% fortune -ae paul murphy

If Linux is free - why is it so expensive?

The usual pretence made by people like Red Hat and Novel is that Linux is free, and what they're selling is support - but that pretence is wearing pretty thin. Here, for example, is a piece of email I got a couple of weeks ago:

From: "IDG Connect"
Subject: SUSE Enterprise Linux Value Pack
Date: Thu, 06 Jul 2006 07:04:37 -0400
MIME-Version: 1.0


Many of us are now running multiple VM sessions on blade servers equipped with dual-core processors. In a worst-case scenario, on such a server, you may find that your current OS provider requires you to purchase a separate license for every VM session, and each processor core. When this is the case, costs can get out of hand very quickly.

Fortunately, Novell has teamed up with HP and AMD to offer a solution for this problem: a new SUSE Enterprise Linux value pack with license terms that impose no limits on the number of VM sessions you can run, or the number of cores in your CPU. To learn more, click on the link below to check out the free online seminar "Simple, Flexible, Linux", available now via IDG Connect compliments of Network World and Novell. Don't miss it!


Best regards,
IDG Connect

You can't fault them on hypocrisy on this because there's none here: Novell is straight forwardly competing with Red Hat by offering to charge you less for a free product than Red Hat does.

But if they're not at fault, how about their customers? If price competition on a free product that sells for thousands strikes you as absurd, look at Solaris for x86. You don't need Xen or VMware, it really is free, you get the same product whether you pay for support or not, and the more people who adopt it, the greater the presure on Red Hat and Novell to really separate support from licensing.

Paul Murphy wrote and published The Unix Guide to Defenestration. Murphy is a 25-year veteran of the I.T. consulting industry, specializing in Unix and Unix-related management issues.