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Rattled Red Hat battles support impostors

Death of a thousand cuts?

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Novell 'not entitled'?

In Europe, according to Cnet blogger Matt Asay, a Red Hat country manager has written to one customer about the Novell support offer, saying the company is "not entitled" to support Red Hat Enterprise Linux with maintenance service updates, bug fixes, or patches.

Curiously, the manager also said that Novell is not entitled under its 2006 agreement with Microsoft to sell or resell RHEL, which makes you wonder what Novell has been telling Red Hat customers or what Red Hat feels it must say to convince people not to move.

Of course, there's nothing to stop anyone from providing support for RHEL. The code is openly available. Oracle knew that, which is why it felt it could offer Unbreakable Linux.

Red Hat would not comment specifically on the letter despite repeated questioning from The Reg.

Next month, Red Hat plans to hold a webcast on "Understanding the Risks of Free and 'Low Cost' Linux." The VAR Guy has posted the pitch here.

"Join Red Hat for this webinar to learn why self supported Linux isn't a risk-free alternative to a Red Hat Enterprise Linux subscription. And understand how 3rd party supported Red Hat Enterprise Linux can become a nightmare to integrate into your infrastructure," Red Hat said.

This follows a blog last month that talked up the benefits of sticking with RHEL and Red Hat support instead of going with other vendors' forked distributions and services. "Truly supporting Red Hat Enterprise Linux is not only about support services, but also about the value of the entire Red Hat subscription," Red Hat said.

Clearly, there is a theme here, and Red Hat is brewing a collective response to Novell and Oracle. The questions is, Why? Red Hat's customers didn't flinch when Oracle offered Unbreakable Linux in 2007.

The kind of growth Red Hat reported in December must continue if the company is to realize CEO Jim Whitehurst's dream of making Red Hat the industry's first $1bn revenue Linux company. He was speaking in 2008 when Red Hat passed $500m. Last year, Red Hat grew 25 per cent to $652m.

The real hurdle to achieving this dream is in attracting, new paying customers. These come in two groups. One: existing users who might be starting to question why they should pay additional money to the company if and when they add extra servers. These are companies like Yahoo! who've opened the door to Oracle's Unbreakable Linux and Enterprise Linux.

The other group is completely new customers who ae choosing between RHEL, SuSE, or even Oracle for the first time and may not be familiar with the "value" of the Red-Hat package.

Red Hat is repeatedly ranked top for its level of support in a survey of CIOs. Clearly, Red Hat feels it's time to remind newbies and existing users just what they're getting for their money. ®

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