Comment of the Day - November 19, 2005 - Novell impressions

Posted by tadelste on Nov 19, 2005 2:01 PM EDT
LXer.com -Article; By cjcox
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[Ed: Our commentor is a Linux Guru and one of the most knowledgeable IT people we know. He has an inside track on vendors and insight into the market few people can match.- tadelste]

Chris writes: SUSE has certainly gotten a bad rap. The true shame is that Novell is responsible for spreading their own FUD against themselves. Novell doesn't believe in SUSE. Until that changes, Novell doesn't have a chance.

Related to:
Why did SuSE Linux's founder resign from Novell?

Shortly after the acquistion, Novell was very active in trying to figure things out. I can assure you that Novell (pre SUSE) was absolutely oblivious to Linux. That is to say, Novell really... and I'm not kidding folks, believed (and still does for many at Novell) that NetWare is a dominating force in corporate IT. Not merely a presence, or even a very important server, but a dominating role. I'm serious. I tried my best to tell them that their perception of themselves WAS NOT what I saw... but they REALLY, really believed I was simply not abreast of the OBVIOUS truth regarding Novell's CURRENT dominant position.



Oddly enough, SUSE has always maintained that profit was made off the sale of the SUSE Professional boxed distribution. Btw, Red Hat (according to Alan Cox himself... prior to the big vacation) says their boxed consumer product line was also quite profitable. Many were worried that Novell would move SUSE similarly and destroy the consumer boxed product. Novell assured everyone (including myself personally) that they saw no reason to change something that simply was not broken. Until now. It's strange. Novell believed (believes) that Novell has mass market penetration and dominance, but also believe that SUSE had NO marketshare with respect to Red Hat, which certainly was not the case.

Anyone who has administered Red Hat and SUSE, knows that you get a certain level of support from SUSE whereas you don't get anything from Red Hat with sending them an annual support subscription fee. It's not a big fee... but Red Hat does count every entitlement independently... so it adds up. Their enterprise level product costs about $1500/yr for a subscription. Back at the time when Novell made the acquisition, it was still very true that the SUSE Professional (not the enterprise level product mind you) was better supported than Red Hat's $1500/yr. enterprise level product. However, Novell believed that SUSE did poorly against Red Hat... and I personally believe it is (was) quite the opposite. Enterprises appreciated SUSE's attention to Unix-like detail. SUSE supported NIS, NFS, LDAP and Samba much better than Red Hat. Arguably, that is still the case. Administrators spent many, many, many more hours administering Red Hat machines than comparable SUSE machines... and I'm talking on the server side.

Ever done package selection with Red Hat? Sure... it's simple, BUT NOT very customizable. Simply put, Red Hat, which strives to be a server distribution , feels like a desktop distribution targeted at the ignorant. And is really shows. It is VERY easy to create a very trimmed down SUSE for server usage (using SUSE Professional btw) vs. doing the same with Red Hat. Sad but VERY, VERY true folks. But somehow because of the size of the SUSE distribution in total and the fact that the default install tended to be much larger than Red Hat, it somehow got a undeserved reputation for being a bloated desktop centric distribution. That's simply wrong and undeserved.

SUSE, which uses rpm, is automatically grouped with Red Hat as being a victim of a myriad of RPM-Hell... which is also NOT true. SUSE's package manager includes automatic dependency checking it works quite well (with few mistakes here and there). I can't tell you the number of times I've gotten into circular dependency hell with Red Hat. That's were package "a" depends on package "b" and package "b" depends on package "c" which in turn is dependent on package "a". This has gotten better since the days of the Novell acquisition, but I pretty sure with adding and removing packages in Red Hat, it will certainly show up again, even today.



In all fairness, Red Hat isn't that bad... but IMHO, Red Hat today is about where SUSE was 5 years ago... [and] in some cases (e.g. administration tools) they're not even close. Not by a long shot.

I just got done doing an install of RHELAS 4, arguably the best Red Hat ever.... and I can tell you that by the time the platform was fully configured I had easily spent 3 to 4 extra hours vs. doing the same amount of tasks with SLES 9. AND I could do exactly the same thing with SUSE Professional with equal simplicity (except in a couple of isolated cases).

SUSE has certainly gotten a bad rap. The true shame is that Novell is responsible for spreading their own FUD against themselves. Novell doesn't believe in SUSE. Until that changes, Novell doesn't have a chance.

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