for hobbyists and smaller businesses who don't need much support. Also, Cent-OS gives more or less a "trial version" of Red Hat because Red Hat isn't selling the OS like MS and Apple does, they sell support for the OS and theres nothing worse then having a potential big customer decide that the differences between Red Hat and Windows are "too great" and they don't use Red Hat when Cent-OS can get them the look-and-feel along with the programs Red Hat has. But lastly, Red Hat is an open company, they try not to be evil unlike MS, sure they like to make money but building a solid OS is their first priority and an OS cannot be stable, secure and fully functional without it being open.

Redhat support (5, Interesting)

SolusSD (680489) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232771)

I work from a company that runs most of its products on top of Redhat EL3 and EL4. While there is something to be said about Redhat's quality of support- for inhouse development wortk it isn't so important. Its value comes form supporting our customers at an OS level alleviating us from supporting the OS. (We require our customers to purchase Redhat support contracts). What I believe _is_ hurting redhat is how their sales department insists that making copies of Redhat is illegal. We have been told time and time again that it is illegal for us to run copies of Redhat that are not paid for within our support contract. The truth is- as long as you aren't expecting support for the unpaid for copies and you are not selling them to other companies (alone or as part of your product, because of redhat trademarks) it is fine to use as many inhouse copies as you want. It took me monthes to convince management at our company that Redhat Licensing is completely different beast than, say, Windows Server licensing while at the same time fighting a battle with the software programmers trying to convince them that Linux is _not_ freeware. The concept of GPL'd software seems to be lost on members of the IT management sector. CentOS has become a good inhouse alternative to redhat since it is binary compatible, but it does not displace any copies of Redhat sold with our product. So, while Redhat may be losing some marketshare for inhouse deployments, they are only losing cusotomers that didn't want the support or that they were essentially *lying* to by requiring them to purchase licenses they were not obligated to purchase.

Wrong question (5, Informative)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232809)

You might ask just as well why the Linux community tolerates RedHat.
It's the way it's supposed to work.
On the other hand, the only reason why CentOS exists is that RHEL can't be downloaded for free like the older versions. If RedHat wanted to kill CentOS they would just have to allow that.

Re:Wrong question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21233035)

I've seen this "us vs them" relationship between corporate distributors and the community mentioned so many times, and it's just so ignorant.

The Linux community "tolerates" companies like Red Hat and Novell because they are *part* of the community. Both companies have huge development staffs that not only contribute to open source projects but lead them as well. The fact is that a great deal of the work in the community is from companies like Red Hat, Novell, IBM, and others.

I'd really love to see numbers on how much Ubuntu/Canonical contributes to open source projects. My impression is that there is actually very little, yet they're seen as the "community" distribution.

Because they're not the a record company? (4, Insightful)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232827)

Red Hat probably realises that people using CentOS are people who may just like it so much they they come back for more, and since they don't make their money on the software, but rather supporting it, CentOS just means more potential customers in the long run...

Some companies are control freaks who prefer to sue potential customers, Red Hat has picked a slightly more sane aproach.

Re:Because they're not the a record company? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21232975)

Whose users always claim, proudly. their company use open source but forget to note the walled DRM'd hardware surrounding it?

Re:Because they're not the a record company? (1)

JoshJ (1009085) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233567)

Tivo?

A Very Tough Business (4, Interesting)

RobBebop (947356) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232895)

RHEL, CentOS, and Fedora are all competing brands under the same umbrella. Fedora is great for cutting edge developers and home users. CentOS is good for people who desire the better tested software. RHEL is targeted at enterprises (hence the 'E' in the acronym) who need things working all the time (99.9999%). The three different markets are comparable to the different brands offered by Microsoft (Server, Workstation, Home). The only difference is that Red Hat doesn't make any money from CentOS or Fedora.

But take a step back and think about Microsoft a bit more. Imagine you have a business laptop which was provided to you by your company. It runs 2000 or XP or (god forbid) Vista and the company has a site license for you to run that software. Microsoft is happy to slash margins for the individual site license which you have as long as they can continue to service the servers and infrastructure which run the business critical systems of your company. Similarly, if you are a developer or home user... your copy of Windows came from an OEM or you pirated it. Sure, Microsoft gets money from Dell and the other OEMs... but (I imagine) so do the Linux companies who have been able to get involved in that method of distribution.

In the end, you help Red Hat by using CentOS or Fedora just like you help Microsoft by using pirated Windows. Simple enough?

Re:A Very Tough Business (1)

crush (19364) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233311)

The CentOS Project is a completely independent organization, separate from Red Hat, so it's not really accurate to say that it's under the "same umbrella" in the way that the Microsoft OSes are.

Also, Fedora differs greatly in that it has a very rapid development cycle and effectively acts as a preview and test-bed for features which often make it into RHEL.

Your statement that "CentOS is good for people who desire the better tested software. RHEL is targeted at enterprises (hence the 'E' in the acronym) who need things working all the time (99.9999%)" implies that CentOS is not an enterprise distribution ... and nothing could be further from the truth, in fact its very name is "The Community enterprise OS"

Re:A Very Tough Business (1)

RobBebop (947356) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233471)

Thank you for your clarification about CentOS. I stand-by my assertion that if I have a need for a system that needs to work that my target is still RHEL and that Fedora is like OEM/pirated Windows.

Unless there are system administrators who would defend state that they would prefer CentOS over RHEL, I don't think Red Hat's core market is at risk... because those big customers running mission critical systems are where the money is.

Re:A Very Tough Business (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21233709)

No.

$50,000 a year? (1)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232899)

Cheaper than hiring a guy.

RHEL + RHN (1)

Loconut1389 (455297) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232909)

RHEL also provides the RHN which is a powerful framework for managing updates for large quantities of machines, among other things.

CentOS provides an audience for bug reporting and even a source for patches. Closing the source to RHEL customers only may be possible (is that legal?), but the'll pay a price. The mega enterpise is RHELs market and CentOS won't hurt that market much.

For those who will comment without Ring TFA... (1)

AdamWill (604569) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232913)

This comment especially for those clever asses who will say "because they have to!" before reading the article: the author is not contending that Red Hat could somehow prevent CentOS from being made. He is wondering why Red Hat doesn't provide a low-cost, no-support, barebones edition of Red Hat to try and take some of the CentOS user share. And he has a fairly good answer to the question, too.

Re:For those who will comment without Ring TFA... (1)

WwWonka (545303) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233017)

I tried to ring the TFA first but Anita Ward wasn't around to help me out.

Re:For those who will comment without Ring TFA... (1)

Greg_D (138979) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233731)

Why would Redhat waste their time releasing a "low-cost, no-support, barebones edition" when CentOS releases the full enterprise version of Redhat's OS? There's not many large businesses out there who would install a beast like Redhat on their servers without support, and small businesses are generally going to have intelligent people who have more say, and why would any intelligent person pay for a non-supported, pared down version when they can get the full thing for free?

Even when you consider businesses like web hosting, most clients consider the brand of Linux secondary to IIS vs. Apache, PHP vs. Python vs. Ruby, MySQL vs. SQL Server vs. PostgreSQL.

Bunch of BS... (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 6 years ago | (#21232947)

Although I don't have data to prove it, I'm convinced

What a great basis to bash an organization...

Fedora? (4, Insightful)

melonman (608440) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233011)

Not only does Redhat 'tolerate' CentOS (see above), it also puts money into encouraging people to use Fedora, which is not only free but generally significantly more advanced than RHEL. For people who want free software and enjoy recompiling their kernel, Fedora is a much more obvious choice than a clone of CentOS.

There was never any money in selling distros to dorm-room techies, and RHEL was never a good distribution for that market, because it's so conservative. I run Ubuntu on my desktop machines, because it's free, and it works, and it has all the multimedia stuff that RedHat don't ship as standard. On my company's production servers it's RHEL every time, because it's stable, because it will still be supported in 5 years' time if necessary, and because RHEL is a de facto standard in hosting terms. If a client's code doesn't work with RHEL, we can tell them to fix their code. If we were running some wacky, customised version of Gentoo they'd tell us to fix our server (whether or not anything was broken).

Running CentOS would give us the conservatism of RHEL without any of the respectability. I can't see how that would be useful to us.

What a question! (-1, Redundant)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233063)

Why does Red Hat tolerate CentOS?

Does Redhat have a choice? I doubt. Why? Because of the GPL.

The GPL, that RedHat employs in its software distribution has a "firm grip" on RedHat. I'm sure the questioner knew this.

Redhat, like MS support, sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21233077)

Redhat in my opinion has been the Microsoft of Linux distros. I worked at a large company with a large online presence, and a problem in the TCP/IP stack of the RHEL we were using was causing us problems, mostly long random networking pauses. Our guys tracked it down, devised a fix, and asked if Redhat would look into rolling it into their next RHEL release. They said no. Before we found out the cause, they dragged their heels in investigating it too.

So obviously, we asked why we were paying for support we obviously weren't getting. And we started the switch to Centos ( since our software could run on it ) along with investigating other linux distros.

You pay alot for official RH support, like MS, get little in return.

Nope... (1)

EvanK (409877) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233137)

Think of it this way...Much like Apple doesnt make their money off of OS X, but rather off of hardware sales, Redhat also doesnt make their money off RHL, but rather from their support contracts.

Re:Nope... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21233165)

For this analogy to work RedHat would have to DRM their hardware.

CentOS provides no paid support (0, Troll)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233147)

Red Hat provides nothing but.

Nobody buys Linux. It's free, stupid.

people still don't get it (5, Insightful)

burnin1965 (535071) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233227)

1) Its open source, its not a question of tolerating Centos, its the way open source works.

2) The anecdotal evidence is seriously flawed. His buddy was running an old and unsupported version of Red Hat Linux (7.3), and they were not paying for a service subscription, and they decided to go with Centos and continue to not pay for a support subscription. Uhh, clue here, this did not effect Red Hat in any way, they are not Red Hat's target market, if it wasn't Centos it would have been some other distro.

3) And again, the conclusion is completely clueless. Red Hat does not change the way they do business becuase their business is based on open source. If Red Hat decided to develop their own closed source proprietary operating system they would lose the support and synergy of the massive open source community and their business would flop.

These articles are tiresome and poorly researched. Why is it that everyone believes the only way to have a viable business today is to create a monopoly and change the way you do business to ensure there is no competition that can "sting" you. Red Hat is doing an outstanding job of monetizing a viable market, linux service, support, and training. If Jeff wants to understand why Red Hat does not change their business model all he has to do is read up on the history of Caldera/The SCO Group to see what happens when a linux distributor changes their business model and tries to monetize off the "IP" instead of the service and support they were originally established to provide as a business model.

burnin

It should be obvious (2, Funny)

WhyMeWorry (982235) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233235)

They are nice guys

CentOS doesn't hurt Redhat, up2date does (4, Insightful)

straponego (521991) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233263)

The CentOS userbase is an incentive to make your software Redhat-compatible. If there were not a free and painless option that is compatible with RH, many more people would have switched to SuSE, Ubuntu, etc.

CentOS is actually significantly better than RHEL in one respect, though. The package management system, yum, has always been more reliable for me than RHEL's up2date. Even now that RH uses yum, their reposistories seem to be down or slow fairly often. And I can't stand using RHEL's web site. It's much faster to deploy a CentOS server than a Red Hat one, enough so that the price difference seems almost secondary. On the other hand, if you install a lot of machines, you shouldn't be doing it from scratch.

Eh, but Red Hat's done far more good things than bad things. I think CentOS (and to a lesser extent, White Box and others) have a nice symbiotic relationship with them. Some users will prefer or need officially supported software, and that's why they're still turning nice, but not monopolistic insane profits. It would be a mistake to think that they'd get many of the CentOS users if they could only work around that pesky GPL and force them to buy from Redhat. Quite the opposite; they'd ruin themselves.

Because other software vendors require Redhat (2, Insightful)

PDG (100516) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233317)

Nobody will read this since its at the bottom of the page, but lots of major software vendors will not provide support on CentOS.

For example, Oracle will only provide support if its installed on the RHEL version of Linux.

My IT department isn't concerned about the support involved with Linux, but they DO want to make sure they are supported for the big dollar, and incredibly important (data!) side of the business--so they pay for RHEL for production servers.

In test and development arenas we use CentOS.

This hurts my head (2, Insightful)

lluBdeR (466879) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233413)

From TFA:

Until fairly recently they ran this web site on an old version of Red Hat with essentially no outside support.

and:

But even if they run RHEL on a mix of two and four socket machines, they're still looking at $50K per year minimum for the privilege of sticking the little red logo on their servers.

From what I gather (and I haven't been awake very long, so I might be wrong) they've been maintaining Linux boxes on their own for years (about 5, IIRC Redhat 7.3 came out 2002-ish), and the reason they're ditching Redhat is it costs too much for support they didn't need previously? If I might go on a limb and make a bizarre suggestion: Don't pay it.

They know that the engineering effort at Red Hat costs serious money and that someone has to pay for it

I don't really think this is that true. I was under the impression (and unless this [wikipedia.org] is wrong too) RHEL forked off Fedora whenever they feel like it, so in effect (according to this [fedoraproject.org] ) isn't Fedora just a testbed where people do free QA work for Redhat?

My friend and his staff are Unix veterans, but they are not Linux geeks and they are definitely not the kind to muck around in the innards of their server OS just for the fun of it.

So they're UNIX veterans, have been administering Linux systems for years, and they haven't mastered './configure && make && make install'? TFA claims they're LAMP-based, with the exception of the L, I can start on the AMP portion first thing in the morning and have all three upgraded in time for lunch (My day starts at 10, Lunch is noon without fail). Sounds to me like they're just too lazy to upgrade the 2 or 3 dependencies something might have. That's a great reason for ditching a known good and stable kernel, right?

Hell, the first thing I do when I install a new OS is replace their Apache/MySQL/PHP with versions I compile myself (based on known-good versions we use on staging/test servers), that way I know 100% it's going to do what I want and I'm not going to see any crap in my error logs about PHP not loading it's GD extension because I opted not to install X on a server which really doesn't need it.

If they really wanted set-it-and-forget-it why not use Slackware? Or ditch Linux entirely and go to FreeBSD?

Sometimes people hurt my head.

Piracy (1)

hackus (159037) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233465)

I still believe that the reason why Microsoft software is so widely used is because of the piracy or the economics of piracy that surround Microsoft products.

It is a natural extension to get your product into as many hands as possible and then collect on all of the "possibilities" that might develop.

For example, if you do not economically restrict the number of machines that you can deploy a product on, this naturally creates a demand for software from the creation of such a large number of users.

That is just one example, but I think this is a big postive move for RedHat.

Fedora can be equated in a similar fashion.

-Hack

Why does RedHat "tolerate" CentOS? (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233591)

Because RedHat have always been a good citizen in the Linux world, that's why. They use GPL code, and they release their developments under the GPL. Like any good Linux distro, you can compile any of the Redhatified binaries from the Redhatified source and install them as RedHat packages. That's because their distro is fully open, just like it should be.

Of course, that means anyone can copy it, and they know that. That's why they don't really sell Linux as such. What they really sell is support. You can't copy that for free.

One hand washes the other. (1)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233615)

The benefit to the end user of using a Red Hat clone rather than Red Hat is that it's a well supported ecosystem within the larger Linux ecosystem. The benefit to Red Hat of an end user using a Red Hat clone rather than another Linux distro is that it increases the size of the Red Hat ecosystem.

If someone buys Red Hat's supported linux product, they're buying it for the support. That's the product Red Hat is really selling. If someone uses CentOS or Fedora or White Box they're more likely to buy support from Red Hat if they need a supported Linux. If someone uses C/F/WB they're potential customers for other companies that serve the Red Hat ecosystem, which increases the number of companies it can support and makes Red Hat's supported Linux more attractive. And Red Hat don't even have to pay the bandwidth charges for all the extra downloads if someone chooses CentOS or White Box instead of Fedora.

It's coopetition. One hand washes the other.

Do77 (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21233623)

endless co8fLict

Red Hat do tolerate CentOS (1)

Lemming Mark (849014) | more than 6 years ago | (#21233693)

Although the GPL gives RH some obligations, they go beyond the requirements therein. The key point is that: the GPL requires you to distribute source to people you distribute the binaries to. Red Hat goes beyond this by making their source available online to all, not just to RHEL customers (which is all they were strictly obliged to do). To the best of my knowledge, they make proper Source RPMs available (rather than a less convenient format from the point of view of rebuilders like CentOS) on their FTP servers and they do so at their own expense.

In short, RH go beyond mere due diligence and strict adherence to the GPL. They really do make an effort.

To me this looks like healthy symbiosis: CentOS don't name RH as their upstream, so they don't trade off Red Hat's advertising. Folks who want a free-as-in-beer OS weren't going to buy the RHEL license anyhow. But people who are used to CentOS will be more inclined to favour RHEL as a product. By creating a user community, it also stimulates the creation of repositories of RHEL-compatible third party RPM repositories. I doubt there'd be such a volume of RHEL-compatible RPMs (as currently provided by various CentOS repositories) if it wasn't for the existance of a freely available derivative of RHEL.

A combination of collaboration in development, free advertising, ease of customisation and mutual benefits, whilst still making money - sounds like a fine example of the Open Source game being played well, as long as they can make it pay for them long term!

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