Is Red Hat still relevant? You bet.

I recently attended a Linux Installfest and the primary distribution recommended by those heading up the event was Ubuntu. That's all well and good but during their Linux dog-and-pony-show a statement was made regarding Red Hat that struck me. I don't recall the exact wording that was used but it was something along the lines of... Red Hat used to be very popular but not anymore. I wasn't really offended by the statement nor do I completely disagree with it... but a lot remains to be said about the importance of Red Hat within the Linux community. Red Hat is certainly king in the "Enterprise" space with Novell a respectable second... but many still seem to be unaware just how much Red Hat contributes to the development of many projects and the rapid progress of Linux.

Whenever I see any articles about Red Hat on any of the Linux community sites (think Slashdot), the comments will invariably mention a few things that I consider to be myths about Red Hat. They include:

  1. Red Hat is the "Microsoft of Linux"
  2. Red Hat abandoned the desktop/home user market
  3. Red Hat costs a fortune
  4. Red Hat created "rpm hell" and rpm based distributions suck

I do not want to even attempt to address each individual myth but I do want to make a few points about Red Hat in an effort to educate people to the fact that Red Hat does a lot for the Linux community and is a major (if not THE major) contributor. Let me start with some background information.

Brief history of Red Hat

Rather than write a history of Red Hat from scratch, I'll borrow the history section of the wikipedia page on Red Hat:

In 1993 Bob Young incorporated the ACC Corporation, a catalog business that sold Linux and UNIX software accessories. Then in 1994 Marc Ewing created his own version of Linux, which he named Red Hat Linux. Ewing released it in October, and it became known as the Halloween release. Young bought Ewing's business in 1995, and the two merged to become Red Hat Software with Young serving as CEO.

Red Hat went public on August 11, 1999, the eighth-biggest first-day gain in Wall Street history. Matthew Szulik succeeded Bob Young as CEO in November of that year.

On November 15, 1999, Red Hat acquired Cygnus Solutions. Cygnus provided commercial support for free software and housed maintainers of GNU software products such as GNU Debugger and GNU Binutils. One of the founders, Michael Tiemann, served as the Chief Technical Officer of Red Hat and now serves as the vice president of open source affairs. Later it acquired WireSpeed, C2Net and Hell's Kitchen Systems.

In February 2000, InfoWorld awarded Red Hat with its fourth consecutive “Operating System Product of the Year” award for Red Hat Linux 6.1. In 2001 it acquires Planning Technologies, Inc, and in 2004 AOL's iPlanet directory and certificate server software.

Company headquarters were moved from Durham, NC, to N.C. State University's Centennial Campus in Raleigh, North Carolina in February of 2002.

The following March Red Hat introduced the first enterprise-class Linux operating system: Red Hat Advanced Server, later named Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Dell, IBM, HP and the Oracle Corporation announced their support of the platform.

In December of 2005 CIO Insight Magazine conducted their annual Vendor Value Survey, where Red Hat ranked #1 in value for the second year in a row.

Red Hat stock was added to the NASDAQ-100 on December 19, 2005.

Red Hat acquired open source middleware provider JBoss on June 5, 2006 and JBoss became a division of Red Hat. In 2007 it acquired Metamatrix and made an agreement with Exadel to distribute its software.

On September 18, 2006, Red Hat released the Red Hat Application Stack, the first certified stack integrating JBoss technology.

On December 12, 2006, Red Hat moved from NASDAQ (RHAT) to the New York Stock Exchange (RHT).

On March 15, 2007 Red Hat released Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, and in June, they acquired Mobicents.

For an alternative, see Red Hat's own Red Hat History page.

How Red Hat gives back

Many Linux users don't seem to realize just how much Red Hat contributes back to the Linux community. They are major software developers on a number of projects not the least of which is the Linux kernel. The Fedora Project site has a page entitled Red Hat contributions to Free and Open Source software which lists most of Red Hat's contributions.

To see how much Red Hat contributes to kernel development, check out the last three "Who wrote" articles by Jon Corbet on LWN: 1) 2.6.20, 2) 2.6.22, and 3) 2.6.23. Wow, that's a lot of kernel development.

Oddly enough neither Debian nor Ubuntu / Canonical shows up on the list. I emailed Jon a while back asking why that was. Was it because they didn't really rank as top kernel developers? Or was it that it is harder to identify and group together their contributors? Jon didn't really have a good answer for that one. I'm guessing it is a little bit of both. Debian and Ubuntu are great distributions but I'm not sure they do a lot of development that gets passed upstream. I'd love to be corrected on that if someone wants to provide me with additional information.

Then there's the matter of GCC and the base system libraries. As mentioned in the history, Cygnus became part of Red Hat in 1999. Cygnus happens to be a major contributor to GCC... and as a result, Red Hat is a major contributor to GCC. Red Hat has also paid developers to work on GNOME and a host of other projects. Again, for a more complete list, see the Fedora Project's contributions page.

Speaking of Fedora, the Fedora Project is sponsored by Red Hat and the Fedora Linux distribution happens to be one of the top 5 Linux distributions according to sites like Distrowatch. The kernels they provide during the lifecycle of each release are usually bleeding edge. I attended a speech given by Andrew Morton at LinuxWorld Expo 2007 in which he was explaining that the kernel developers really need a lot more testers and that one easy way to be a tester was to run Fedora and keep up with the kernel releases... since Fedora's kernel usually only trails the mainline kernel by a few weeks.

Another way Red Hat gives back is just by releasing the source packages for their Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) distribution. Red Hat does this in an easy to manage way by offering source rpm packages... rather than in some hard to use format that many other commercial projects seem to use. As a result a number of free alternatives to RHEL have sprung up with the most notable one being CentOS. Many people see CentOS as a competitor to Red Hat or a thorn in their side but in reality, CentOS actually compliments RHEL and keeps people within the Red Hat fold. For more on that concept, see Donald Rosenberg's article on the subject.

Red Hat's main competitor in the "Enterprise Linux" space is Novell yet there aren't any freely available SUSE Linux Enterprise Server/Desktop distributions. Why is that? Dag Wieers wrote a blog posting where he pondered the lack of a free SLES... and the comments to his blog entry are very informative too.

Staying true to Free Software ideals

One thing that Red Hat deserves respect for is staying true to their Free Software ideals. All of the software they have written (with a few exceptions like their Red Hat Network service) has been released under the GPL. They didn't come up with some alternative license like so many others have. Red Hat has also publicly said that they will make no patent deals with Microsoft like Novell and a few others have. Red Hat has a number of high profile executives and lawyers who have given presentations on how Free Software and Open Source are good for the IT Industry and that this freedom really matters. For more info see Red Hat's Why Open Source? Red Hat's position seems somewhat unique... somewhere between that of purist Richard M. Stallman and the pragmatist Linus Torvalds.

When it comes to RHEL and Fedora, Red Hat has also made it clear that they do not want to help promote proprietary software or multimedia codecs even if it does lead to a certain amount of unpopularity among some in the Linux community. For more info on that, see the Fedora Project's Forbidden Items wiki page. I think in this area, Red Hat and Debian are very kindred spirits.

What is an Enterprise Distribution?

In 2003 Red Hat decided to discontinue Red Hat Linux in favor of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Why did Red Hat add "Enterprise" to the name and what exactly is an "Enterprise" distribution? Did Red Hat abandon the non-Enterprise market? Red Hat decided, and justifiably so, that being the most widely used Linux distribution among non-paying users/customers wasn't a financially viable situation (can you hear me knocking Canonical?)... so they decided to concentrate on customers who have deep pockets and will pay for support and consulting.

In creating RHEL, they took the Red Hat Linux base and then made a number of changes to it. One of those changes was dropping some of the lesser used software packages and concentrating on the more common and important ones in an effort to make a more supportable product line.

Additional "Enterprise" distribution characteristics:

  1. Software updates for longer
  2. Refreshed install media
  3. System management and monitoring
  4. Better server hardware support
  5. Documentation
  6. a Knowledgebase
  7. Technical support
  8. Training and certification

What Red Hat has been doing seems to be working as they have continually reported profits each and every quarter while at the same time staying true to their Open Source / Free Software mantra. Is it any wonder that several other distributions have adopted the pattern?

Sponsorship of Fedora

In 2003 the Fedora project picked up where RHL left off. It didn't take off right away... and there were lots of bumps in the road... but Fedora kept on going and as of 2008 it truly seems to be a community project with more than half of the package builds coming from non-Red Hat employees. Red Hat does still have some say in the direction that Fedora takes but they aren't an evil overlord.

While Fedora is often seen as a "beta version" of RHEL, Fedora serves a number of purposes that go well beyond that. Approximately every third release of Fedora becomes a base for RHEL. Fedora's main role in the Linux ecosystem is to be a proving ground for new technology. Fedora was the first to adopt SELinux, Xen, KVM... and a lot of other things. Fedora also manages a much larger, and constantly growing software package set. If Fedora was just a development ground for RHEL, wouldn't it use only the software that RHEL plans to use?

Suggestions for Red Hat

Here are some suggestions I have for Red Hat in 2008 and beyond.

Buy Zimbra - Yeah, I know Yahoo already did... but is Yahoo really interested in the retail and marketing? My guess is no... Yahoo bought Zimbra to use internally and eventually to use externally for their services. They want to use Zimbra as a product and also have some sway over the developers to move in the feature areas they want. I doubt that Yahoo is interested in Zimbra outside of Yahoo... so why not share that piece of it with someone who is? Negotiate with Yahoo, get the rights to the product and release the Network edition under the GPL and free of cost.

It would be a great fit. I mean, Zimbra's custom code is all Java based and Red Hat is heavily into Java themselves with the JBoss purchase... as well as a few others. I've been using Zimbra for a long while now and so far as I know, nothing else out there compares. I'd like to see Red Hat get involved in the development of Zimbra to make it even better... to augment the existing Zimbra development team. How about adding their Mobicents VOIP technology to Zimbra? That's something Yahoo couldn't do.

Buy SoftMaker - Haven't heard of SoftMaker? They are a German company who offers a commercial suite of office applications that rivals Microsoft Office. We already have, right? Yes, we do... but SoftMaker Office is a LOT lighter weight. Buy SoftMaker Office and make it GPLed and available for free of cost. They could market it as Red Hat Office and give the Windows version away too. Now imagine taking some of the SoftMaker technology and adding it to Zimbra!

Create an Active Directory killer - Red Hat already has several pieces to the puzzle but they haven't been put together in a meaningful way yet - clustering, certificate server, directory server, etc. First Microsoft's lock-in device was the Windows OS. Then that switched to Microsoft Office... and for many it is the combination of Exchange and Outlook. Then when Active Directory came along, they got to leverage everything together in a much more manageable way. Red Hat has the pieces. They just need to refine them so that there is a GPLed system which can manage Linux clients and Windows clients. I've seen a lot of institutions trying to fit Linux client machines into a Windows Active Directory setup. While there are ways of doing that, some less painful than others, why not use Linux as a replacement for Active Directory? I'm not saying Red Hat should try to clone Active Directory as we need a solution designed with Linux clients in mind and server application management as well.

Samba has done a lot of work with Samba 4 but it has a long way to go. Why did Samba develop their own LDAP system? Red Hat already offers a high quality, GPLed LDAP system were replication works well. Red Hat and Samba should work together on the project... but the Samba part would only be a piece of it for the Windows clients.


Red Hat, thanks for being the beacon of Linux-based business success. Let's hope you continue to stay true to your principles, continue the rapid progression of Linux, and that you keep making a reasonable profit doing so.

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A refreshing perspective!


I'd like to thank you for taking a step back, doing some primary source research, and then presenting a narrative that will live past the weekly news cycle.

As one of the folks mentioned in your article (by way of the Wikipedia entry), I am clearly an interested party. But I am also President of the Open Source Initiative, where I try really, really hard to get people to understand the whole picture of open source. I can tell you that it is frustrating when journalists are more concerned with horse-race headlines and juicy tit-for-tat between executives and less concerned with complex narratives that, despite their complexity, reveal powerful truths about the way our industry is changing. And I can tell you how rare it is to find /any/ journalist willing to do the kind of investigation and analysis that you have just demonstrated.

I am proud of what we have done, which is nothing less than to redefine the software industry and the competitive context of the technology industry in the 21st century (as exemplified by this PC World article). And it is clear that neither Red Hat nor the open source community could have reached this point so rapidly if we were as petty, naive, unskilled, unprofessional, and lacking in any business acumen as the conventional narrative would have anybody believe (at least according to the headlines of the conventional stories covering open source).

So, thank you for stating the obvious. It encourages me to keep up the good fight, both at the OSI and at Red Hat.


As an update to your article RHN/Satellite is now Open Source, check, announced together with the Java Certification for the Free IcedTea project included by Fedora 9 that provides a FREE Java machine

True to Free Software Ideals: RHN just got GPLed

One thing that Red Hat deserves respect for is staying true to their Free Software ideals. All of the software they have written (with a few exceptions like their Red Hat Network service) has been released under the GPL.

...and Red Hat released Red Hat Network Satellite as GPLv2 just last week:

Lots of folks inside and outside Red Hat are glad to see this.

RHN now open source

I believe RHN *was* the final product that was not open source... until last week.... now will take you to the open source RHN.

Kudos to Red Hat for being truly committed to open and transparent computing.

Red Hat Network / Satellite

Red Hat Network / Satellite is now free& open source. See

Good Article

I have been a sys admin for many years and I can determine a person's skill level by how much bias they show for a particular OS, and how some confuse the desktop with the OS. Eventually you reach a plateau where it doesn't matter much. You might prefer a particular OS over another, or prefer a Linux distro over another, but that doesn't mean the other ones are bad. Putting something else down to support your opinion is a cop out.

I have used Red Hat for years and I have used other distros as well. For me it depends on what is running in the data center where I currently work. FreeBSD one place, SUSE another. I got Red Hat now and also use Fedora. I am quite happy with Fedora as a workstation and like GNOME. Grabbing the last remnants of the Netscape directory server from AOL was a good move, and the Fedora Directory project is thriving.

I am sure there are other distros out there that are cool, and if you find something you like, thats great! Its silly to fight over which distro is better. Celebrate x86 UNIX and support each other.

fj40dan's picture

Dowdle, (hmmm no

Dowdle, (hmmm no tab-complete) just think of canotical as an up-and-coming Red hat. Stay with me now, their business models are nearly identical. Here are the key differences: conotical is working with manufacturers to sell desktops, red hat works withs with manufacturers to sell servers. As to offerings, Red hat offers Enterprise and fedora (guiana pig) versions of their software and canotical does not. This is NOT a warm fuzzy decision to "give" to the community. This is to compete with rh/fedora. I personally purchased 3 versions of red hat prior to the split, the split angered a lot of people including me. Source packages =/= distribution. As far as Red hat's contributions to the linux kernel (linux as opposed to GNU), they aren't doing that for warm fuzzy feelings to "give" to the community either. They are doing that because they need certain things from the kernel that helps their business model. An IBM server with red hat on it has problems, red hat kernel hackers will send a patch to Linus and crew. GPL is live by the sword, die by the sword. As for canotical, I think everyone knows that the ubuntu african warm fuzzies are a farce. They (like red hat) are in it to make money. We can see evidence when you see them pairing up with Dell. When the kernel or gnome are no longer sufficient to keep Dell happy, canotical will have to start patching them. They will have to show an effort to those who are paying the bills, Micheal Dell. They can only do this if they start making some money. My short answer is: yes Red Hat is very relevant and important. So are other companies trying to make money from gpl'ed software, because we benefit from their (via gpl) business needs. After all, they have (hope to have) money to fix things. Big companies reigned in by their workers (software writers) through gpl is capitalism at its finest.

As for active directory killer, linux is a very long way away from it. There are a couple of key misconceptions that unix/linux admins seem to have. One, single-sign-on is all that active directory does. Single-sign-on is a extremely small part of what active directory does. Network wide security groups that have access to local resources is a very important part. These security groups configure the desktops, software access for individual, hardware access, software installs, software updates based on the the users group. These rights and services are replicateable on a very large scale. This difficult (though not impossible) to do push from a linux server to a linux client network wide. That doesn't even say anything about access to network resources. This is all done through the "single-sign-on". One other misconception is that users need zero rights to do their jobs. God is root, (L)users are dirt. Come on we've all said it, at least thought it. There isn't an easy or safe way to offer more permissions to linux users pushed from a central server. Group policy does this and more for windows networks. Until *nix admins stop marginalizing windows servers, and linux directory servers start offering more services to their clients, windows will stay the top dog in corporate intranets.

Scott Dowdle's picture

Thanks for the comment...

Ok, first off... it is "Canonical".

I'd like to see the details on the deal between Dell and Canonical... and I wonder if Canonical is even getting money from it. I don't think Dell will have much influence on Canonical nor be in a position to tell Canonical to fix something for them. Dell has their own developers and engineers and if they need a driver written or tweaked, they should take care of that themselves. You have to remember, for all of the hopla over Dell offering Ubuntu on laptops (or whatver), they have supposedly sold around 40,000 units. Some time has passed since that figure was given so let's give them the benefit of the doubt and say they sold, 100,000 units. That is still a drop in the bucket for Dell and Canonical.

I never meant to imply that Red Hat was giving back to the community just to be nice. Of course they do the development work they do to meet the needs of their customers. That's a given.

The main difference between Red Hat and Canonical would be in two areas: 1) Red Hat contributes everything back to upstream and has a lot of the top developers who make that possible, 2) Red Hat has proven over the course of a few years now that the business model that they mostly pioneered is working for them... and Canonical has not.

It is hard to say what Canonical's financials are because they are not a public company and don't have to report them... but I haven't heard a peep about them doing anything other than burning through Mr. Shuttleworth's money. I really don't have any proof of that but I think that is the general consensus. I'd love to be proven wrong on that point because I do wish Canonical business success... as I do for (almost) all Linux based companies who play well.

Regarding Active Directory... I agree with you strongly on several of the points you made. Yes, Active Directory is MUCH more than a single-sign-on... and the Group Policies are very nice.

I do disagree with you on it being very hard to dole out levels of administrative access on Linux. That can be done with sudo. With sudo you can say who has access to a particular command as root... and just what flags or parameters they can pass. It is a bit sloppy to manually configure (I'm certainly not an expert at sudo configuration) but it can be done. If sudo's current functionality isn't enough, I'm sure it wouldn't be too hard to modify it to make it purr, and meow... and all of those things... with some additional development work.

One company that has a commercial product that adds Unix/Linux specific policy elements to Active Directory includes the ability to push custom sudo configs per machine/user. I don't recall the name of the company but it is an example. It certainly is just a beginning as custom sudo configuration is just a tiny portion of what AD's Group Policy encompasses... but it is a start.

More and more server applications are adding features to where they can store and retrieve their configurations via LDAP. Once more and more of them do that, it should be possible to create a framework for Linux server management. I think a lot of work still remains in the end-user apps and desktop environments having the ability to accept configuration and customization via LDAP. One thing is certain though, the FOSS community moves a lot faster than Microsoft... and releases often... we these sorts of changes, once given a priority, shouldn't take years.

Regarding security policies... SELinux seems to be the only viable platform out there. I'm sure there are a sizable number of people would be disagree... but I can imagine SELinux policies being pushed out via LDAP.

What is needed in this area is some vision by one or more of the Linux industry leaders... to put together an open organization with the goal of making an Active Directory like system for Linux. One that is not a clone of AD but custom designed for Linux... yet, if at all possible, compatible with Windows clients too.

Now, having said all of that... I believe Novell already has a closed, commercial product that supposedly does a lot of this stuff. I think it is call Zenworks or something. I don't know much about it and would love to learn about it... but given the fact that it is closed and seems targeted only towards Novell's products... it certainly isn't a broad answer. But then again, if Zenworks is any good... and it were opened up and adapted to work with everything, it could potentially be the basis for a contender.

Centrify for RHEL

The name of the company that escaped your mind is CENTRIFY.
They provide the capability to integrate AD with Linux security, giving granularity rights to users.

AD killer

If you are looking for an AD killer, there is also an interesting Mandriva Directory Server : .

Congrats great article

Most people ignore, but Ubuntu is not up for make super/turbo best operating system in the entire universe (**gg** that sounds stupid).

All their business is based on providing services for software distribution, (even some open source techies, just call Ubuntu, only a "distributor" and not anything else.)

That's why I will never ever use Ubuntu, their priority, is not quality but speediness and availability, which is obvious very prone to bugs.

Most people don't have a clue when they talk about massive migrations, you simply cannot migrate an entire school or enterprise using Ubuntu, just for the fact that their priority is not quality but quantity and software availability at any cost. Even on bigger enterprises using a non certified distro is prohibited, Novell or Red hat is preferred.

Of course for showing your coolness at an install fest it is perfectly OK!! :UBUNTU users: REALLY get a CLUE.


Enterprise is the future

I have been using Fedora for several years now, since RH7. I think it has gotten much better recently. My main annoyance is that I have to keep upgrading every 6 months or year, just when I get things like I want. I use some non-free software for my research (Matlab, Mathematica, Intel compiler), and moving/installing those is a pain.

Now I am now trying CentOS, which I think is perfect for my research/work computer. It is free, it is modern enough for my needs and it doesn't keep dropping support for me. It is also similar enough to Fedora/RH that I am familiar right away.

In the next couple years I believe most of the *easy* things will be finished regarding the OS. Sure new things will keep coming along, but once you are not re-writing the basic stuff anymore, it is easier to keep up with those (read at the enterprise time scale). I think enterprise-style distributions will be where it is at, because one if the reasons some people keep windows, is that WinXP is still supported by Microsoft -- after 6-7 years (although who knows for how much longer). I like only having to re-install when I need to, not because of some vendor time-frame BS that isn't important to me actually. I guess there is Ubuntu LTS, but isn't that sort of "enterprise"?

Canonical and the kernel

You're partially right about Canonical and kernel development. Canonical has a small kernel team, and it works full time simply keeping their kernel flavors in sync with all the upstream patches that become available. Their mission is to produce kernel flavors which work on the widest possible sets of hardware, and this leaves no time for any upstream kernel participation.

If they have a kernel team

If they have a kernel team just providing patches for internal usage, they're not really helping Linux and Opensource growth. As they claim Linux is about community i.e. share improvements between others to get a better product.

Red Hat also has a kernel team as deducted from this article as it does Debian, but they difference is that they contribute upstream, it's not a matter of time it's about understanding opensource and how it works.


Three things about Debian

  1. Debian does not employ anyone. That greatly reduces the number of full time kernel hacker positions.
  2. Looking at the 2.6.20 short changelog, there are about 30 changesets from people who are commiters on the Debian kernel team and a few more from people that are Debian Developers or package maintainers. That is a far cry from Rad Hat's 636, but it is more than nothing. They just don't show up as Debian employees because they are volunteers and not all of them use their address for all stuff.
  3. Debian might have liked to claim that Adrian Bunk, but he resigned from Debian a few years ago.

Red Hat is an important and very good player and I would certainly hope it will remain for a long time coming. I do not think they need people taking cheap shots at Debian's contributions to free software in order to assert their relevance.

Re: Is Red Hat still relevent? You bet.

I used Red Hat from version 5.2 all the way up to Fedora Core 5, mostly on servers and always my laptop, but I finally couldn't stand it anymore.

On the desktop side, I got tired of having to jump through hoops if I wanted to play mp3 files. I got tired of the over the top branding they apply to KDE (to the point it doesn't look any different from GNOME). I got tired of the thousands of useless Java and mono apps they've bloated the os with over the last few years. I finally gave up with Red Hat and now I only run Ubuntu, where *everything just works* and they actually care about the desktop experience.

We still occasionally build a Fedora server, but only for machines that are going to be firewalls or network gateways. RHEL has always been (in my mind) much like SLES (Suse Enterprise) - the packages are too old.

Kernel contribution list

Check this other LWN article for more stats on which companies are sponsoring kernel development.

Red Hat ? relevant ? sure.

Red Hat ? relevant ? sure. long term bet ? dunno. I'd bet on rPath. RH has the money, the market and the share. They simply lack the vision and the technology to lead the next big wave. They were great in applying *traditional* business models and revenue streams to an open source ecosystem, but lets face it - they don 't have a clue about what will be coming next. They are too happy where they happy now. The ironic twist is that the rPath gang is what made RH what it is today.

An accurate an balanced article

Excellent article, you managed to give Red Hat the credit it deserves for it's contributions, without taking cheap shots to the rest of the community.

Microsoft vs linux--Redhat and etc

Many year ago, not sure of the date and it's too late to comb back threw my records, I was involved in a startup operation where the (in this case) insurance carrier provided the hardware (IBM XT) and I was left with the software of a DOS disk to load the system. Boy did I have a hard time! Many conversations with the seller of the DOS system finally got the system operational.

I guess what I am saying is that if one compares installing Linux (no matter what version) with putting up a Microsoft O/S, then there is really no comparison. But the fact remains that a user does not install the Microsoft O/S but has it installed by the manufacturer of the system. So we, as a Linux Community should not back away from these types of comparisons, but say that installing Linux is easy!

FreeIPA provides an Active Directory like app

In regards to the suggestion of creating an "Active Directory killer", there is already a Red Hat sponsored project called FreeIPA which is in that ballpark area. It integrates Fedora Directory Server, and the MIT Kerberos Domain Controller together which a bunch of admin tools. It also include FreeRADIUS, NTP, DNS and web based administration. There project is open to any contributors and is making fast progress and beta snapshots available for Fedora.

AD killer is something that windows clients believe is AD

While the FreelPA project looks interesting - it is unfortunate that it seems to rely on FDS (as there are better LDAP servers available) - this is not an AD killer. If it were, then there have already been other AD killers - as there are already lots of web frontends to LDAP servers that support Samba, FreeRadius, Bind, DHCP, sudo etc.

The true AD killer, and this is what samba4 is aiming at, is a server that a native Windows client (e.g. Windows XP Pro) believes is an AD server, so that Kerberos works, GPOs work etc.

Samba Domain controllers on an LDAP backend have been possible since samba-2.2.5 with OpenLDAP 2.0.7. when FDS was still Netscape Directory Server 4.x.

The samba team did not implement an internal LDAP server because there aren't appropriate LDAP servers available (there are, in fact OpenLDAP 2.4 is probably the best LDAP server available), but so that:

1)Users who don't necessarily need an external LDAP server can get samba4 running with less effort
2)To find out what features they need in an LDAP server (that AD interoperability relies on), to ensure that supporting external - and more capable, more versatile - LDAP servers can be done easily, by pointing out the features that may have no other use than to support AD compatibility.

This work is currently in progress for OpenLDAP (and probably FDS), as evidenced by the posts by Andrew Bartlett on the OpenLDAP-devel list (and the responses from OpenLDAP developers fixing issues).

Samba4 and Directory Servers

Quite correct.

I move back and forward between writing new code and tests for Samba4, implementing this in ldb (our internal backend for LDAP), and then working with OpenLDAP and Fedora DS to ensure that their backends will work for Samba4. I hope to work with many others, including my employers Red Hat, to create the AD killer, but indeed it will take time.

Red Hat myths have never changed.

I think that every problem listed above has been listed about Red Hat since at least 1997 when I started working and definitely when I left in 2001. However at that time, it was Red Hat is the Microsoft and Gentoo will be the new super OS. I do not think that Red Hat will ever get away from the image that it is a Microsoft, it only takes etc.. because there is a core of Linux fanatics who have to have someone in the field who they will label as such. Does Red Hat make mistakes.. hell yes. Does Red Hat want to make money, hell yes. But so does Canonical, etc. However to some of the most vocal people, they have to have something they base their OS choice on by what they are not using.. and so logic doesn't come into play ;).

For a possible AD killer look at the project started by some people inside of Red Hat. It will take about a years worth of work by dedicated people to get it into a good format..

And one thing I found from working inside of companies is that buying closed source software and trying to make it open is not as good a panacea as people hope it to be. Too many times the code uses other closed source stuff, or it is a rats-nest of code that isn't "open" enough for other people to dive in and add/subtract stuff too. [Actually I can't remember any of the closed source projects RH bought that didn't turn into that because it took a year to get legal review on whether the code didn't have other stuff in it.]

Anyway good article and thanks.

Thomas's picture

Re: Is Red Hat still relevent? You bet.

Hello Scott,

Excellent post! I've been using Linux for about 3 months now and I tried Fedora 8 the day it came out, November 8th! :) Although I don't have history with other distributions of Red Hat, Fedora 8 was a pleasant experience! I have all of my music files backed up on a 20GB hard drive running Fedora.

About the Ubuntu buzz; it's much easier for newbies like myself to install applications on Ubuntu. I think that accounts for much of the current popularity.

I'm trying to become more program/application oriented. It seems like many of the OS's have similar programs. Gimp, Rhythmbox,, Sound Juicer, Evolution, Gaim aka Pidgin, F-spot, Tomboy Notes, Wanda the fortune telling fish, and the Terminal. I think these applications are the future of Linux, and they'll get better as time goes on!

Thomas Fleming

Ubuntu thoughts

I have my own favorite distros (*cough* Gentoo), but right now Ubuntu has a huge momentum behind it. It's easy to get up and running, and has an extremely active community behind it. Yes, Fedora is just as easy as Ubuntu in almost every respect, but it doesn't have the same momentum right now. Just imho. :)

Scott Dowdle's picture

Momentum leading to what exactly?

I agree with you Jeff... but is that really going to do Canonical any good? Red Hat has been there and done that. The way I see it, and I'd love someone to educate me otherwise, Canonical IS Ubuntu... not just a sponsor... and eventually Canonical is going to need to figure out how to make a profit.

They are trying to do that with their server product but for servers, their biggest competition is Debian not Red Hat... and against Debian, I'm not sure Ubuntu is going to come out on top.

Sorry I got off topic there. This article is just to educate people that Red Hat is still relevant.

Regarding the "right now" part... that could change with one or two releases... not that I'm wishing Ubuntu any ill will.

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