August 2007 Archives

So I've not had much to say lately, been saving it all up til now.

It seems that Microsoft has killed the "Get the Fact" smear campaign that they had been engaged in, and instead replaced it with one that targets just one Linux distro - RHEL. It's not surprising, really, since RedHat is the only major Linux distributor to not have entered into a patent deal with Microsoft. However, the site tells outright lies. To wit:

"you pay a subscription for every server, every year. And, if you want 24/7 support, you’ll pay more. "

Correct, you do need one entitlement for every server. If you want 24/7 support, there is a cost associated with that - not an unreasonable one if you ask me. I would like to see Microsoft include 24/7 support with the operating system purchase, at any price. Note that with RedHat, you are not "purchasing" the operating system, but rather a subscription to use the value-add services that RedHat provides - such as support and updates. If you choose not to continue to purchase those services, your license to use the operating system does not terminate (however, so long as you have one active subscription, all of the systems running RHEL must have valid subscriptions per the terms of the subscription agreement).

"Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 Advanced costs $2,499 per server per year without add-on features, like an application server and clustering."

The only accurate part of this is the price (which is list for RHEL5 AP Premium - with 24/7 support). refer to this comparison page for details on the included features in various flavors of RHEL - it very clearly states that clustering and the global filesystem (GFS) are included in RHEL5 AP. It also does not mention that this price includes unlimited sockets, or the editions of Windows in which the "value-added features" are included. Refer to this comparison page for what's included in what version of Windows Server 2003. As for pricing, refer to this page for more details around that, it seems that in order to have a server available over the Internet, Microsoft wants me to pay them $1,999, or $7,999 in order to make a terminal server available via the Internet, or $2,979 for just 20 people to be able to use the product?

We've not even talked about virtualization yet. RedHat allows an unlimited number of virtualized guests for that $2499 price that Microsoft so happily waves in the air. It would seem that Microsoft supports this only on Datacenter, but the wording is so ambiguous that I'm not really sure. If someone could shed some light there, it would be appreciated. At any rate, the hypervisor (MSVS) is a separate purchase, whereas RedHat includes it in the base operating system.

"In one study conducted by Security Innovations, researchers found that all of the Linux administrators made changes to components of the operating system that would have violated the support agreement with the Linux vendor"

OK, so let's get this one straight. I have a feeling that what they are talking about here is Linux users running different versions of Apache or other ancillary apps that are supplied with the operating system, however are not the core of the operating system. While I can see the point here, I would like to know what Microsoft would do if I called them up, and told them that I had Windows 2000, but I had installed the version of IIS that came with Windows 2003 on it (let's assume that it's even possible to do so for now for the point of illustration, even though it's not), and it wasn't working right. They would laugh at me, take my money for the support incident (since unlimited incidents are not included in Microsoft's price), and hang up the phone.

Taking the same situation, if I had done that and by some miracle made IIS work, but then I had some sort of a problem with printing, I still believe that Microsoft would render the operating system unsupportable. However, if I decide that on RHEL4 I have to have Apache 2.2, and that works fine (which it will), and I have a problem with printing, RedHat will support cups, since it has nothing to do with Apache.

In summary, all operating system vendors, Microsoft included, have to have some standards of what is supportable - not having such a thing means expending enormous sums of money on support, which is something that no company wants to do.

"Over the first 650 days of product life for Windows Server 2003, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4, Windows Server 2003 had 75 percent fewer published vulnerabilities."

I've not had the time to do an in-depth analysis of the data, however this seems like bunk to me. Many vulnerabilities are published that are local exploits with low risk. The number of "critical" fixes to RHEL have been few and far between, and are generally industry-wide events also affecting Windows systems - for example image handling in Firefox, various flaws in Thunderbird, etc. I may come back and analyze the data later.

"The reality is that Linux is just the operating system kernel—so IT organizations run commercial distributions, such as Red Hat or SuSE, not just ‘Linux’. These commercial distributions are made up of vendor specific versions of open source software."

Now they're taking vendor-lockin and attempting to turn it around. While it is true that the various distributions of Linux are different, they all conform to the LSB, which is an effort aimed at Linux standardization. Mostly, they differ in details such as location of system configuration files, format of those files, etc. Microsoft clearly has the advantage here, since there is no other supplier than Microsoft of the operating system. However, the flip side of that is that it's "Microsoft's way or the highway". Linux gives you choice. I deeply value that choice. If one vendor does not give you what you want, there is nothing preventing you from going to another vendor. There will be migration costs in doing that, however, the choice is there and it's a business decision that you can make.

"Red Hat includes the Yum update tool to help you download packages and software updates, but doesn't address IT professionals' broader needs—managing applications and workloads, like mail and collaboration, database and business applications."

RedHat includes a lot more than yum for manageability. Yum integrates with the Red Hat Network, which is a management platform for Linux - you can manage configuration files, schedule deployment of updates. provision one system to have the same profile as another, and more. Refer to this page for details on RHN.

Moreover, every Microsoft application has it's own management tools. Sure, they're all snap-ins to MMC, and some actually integrate further than that. Linux isn't there yet, with a common front-end. We'll all admit that, and there is a lot more work to be done. However, there are exciting things happening in this space, like FreeIPA for identity management, for example. I'm sure there are others of which I'm not aware, which is the wonderful thing about the open source community that Microsoft does not have - many projects can exist that solve similar problems, and Darwinian evolution will control the outcome. For instance, take a look at compiz and beryl, two competing window managers for X. They both do roughly the same thing. The developers decided that it was a waste of time for two groups of people to be working on the same thing, therefore it is being merged, as we speak, into compiz-fusion.

"Open Source is a software development and distribution model, which does not equate to how easily the software interoperates with other software or how open or standardized the interfaces are."

This needs very little comment to be refuted. They are correct, that OSS != open standards. However, all standards used by OSS are, by definition, open standards, simply because the source code for them is freely available.

Moreover, OSS projects almost always never invent their own standards when suitable standards already exist, and if a suitable standard does not exist, then a new one is created, in the open, for all interested parties to comment on and offer improvements on.

Well, I was talking on IRC on Freenode, and mentioned the castle. Another guy in the chat mentioned that the art on the walls was really nice - but he lives in Iowa. I was wondering how he could possibly know what the artwork in the bar looked like, without having ever been there. Ever resourceful, he had looked on Flickr. And there it was - several good photos of the castle, including one of my favorite part of the mural. Now the posts on Flickr had said to look in this blog entry for more details. There's actually a fairy good review of the place in there.

Oh well, it's off to Standings for me, to get in on the Extreme Beer festival