Secondary SourcesBy Brian P. Watson Print
Call it the democratization of software. But in this election contest, open-source operating systems come down to two leading candidates with similar platforms.
Still, support contracts aren't everything.
Six years ago, right after its founding, San Francisco-based Linden Lab, creator of the Second Life virtual world, opted for open-source software called Debian. Debian differs from Red Hat and SUSE in that it's still a community creation; no company has commercialized the platform with enterprise-level support.
That was barely a concern, says studio director Aaron Brashears. Linden planned to support the platform itself, and Brashears says it has had to go outside the community for patches only two or three times.
And it's a good thing, too, because Linden wouldn't have many other support options. Hewlett-Packard is the only major technology firm supporting Debian. Others, like IBM, which supports both Red Hat and SUSE, say they've made investments in supporting Linux while not offering their own distributions.
Late last year, though, Oracle took a step in that direction. In October 2006, the vendor released Unbreakable Linux, a close variation of Red Hat's Enterprise Linux, along with enterprise-class support at half the price Red Hat charged.
Stuart Maue, a St. Louis legal auditing firm, ran into a compatibility problem between its Windows 2003 Server and new Oracle data warehouse in early 2004. Chief information officer Brad Maue (son of the firm's founder and chief executive) called his longtime vendor, Oracle, whose customer support said the incompatibility wasn't fixable with Windows. But it was with Linux. That got his attention: Maue and his team switched over to Red Hat Enterprise Linux shortly thereafter.
But they switched to Oracle after it unveiled Unbreakable Linux for about half the $1,500 Stuart Maue paid Red Hat for support, according to Brad Maue. "Why not go with an Oracle-supported platform?" Maue says. "I would no longer be in a situation where one vendor would say, 'That's the other guy's problem.'"
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