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RedHat ES 3.0 vs. SuSE Server 8.0: Battle for the Enterprise : Page 2

Even at the enterprise server level, there are wide differences between Linux distributions, not only in price, but in ease of installation, included features and software, and particularly in ease of administration. See how the two most popular Linux enterprise server distributions match up.

Red Hat Installation
When I received the Red Hat ES package, it was a simple case that contained 9 CDs, a Red Hat Network activation card, and a small installation pamphlet—which I was surprised to find was the only printed documentation in the package.

Installing Red Hat ES was almost exactly the same as installing any other Red Hat version: simple, efficient, and quickly done. I did note a few items in the installation that Red Hat really needs to modify.

  1. Red Hat still doesn't support XFS. Red Hat has a general policy of not including support for technology in Linux unless it is a part of Linux core. Well, XFS is a part of 2.6 and a part of the latest 2.4 kernels. It seems that they should provide an updated install image.
  2. When selecting whether to set up your hard drives, Red Hat defaults to letting Disk Druid auto partition for you. That may be OK for desktop installations; but when you're setting up a server, you don't let a wizard auto partition your system.
  3. The installer does not install legacy software development as a package option by default. The legacy software development package contains the older libs associated with Red Hat versions such as 7.3. As many people who will be moving to ES will be migrating from older platforms with custom software, it would be a good idea to include support for their software (older libs, etc.) by default; otherwise the custom software won't run.
Red Hat Features
After ES 3.0 was up and running I started exploring. ES 3.0 will cost you anywhere from 349 to 18,000 USD. The price varies based on the type of support, CPU's (x86, Opteron, s/390) and options you would like. I wanted to know what makes the software worth paying for, rather than simply downloading some other Linux distribution, such as Fedora FC1. The answer is...


At least, it offers no real added value from a software perspective, or for people running any level of x86 hardware. Red Hat ES appears to be essentially the exact same thing as FC1, which is free. Yes, the product contains the Red Hat Enterprise version of the Linux kernel, which is specially optimized for server situations, but I can download and compile (into RPM even) the exact same version for FC1.

Of course, you also get the Red Hat Network, which automates the install of new packages, updates, and bug fixes. However, I can get that from FC1 with Apt. If FC1 becomes unsupported I can use the Fedora Legacy Project with Apt.

To be frank, if my system were to become completely unsupported I could download these source files, build them into RPMS, and deploy them to all my servers using my own Apt repository. That isn't a complicated operation; we did something similar for legacy Red Hat 6.2 customers for some time before moving them to newer Red Hat versions.

As the president of a company that manages a good 50+ servers, I want something that helps make my life and the life of my employees easier. You can edit /etc/sysctl.conf or run chkconfig only so many times before you want a simple (preferably scriptable) interface to handle such simple tasks. In other words, I want administration tools. If I am going to pay for Linux, I want added value. I want something I can't get from the overwhelming and dedicated open source community.

So the question is: Why would you want to pay money for this product?

It depends on your needs. This is still Red Hat. It is still stable, well known, and has a large community support base. For the managers out there, it offers well-respected training, certifications, and a gamut of continual support options.

From a technical perspective, this release really doesn't offer any compelling reason to purchase Red Hat ES over simply downloading Fedora. In fact, from a technical perspective, there's an argument that the rapid development cycle of Fedora allows people to enjoy the continual benefits of open source in a more effective manner than Red Hat Enterprise Linux can provide.

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