Free Software; Closest to Freedom

Posted by PaulFerris on Jan 14, 2005 7:48 AM
Lxer.com; By Paul (FeriCyde) Ferris

This is a response to Subhasish Ghosh's editorial entitled "Free Software in Reality Isn't Free". If I come across as kind of harsh here, I apologize. I know Solaris and and SunONE rather well, so this is familiar territory. Some of the concepts in Ghosh's editorial were quite baffling to me, so this editorial in fact raises more questions than it may answer. Such is discourse in the digital age :)
-- FeriCyde


by Paul Ferris, LXer contributor.

GNU/Linux, when it first appeared in 1991, didn't even make a dent in the outside world -- in fact, no one in the mainstream press hardly knew of its existence until about 1996 or 1997. I should know, I was among the first to report about it. It has "clawed" its way to the position it is at today. There has been no dip in popularity, except for a business perception around the 2001 crash, when (momentarily) some wall-street types (with understandable good reason) lumped Linux companies into the same boat with dot-coms.

You put out a statement in your article: "So, what went wrong with Linux?". Where does this come from? What market indicator are you pointing at that supposes, even remotely, that "something is going wrong or has gone wrong with Linux."

The predictions of the community? Come on! Compare the "predictions of the community" with all of the hype that Scott McNeally spouts anytime he gets in front of the press. As for the kernel appearing "late", kernels appear when they appear. The ones that are in place now are pretty good. Good enough for most enterprise operations, as a matter of fact.

As for the portability -- nothing beats Net-BSD for portability. Nothing. To which I would add "So?" We were talking about enterprise-class stuff after all weren't we? I hardly know anyone in enterprise class operations that's spending time attempting to compile kernels for exotic hardware so they can bring up web or application services. I don't see the point, in other words, you're trying to make about portability. I do see that GNU/Linux works pretty darn well on a host of platforms -- Motorola, AMD, Intel, IBM mainframes, embedded processors -- far more than Solaris (2 -- Intel, partially supported, and Sparc).

As for your "most important question" for corporate America, and support. How about IBM or HP? What about RedHat? What about Novell? at least you have a choice. Compare that to support for Solaris (from one vendor), or Windows (from one vendor). Your arguments about the stock price of Linux companies don't hold water in the support arena, and yes, I'm talking from experience at enterprise-class companies that are using, today, right now, Linux.

While high, high end benchmark data may not be achievable with an off the box Intel server, medium range servers are easily, bang for the buck, flattened squarely. In other words, Linux on the commodity Intel hardware of today has a price point that's extremely hard to beat. Sun knows this. I'm sure it keeps the up late at night, wondering what they're going to do to be relevant tomorrow.

Corporate America, in other words, is embracing Linux. Speaking to your rambling tirade about SunONE (you have the name wrong, by the way, they renamed it last year to Sun Java something something -- I can't keep track). I'd like to personally explain my experiences with iPlanet, excuse me SunONE, or whatever it's called this minute. The software has it's place, but the support from Sun, from my experience, is abysmal. I honestly haven't had worse experiences in enterprise settings than Suns' support for iPlanet.

Linux maps to Solaris, Apache maps to iPlanet and the rest is self-explanatory -- my experience talking here. I'd rather have Apache any day than iPlanet (or whatever you're going to call SunONE). My experience has also been that Solaris admins have very little trouble transitioning to Linux. iPlanet does run on Linux, but why you'd want to use it will likely depend upon your application. Will that application run on Apache? If so, again, in my humble opinion, you'd be out of your mind to use iPlanet instead. iPlanet locks you to Solaris -- yes, you can run it at some incredible license fee on HP-UX, AIX, Linux and Lord knows what else -- but why? To get Suns' support for it?

Where does this statement have any backing in reality:

    On the other hand, Linux running on Intel Pentium 4 systems guarantee no support, no proper functioning of the software as well as hardware, no regular fixes, patches and upgrades to the system-level software...
Did I hallucinate the two different vendors I've had exposure to so far? Were their patches to the operating system another figment of my imagination? Let me speak from my experience with iPlanet -- the patches appeared somewhat regularly, and the product was end-of lifed. The organization I belonged to then had to make a decision to upgrade to the next release, which was an enormous pain in the rear. Had they been using either Apache code base, both lines would still be supported by the community or the vendors -- and patched just fine. Your augment holds no water -- reality is actually working against you here.

As for your description of a corporation relying upon RedHat engineers and TurboLinux, what's your point? Corporations hire and train (and re-train) people all the time. If the corporate standard is one flavor of Linux, getting someone who is fully trained (or even partially experienced) with another Linux distribution is a painless proposition. This is from my experience -- very little differences exist between distributions. Oh, you can make mountains out of mole-hills here, but the real differences come when you take someone with a Windows mind-set and put them in a Unix/Linux world. There you have some problems.

Things to clarify please:

  1. Losing company trade-secrets -- this is an issue with any IT shop. What does it have to do with Open Source? Clarify please.
  2. Are you talking about scalability instead of upgrade-ability? It looks like it, but I'm not really sure...
  3. When you talk about the "Free-ness" of Linux, you appear to be comparing it mostly to Solaris. What makes you think Solaris is going to be more "Free" in this context? What does locking my operating systems down to one vendor have to do with Freedom? Is this what you mean? Please clarify...
Your words here: "pretty expensive and useless" are harsh. You've posted them to LXer (A Linux forum and a community site). I find your words self descriptive, in other words, but I'll reserve my final judgment for your clarifications on the issues raised.

Best of luck!
Sincerely,
--Paul Ferris


Paul Ferris is a Linux professional with over 5 years of Linux experience in enterprise-class environments. His opinions are his, and his alone.

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Real-World Experience Reigns Supreme SeanConnery315 20 2,312 Jan 15, 2005 1:38 AM

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