Red Hat dismisses claim of OpenStack favoritism

Contrary to a news report, Red Hat said it supports RHEL customers regardless of their OpenStack supplier

Red Hat said it provides commercial support for its Linux distribution regardless of which version of OpenStack its customers are using, rejecting a report to the contrary from earlier Wednesday.

"To be clear, users are free to deploy Red Hat Enterprise Linux with any OpenStack offering, and there is no requirement to use our OpenStack technologies to get a Red Hat Enterprise Linux subscription," Paul Cormier, Red Hat president for products and technologies, said in a blog post.

Cormier was responding to a Wall Street Journal report from earlier that charged that Red Hat will not support Red Hat Enterprise Linux if the customer uses a version of the cloud hosting software from another company.

"In its quest to sell OpenStack, Red Hat has chosen not to provide support to its commercial Linux customers if they use rival versions of OpenStack," the report said, citing "documents" seen by the newspaper.

Red Hat's support, which includes providing bug fixes and technical support, is one of the key reasons people pay for its software instead of opting for a free version of Linux, the report notes.

The article raises the idea that Red Hat may be using its dominance in Linux to get a foothold in the nascent but potentially large market for OpenStack software.

Cormier insisted that's not the case. "Red Hat's track record of supporting collaborative innovation and our unwavering commitment to truly open open source are unparalleled," he wrote.

Like Linux, OpenStack is a collection of open-source programs developed by multiple parties. Numerous companies, such as Red Hat, Hewlett-Packard, Canonical, Mirantis and others offer their own commercially supported versions of OpenStack.

Like other operating system vendors, Red Hat typically does not support third-party software installed by customers on its OS, and supports only the components shipped with its distribution. In this case, Red Hat supports its own release of OpenStack, called Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform, and does not provide any assistance should customers have difficulties with other versions of OpenStack.

However, the Journal asserted that Red Hat would not provide commercial support for RHEL itself should customers run non-Red Hat distributions of OpenStack, which would be an unprecedented move in the industry.

The news comes at a time of heightened interest in OpenStack as the user conference for the software, OpenStack Summit, takes place this week in Atlanta.

Red Hat has a major presence in the summit and sees the software as a potential source of revenue growth, thanks to the massive enterprise interest in cloud computing.

According to the market research arm of Deutsche Bank, the growth of commercial subscription sales of Red Hat's flagship RHEL distribution has slowed, to a 16 percent growth rate in fiscal 2014, down from 19 percent in fiscal 2013.

Despite interest in OpenStack -- this year's summit attracted 4,000 attendees, up from 2,600 a year ago -- adoption is still fairly low with mainstream customers, and those who do use the software tend not to contract for commercial support, Deutsche Bank concluded.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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Joab Jackson

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