Red Hat’s demise is not our goal

Thursday, August 3rd, 2006

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 ;-).

14 Responses to “Red Hat’s demise is not our goal”

  1. pirast Says:

    “Really, I’m not out to destroy Microsoft. That will just be a completely unintentional side effect.” Linus Torvalds, 2003


  2. C.J. Says:

    I still think you’re great, Mark.

    I don’t want to see Novell or Red Hat tank. I’ve been a fan of Red Hat for a long time, and since Novell acquired the working hours of Miguel, Nat and the rest of the Ximian team, I’ve been a fan of theirs, too.

    Go teams!

  3. JM Says:

    Re: we set extremely standards

    Needs an edit.

  4. Gostei : Blog Archive : Red Hat’s demise is not our goal Says:

    […] [Mark Shuttleworth] Tags: ubuntu, red_hat, linux, mercado Tags:linuxmercadored hatubuntu […]

  5. Celerate Says:

    I don’t see Red Hat tanking because of the Ubuntu family of distributions, I just think users are shifting around as Ubuntu climbs the ranks of the most popular Linux distributions. As I see it Ubuntu and Red Hat have different goals, Red Hat has always seemed to me to be more geared towards workstations, developers, and servers while Ubuntu seems to be more suited for people who use Linux on their desktops and can get around a desktop OS without having to keep asking for help or looking at cheat notes.

    Right now Ubuntu is creating a big ripple in the water, but it’s not going to capsize any boats that weren’t already in trouble.

  6. Sum Yung Gai Says:

    Right on, Mark! You are correct; there is certainly friendly competition out there, as there should be. However, other GNU/Linux distributions are not “the enemy”. On the contrary, Red Hat has done much for the world of Free Software. The “enemy” in this case consists of the Microsofts and Apples of the world that would restrict our freedom.

    Michael Robertson of Linspire once put it equally well, if a bit differently from your words, when he was asked about competition with Red Hat, Novell, et. al. His answer was as follows, from Linux Format Magazine’s July 2005 interview with him:

    “LXF: Could you work with Novell to bring integration a little closer?”

    “MR: Oh sure. Every Linux company is our cousin. This is not a competition between Linspire and Novell. This is a competition between Linspire and Microsoft. So, if we can work with Mandriva or Novell, we’re happy to do that – anything that moves Linux forward. This is such a huge task that one company alone can’t do it. People say: ‘Don’t you want to beat Red Hat?’ No, I need Red Hat, I need Novell, I need Mandriva out there educating the world and writing code and winning contracts and things like that…it’s all about taking market share from Microsoft. That’s the way any of us will succeed.”

    I wholeheartedly concur.

    Thank you for starting the Ubuntu GNU/Linux project; I am using Dapper right now to type this. On Wednesday (09 Aug 2006), I will be demoing Edubuntu and K12LTSP to the Stepping Stone Foundation, which is currently doing work in Botswana to educate, and make leaders out of, orphaned children. This is important, so wish me luck!

  7. stolennomenclature Says:

    Its a shame to see the promising open source model of community and collaboration imitating the competition driven proprietry companies. The idiotic proliferation of Linux distros is causing the open source world to fragment. Every new Linux distro weakens Linux, and every new Linux distro obtains new users at the expense of other exisiting distros.

    I should imagine Gates and Ballmer break open a bottle of champagne every time a new Linux distro is announced. They must be rubbing their hands with glee as the open source community does battle with itself.

    This is entirely the opposite of what the FSF founder Richard Stallman had in mind when he originated the free software movement. He wanted people to work together, not in competition. And the whole point of the GPL was to encourage software reuse, not to fork everything to oblivion. Everything is getting completely forked!

    I do think Ubuntu is a great distro, but then so is Fedora, and so is Debian, etc. Why not all work together on one distro and make it great, rather than have multiple groups all reinventing the wheel. Their is nothing radical enough about Ubuntu to justify it having a separate existence. So Ubuntu has a brown desktop, and Fedora has a blue one. Ubuntu uses apt and Fedora uses Yum – they both do almost exactly the same thing. They both have the same faults – neither one really does a proper job of managing software installs.

    It really is esential for the good of Linux and free software that most of these Linux distros go to the wall, and I am sure eventually they will. Sad for the individual developers perhaps, but better for the end users and the community in general. Leys hope it happens sooner rather than later.

  8. Charles Lacour Says:

    I had the same reaction as Tony Mobily to Red Hat’s change when it happened (or more accurately, I was concerned that that effect might hurt them), but as one of the respondents to his article commented, Red Hat has successfully carved out their niche, and they are no longer considered untried or unsafe. They’re mainstream now, and the typical admin’s opinion matters a lot less than their manager’s as to what gets bought.

    Their niche is “Big Business” (which monetarily, might be a pretty big niche). Until and unless some other company starts mimicking one particular behavior of theirs, they’re not going to have any real competition.

    That behavior is their long-standing policy of NEVER changing a package from what it was in its initial release, except for important bug-fixes (of which a major subdivision is security fixes).

    To the best of my knowledge, everybody else tends to move to later versions of the upstream packages, as backporting modern fixes to five- and six-year-old code is a major pain. The usual logic is “This is a year-old version of xyzzy, and it’s only had a handful of bugs. It’s plenty solid enough to replace that four-year-old version.”

    I’m not trying to argue the pros or cons of each approach – I’m simply pointing out that Red Hat has (uniquely, I believe) quietly made that their distinguishing characteristic: reliability. If a script you wrote depends on a particular program doing something a certain way, it’s going to continue to work for the entire life of that release (7 years). That is worth a great deal to many managers who are trying to keep the number of suprises down to something they can handle.

    I’d like to see the Ubuntu community discuss this issue, and decide which way they want to go as regards ongoing maintenance – the RedHat-like “only change what you absolutely must” or the more common “latest stable” version.

    If Ubuntu wishes to be aimed primarily at Big Business, I would say it will have to become change-averse for older versions – stability and dependability are simply too important to big businesses for any other approach to be acceptable. (From what I’ve observed, it’s unlikely that that the Ubuntu community wishes to aim themselves that way.)

    My main intent in posting this is to get the issue brought up and discussed, so that the way Ubuntu goes forward (on this small topic) is a decision, rather than an accident.

  9. Paul Morley Says:

    To Mark and Team
    Please keep up the good work. Ubuntu is great and is getting better all the time. We are in a small country but you have loyal fans in Malta, A big thank you. paul M.

  10. Gianni Says:

    I use RedHat in my high end servers but Debian on my laptops and desktops. I am running Ubuntu 4.x at another company that I work at on their primary server. So far it is behaving. I find that the recent releases of Ubuntu become corrupted after a while. I have seen this on every PC that I have installed it on (except the aforementioned server), so I have abandoned it in favour of Debian. I use the Ubuntu Live CD to do the hardware detection and then copy the settings to Debian. I still test Ubuntu every couple of months and continue to be disappointed. So do my colleagues. But it’s hardware detection is great !

    The main reason why I am using RedHat is the support and that it has certified drivers for the SCSI RAIDS that I have on my servers. Two HP servers that I manage involve millions of dollars and are, to some degree, mission critical, so I had to make a careful decision. Besides, Oracle 10g and 9i is much easier to install on RedHat than on Debian/Ubuntu. So, I agree that RedHat will not die anytime soon. The big telecom companies in Switzerland (where I work part of the year) are abandoning Solaris and HP UX in favour of RedHat.

  11. Mexico501 » Blog Archive » Mark Shuttleworth: Red Hat’s demise is not our goal Says:

    […] Page Summary: 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. Given that their balance sheet is almost as strong as (ours), I would expect them to be around for some time . Why not all work together on one distro and make it great, rather than have multiple groups all reinventing the wheel. Their is nothing radical enough about Ubuntu to justify it having a separate more | digg story […]

  12. RedHat vs Ubuntu, e risposta di Mr Shuttleworth « pollycoke :) Says:

    […] In ogni caso voglio segnalarvi la risposta che da all’articolo Mr Ubuntu in persona, Mark Shuttleworth, in questo post nel suo blog. Essenzialmente mette tutti a tacere dicendo cose che potrei sintetizzare in questo modo: “Il nostro concorrente non è RedHat. Il nostro concorrente siamo noi stessi, e ad ogni rilascio continuiamo a migliorarci. Se RedHat continua a fare bene sono sicuro che resterĂ  ancora per molto nella sua posizione.” […]

  13. tecosystems » Red Hat v Ubuntu: The Mobily Editorial Says:

    […] Several people have written in to ask what I make of the recent Mobily editorial, in light of my coverage of Debian and Ubuntu previously (I made, in fact, a very similar argument back in May – and here’s me arguing on behalf of Debian in December of 2004). Mobily’s piece, in case you haven’t yet read it, makes the simple but persuasive argument that by more or less abandoning its desktop efforts, Red Hat has unwittingly opened the door for Ubuntu to come in and eat its lunch. It has spawned an interesting discussion, from David Berlind’s thoughtul piece here to Nik Cubrilovic’s dissenting view here to Ubuntu’s Supreme and Benevolent Dictator for Life Mark Shuttleworth’s polite and humble disavowal of the remarks. […]

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