I woke up this morning to a flood of mail regarding Tony Mobily’s commentary on Ubuntu vs Red Hat. This would be a good time to remind all of us in the Ubuntu community that Red Hat’s demise is not our goal, and not how we should measure our success.
My own view is that Red Hat will continue to do well in the specific areas that they have targeted – they are extremely well established in the high-availability enterprise Linux server market, and it will take some years before Ubuntu can make the same claim.
Our focus is different to that of Red Hat – we want to ensure that there are free (in both FSF and economic senses) platforms for commodity requirements, like desktops and typical web or email of HPC servers, where the existing free software stack does everything that people typically want. And we want to ensure that this free offering is sustainable, so that it is independent of the whims of any large corporate (and frankly independent of my own whims, too).
Essentially, we want to create a sustainable, practical home for the very best Linux engineers and architects (initially drawing primarily from the pool of Debian developers but now we’re starting to bring in upstream folks too). If that can be sustainable, and charged with delivering a free platform that anyone can use for a desktop or a standard server, then I think we will have accomplished something remarkable and unique. Much like the FSG, and OSDL, Ubuntu will have a role to play in making Linux widely and freely available and keeping it at the cutting edge. Our job is to make the amazing, cutting edge work of thousands of free software developers available in a neat, elegant package that anybody can deploy free of charge, with easy access to the whole universe of free software, and for which they can get commercial grade support if they want it.
That’s a much less grand vision than Red Hat’s goal to challenge the establishment – SUN, Microsoft et al – and create a new enterprise serving other enterprises.
It’s true that competition with Red Hat and Novell is part of what energises the Ubuntu team – we strive to produce something that is cleaner, crisper, faster and better engineered than the alternatives that are out there, and we value the bar that they set. But our primary competition is ourselves – we set extremely high standards for our own team, and we aim to beat that with every release.
So, Red Hat will I think retain a place in the world. Given that their balance sheet is almost as strong as (ours), I would expect them to be around for some time ;-).