[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.
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
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
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
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