A thought about competition between Red Hat Enterprise and CentOS

November 6, 2007

Roughly speaking, I can think of two different market segments that might be attracted to Red Hat Enterprise Linux:

  • the people who need official support and certification, whether for the base operating system or for some commercial package like Oracle or SAP.
  • the people who merely want to put a box in a corner and forget about it for three to five years.

Red Hat's pricing for RHEL is clearly pitched at the former market, not the latter, quite possibly because Red Hat has determined that they cannot charge enough to make the latter market worth it at its current size. (Note that Red Hat started out with a much lower pricing model for RHEL in prior versions; I assume that they changed for good reason.)

CentOS is not even in the running for the former market; it lacks the all-important 'certified for <whatever>' stamp from the vendors of packages. Given what CentOS is, the packages will almost certainly work anyways, but that's irrelevant for the people who need the official cover of the certification.

(I am relatively convinced that it would be pretty difficult for CentOS to get such certifications. If you are a would-be certifying company, where is your official cover that the CentOS project won't go off the rails or just disappear?)

So my conclusion is that there isn't actual competition between CentOS and RHEL. If you are in RHEL's target market, CentOS won't do, and if you are not Red Hat is probably happy to see you using something that is basically RHEL.

(This thought probably isn't novel, and I should note that it was sparked by exposure to the first paragraph of this recent article in one of my syndication feeds.)

Written on 06 November 2007.
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Last modified: Tue Nov 6 23:08:49 2007
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