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01 April 2011, 11:52

Novell not fazed by Red Hat changes

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Novell says it is relaxed about Red Hat's changes to how it distributes the source code for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). It was recently revealed that Red Hat had switched to distributing kernel source code with patches pre-applied and not publishing a manifest of just what patches had been applied. The move was, said Red Hat, in response to competitors offering to support RHEL as part of their own service offerings. Novell and Oracle both offer that service, with Novell's offering being billed as "SUSE Linux Enterprise Server with Expanded Support" and claiming to be up to 50 per cent cheaper than Red Hat. Novell though does not see Red Hat's changes as a problem.

Matthias Eckermann, Senior product manager of SUSE Linux Server, told The H that the company didn't expect any problems to arise. Eckermann pointed out that "no patches should go into an enterprise kernel which hasn't already been sent upstream" and that the common way for an enterprise kernel to be supported was to create a ptf (problem temporary fix) for the specific customer, then discuss with the kernel community how to create a longer term patch. The kernel community includes engineers from Novell and Red Hat, among others, and therefore "our kernel people are working together with Red Hat". Eckerman did concede that there could be extreme cases where a custom patch may have been applied which wasn't being widely applied, but was confident that Novell's engineers would be able easily to isolate and resolve those cases.

Eckermann pointed to the "huge number of kernel engineers" at Novell. In the 2010 edition of the "Who writes Linux" report by the Linux Foundation, in contributions sorted by company affiliation, Red Hat was second with 12% of changes followed by Novell with 7% and IBM with 6.9%. Oracle was eighth with 2.3% of changes, while top of the chart was 'no company affiliation' at 18.9%. Novell is happy that its experience and skills working with SUSE Enterprise Linux and its kernel equips it well to offer its support services to Red Hat Enterprise Linux customers.


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