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Community vs. Enterprise

A few years ago both Red Hat and SUSE (now Novell) changed the way they release their distributions. Essentially, they split their distros into two varieties: "community" and "enterprise". Community is Red Hat's Fedora and Novell's OpenSUSE. Enterprise is Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise (SLES). Why is that, and is such a division good for everyone?

Community distros are bleeding-edge, the latest software, and come with a high rate of updates. These are intended for hackers, enthusiasts, all us Linux geeks. And yes, these are available for free: download an ISO, burn, install.

Enterprise distros are somewhat older versions of software, but high quality, and come with a low rate of updates (related to security and major bug fixes only). These are targeted towards serious businesses and come with a price tag, support contract, and per-seat licenses.

That all sounds all right so far -- both types of distributions have their targeted users. Oh, but what if you want production quality and stability without a price tag? Hmm...no way. This is a big problem, and this is the primary reason why projects like CentOS exist.

Not sure about you, but I have realized (or verbalized?) just recently that such a problem exists, and I think this problem is an artificial one. Let me describe why I think so.

I work as a project manager for OpenVZ, a free software virtualization solution. OpenVZ is a community project, and it has it commercial counterpart as well -- Virtuozzo, an enterprise virtualization platform. Sounds similar to the above? Right. The only difference is OpenVZ, unlike Fedora/OpenSUSE, does provide stability. Currently, we maintain four kernel branches, three of which (2.6.9-rhel4, 2.6.18-rhel5, 2.6.18-vanilla) are stable -- and it's up to a user to decide which branch to use. We will support at least RHEL4 and RHEL5 branches for a few more years. With OpenVZ, users can have the best of both worlds -- enterprise-class stability combined with an open development model. Did I mention commercial support option?

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