Dag Wieers intelligent swipe at Ubuntu

Submitted by dag on Sat, 2008/08/09 - 03:15

Remember when I wrote an opinion piece about Ubuntu LTS titled Ubuntu's need to catch a wave ?

That night someone, nicknamed mapnjd, submitted the article to Slashdot with the above title (Dag Wieers intelligent swipe at Ubuntu) but I guess the Slashdot editors thought it would be a better headline if they phrased it Dag Wieers Scoffs at Coordinated Linux Release Proposal ... and overnight I became an Ubuntu-hater ...

Nothing is farther from the truth though. Fact is that I am part of the CentOS team and I do believe that in a lot of cases CentOS (or its cousin RHEL) is a very good fit, but that obviously doesn't mean that I am against Fedora or Ubuntu, or Ubuntu LTS.

What's even more, in my Enterprise Linux presentations I actually promote Ubuntu LTS in many ways. But the Slashdot article somehow symbolizes the one-track mind of its readers. Apparently if you write a critical piece about Ubuntu LTS's difficulties to catch onto an existing Enterprise market, you must have something against Ubuntu (and deserve dishonest Slashdot comments).

Well, let me clear that up a bit, I think Ubuntu is great because:

  • Ubuntu introduced Linux to a lot of people thanks to the free media they ship
  • Ubuntu got a lot of media attention around the world, something I doubt would have happened otherwise
  • Ubuntu's competition is indirectly a driving force within the Fedora community (and possibly other distributions) and positively affected desktop Linux progress
  • Ubuntu's upgrade path from (normal) Ubuntu to Ubuntu LTS makes it attractive for laptops and desktops to migrate (in time) to a stable environment (something CentOS/RHEL and SLES are lacking)

However, I still remain sceptic about the role Ubuntu LTS can play in the Enterprise market and whether Cannonical is able to create a viable business around Ubuntu LTS and indirectly sustain the funding of the Ubuntu project.

My biggest concerns for using Ubuntu LTS in the enterprise are:

  • Who pays for support if Ubuntu LTS is free ? Why not just pay the moment you actually need the support ?
  • Ubuntu LTS' support prices are much more expensive for comparable offerings, why would companies not use RHEL or SLES instead ?
  • How to turn a large community of free users in the consumer market into a happy paying customer base in the enterprise market ?
  • With only limited staffing, how to give comparable support as Red Hat ?
  • How to support a feature-full kernel, while Red Hat cherry-picks the feature they only support ?
  • How to support much more applications and features in Ubuntu LTS with considerably less staff than Red Hat or Novell ?
  • How to backport kernel patches against a 4 year old kernel with a limited staff of kernel developers ?
  • The confusion between (normal) Ubuntu and Ubuntu LTS in the marketplace diffuses search results and the difference is lost on many people, something I experience at conferences and tradeshows.

A lot of these concern question the long-term viability of Canonical/Ubuntu LTS given the extended support of 4 years and the funds needed to keep this up. Whether Canonical can get away with introducing Ubuntu LTS bottom up in large enterprises is questionable, although it might work in the SME market. I hope Canonical can find a sustainable business model because competition is important for Linux' growth.

Even red hatters and green geckos need to be kept on their toes.


Dag, as the person who is mapnjd, and posted that to /. I just thought I'd apologise for any inconvenience I'd put you through.

I thought it was a good article - I've used your RPM archives for years so I know and respect your work. I assumed that most other people in Linux-land would have heard of you. Probably just us Red Hatters.

Personally, I pretty much always use CentOS/RHEL for servers (but I'm not against SLES or Ubuntu LTS in this sphere - it depends on the context). But once again I've switched to Ubuntu (from Fedora) on the desktop. Purely because the whole family use the laptop and expect 3rd party codecs and stuff to work.

Keep up the good work, and once again, I'm sorry if my posting of the article put you under any duress.

Nic Doye

Hey Nic, No worries, I just

Hey Nic,

No worries, I just wanted to clarify my position with this article, not everybody understood the context and the focus of the article. As a consultant I have different experiences and insights than most of the consumer market (and Slashdot readers) so it was not a big surprise :-)

BTW I hope I can meet Mark Shuttleworth in Argentina next week to exchange ideas and maybe get a better view of what he thinks is relevant to have Ubuntu LTS break through.

Let them playing with words,

Let them playing with words, while you keep playing with centos :)