Monday, March 16, 2009

This free software is very, very expensive!


Yi Li said...

Actually those are selling support service, not free software.

NS said...

(what was that about fact-based universe? :) )

1. The price is for support, not software. You can get the s/w for free and buy the support service elsewhere - or skip it altogether.
2. As you, of course, know, "free" in free software is as in freedom, not as in free beer.
3. Dell pricing is.. strange.

DzembuGaijin said...

GNU license that Linux come with have no problem with you charging ANY amount as long as you provide distro with source and same GNU license.

You can start selling it for same or more right away if you like:)

As folks mentioned, normally serious companies buy support as well. That may be a very bargain priced if you just compare it with a regular salary.

Last, "business" Linux distro may come with extra products. That may not be at all free. I think that "core" MySQL is one of such examples: it commercial license is not free.

Finally, you can still get it yourself and with source code. Easy and 100% Legal.

I doubt I can get M$ WS2008 with source code this way :-)

But what may be critical is "control": Not that Windows is almost totally controlled by hackers: bugs or it over-popularity, who cares? But more importantly, can you trust M$ that they will not use a "kill switch" or open "back door" for some one to control YOURS servers?

So, when you use OS to browse web it is one thing, but when you deploy a server farm in Kiman Islands :-) it is a totally different matters.

Windows only gives you "illusion" of control, Free BSD or Linux gives your a full control: change what you want and recompile as you like.

So, it is clear that no Windows or even OS X is fit for a "mission critical" applications and I start to fear that last fight between Intel and AMD can result in a stealth CPU firmware update that will kill computer you bought to satisfy a legal case :-) and in s/w land it is all way to common: ask Chinese about black desktop surprise :-)

See? Even if you pay $$$ for "free s/w" you are still better off :-)

Sergey Solyanik said...

Actually, support is part of the subscription, but not all.

You can't get RedHat for free - it's not available for download. The subscription in question is a license to use the software for a year.

During this year, you get a bunch of enterprise features (that are part of Windows Server platform), and updates (an equivalent of Windows Update).

And yes, you do get support as well.

Sergey Solyanik said...

Oh, yes, and they actually do have per-CPU pricing that is very similar to Windows Server licensing restrictions...

DzembuGaijin said...

Yes you are absolutely right about Red Hat being a bit "odd" distro. :-) It called "commercial" If some one pay for it, so why not?

Still, you can get it for free via work around described as


or you can go with other really free distros: there are many.

There are also distros that based on non-GNU license: you can choose to keep source code if you like. Below is another "commercial" example.

OS X is also based on BSD and Apple still contribute back. You can get source if you like

BadTux said...

You can certainly get Red Hat Enterprise Linux for free. The Red Hat trademarks are owned by Red Hat Software so it cannot be labeled as Red Hat Enterprise Linux, but I am running three different versions of free Red Hat Enterprise Linux which have been stripped of the Red Hat trademarks and redistributed. It is called CentOS, since it cannot be called Red Hat Enterprise Linux. And my VMware on my Macbook has CentOS 3, CentOS 4.5, and CentOS 5.3 all installed, corresponding to the equivalent Red Hat Enterprise Linux, to compile our software and make sure it runs on all those various variants of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (though Red Hat 3 is now officially retired, yay!). Thus far QA (which is running the "official" RHEL) has not found any problems caused by doing this, which is fine by me since it is more convenient to use the "free" product than the for-pay one (the for-pay one is always whining that you haven't registered it with the Red Hat Network, the free one simply points its Yum update repositories at the CentOS site).

Not to mention that if you bought 50 servers, you only need to buy one copy of Red Hat Enterprise Linux for one of those servers and you can freely install it on the other 49 servers. It is GPL, after all, and Red Hat cannot prohibit redistributing the product or using it on multiple servers, they can only prohibit using their trademarked name to do so and make it whine about RHN registration if you do so.

BTW, the Red Hat licensing is for Red Hat Network. It is not a "per-CPU" license, it is a "per-supported-install" license. If I had three installs of the "official" Red Hat Enterprise Linux in my VMware and wished to have RHN support for all of them so they would pick up security updates and such in a timely manner, I would need to fork over money for three RHN licenses. Windows Activation looks positively fair compared to the way RHN works, at least with Windows Activation I can have Windows XP installed twice on my MacBook (once on a native partition and once in a VMware machine) without paying for two licenses (just one call to India to get the VMware install activated :-).

Sergey Solyanik said...

> BTW, the Red Hat licensing is for Red Hat Network. It is not a "per-CPU" license, it is a "per-supported-install" license.

Take a look here:

Up to 2 CPU sockets - $799/year
Unlimited CPU sockets - $1499/year

Also, their web site seems to be pretty clear - you buy only one copy but install it on multiple servers, you won't be able to register it on all, and so updates won't work, and if you would need support, I bet you they will first check registration numbers too.

On top of this, they sell a bunch of expansions that are all included in Windows Server, but RH charges absolutely astronomical prices for them, take a look here for example:

CentOS was mentioned above a few times - I think CentOS has the base OS modifications that RH makes to the kernel/Linux app stack, and so they are forced to post it. But the s/w that they develop themselves - the ActiveDirectory replacement, manageability and deployment features, etc - I am pretty sure they don't have to share these, and they are most likely not in CentOS....

BadTux said...

As a matter of fact I am quite aware of what the licensing is on each component of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux System, my employer re-packages it for a soft appliance. The only thing we had to do in order to legally do this was strip off all the Red Hat labels. That's all. This did require patching Anaconda and some other portions of the system to remove Red Hat labels and logos, but we started with "real" RHEL5.3, not from CentOS, for business reasons that are irrelevant to a technical discussion.

BTW, one of the dirty secrets of Red Hat is that they wrote very little of their product. The ActiveDirectory replacement, manageability and deployment features, etc were not developed by Red Hat and Red Hat has no ability to direct their licensing. I found it hilarious to read that URL you sent me to and note that some of the clustering software that Red Hat is selling for their 'Advanced' server is Open Source software that I wrote contributions to eight years ago and I know darn well I haven't signed over my copyrights to Red Hat :-). Which, undoubtedly, is why those are Open Source.

You are absolutely correct that Red Hat will not support non-registered systems (i.e., if you have 50 servers and 1 license, that license can only purchase support for one of those servers). As for their support for 2 sockets vs. more than two sockets, note that the only difference is a kernel compile option between the two :-). (Yes, we looked at that, because one of our soft appliance customers had a system coming out with four quad-core processors in it, it proved easy enough to simply re-compile the kernel with that option and voila!). Of course, once you re-compile the kernel, Red Hat won't support your recompiled kernel, but that's okay because we support it for our customers anyhow since we have more Linux kernel programmers on staff than Red Hat does so there you are :-).

Red Hat Software is indeed a strange beast. Selling software they don't own for sums of money in five figures sometimes, in exchange for promises of support that they cannot reliably provide because they don't have the actual authors of the software on staff? Heh, what a business model!

Sergey Solyanik said...

Wow, this sounds... insane! Especially if you consider that they have $2.83B in market cap.

Maybe I should start "supporting" Apache? Would it be enough for a $500M company? I am sure there are tons of free components that I could resell for a lot of money :-).

BadTux said...

You are already late on the Apache front, IBM, SpringSource, and others already have a good lock on that :-).

And yes, it is crazy. That said, Red Hat does do a good service in that they provide a very stable Linux release that is focused on choosing the most stable versions of the included software updated with only the minimal patches needed to fix security issues or gross functionality issues. Of course, Debian does the same thing and is free, but then you have the business reasons for having a commercial company do the job. For example, in 1996 the company I worked for was one of the first VAR's to include Linux as a component of our complete solution to solve a critical business problem, we went into the customer site and installed a server and our custom software to handle various state and government reporting requirements. Some of our customers were nervous about the fact that we were no longer using SCO Unix, but were reassured because we included a boxed set of Red Hat Linux version 3.0.3, "look! It has a businessman on the cover! This isn't hackerware downloaded off the Internet, it's a real supported operating system supported by a real company!"

Of course the reality even then was different from what we were selling to customers -- for example, from 1996 to 2000 Red Hat's line printer daemon was busted, if any single printer decided it wasn't going to work for some reason then the entire system core dumped and died, meaning that I was the unofficial keeper of "the working Red Hat line printer daemon" for those years (since I patched the bug and made it work correctly -- and sent the patch to Red Hat, but it took FOUR YEARS before they bothered applying it because they "could not replicate" because, duh, they only ran ONE printer on their systems that was directly connected rather than network-connected). But the point is that for some reason business wants to have another business "responsible" if something is broken, even if reporting the bug gets no response, and whether the company is named Red Hat Software or Microsoft that continues to be the case.

As for me, on my web / email server I run Debian because it gives me the same advantages of stability that RHEL provides. On my home server I run Ubuntu. The only Red Hat I run is in VmWare virtual machines to do software development for my employer, and even there I run the CentOS version. But then, I am an engineer rather than a MBA, by definition MBA's are crazy (I mean, look at what they did to the world's financial industries!) and thus we should not be surprised that MBA's keep Red Hat Software well capitalized and in business :-).