Red Hat offers academic versions of enterprise software

The fact that Red Hat Inc. announced new solutions with special pricing for the education and academic community this week won’t convince at least user to start dishing out coin for Red Hat’s enterprise edition.

Ian Howard, systems analyst, Unix Specialist at Ontario’s University of Waterloo’s Information Systems and Technology department said Red Hat is trying to sell a product that he’s not interested in buying.

“The main problem for us is licensing – licensing prices certainly are a factor but once you are getting into the business of licensing it gets in the way of some of the reasoning for using open source software in the first place,” Howard explained. “I almost feel like we are being extorted by Red Hat.”

IT departments across the University have decentralized systems, Howard said, but the open source philosophy fits well with the mandate of the University of Waterloo – which is the pursuit of learning and knowledge. Buying a commercial product doesn’t fit with that philosophy, he added.

“I mean there’s lots of other commercial products we could pay for, but we choose to use Linux because it was open source,” he said. “There’s inherent freedom when something’s open source…there’s flexibility, it allows us to grab a machine from the back corner of the room and build it up and make it into something usable without having to license it from a commercial identity.

Howard said Red Hat is forcing his department to chose between the philosophy associated with the open source community and the culture of the open source movement to a commercial product. His department has started to adopt Fedora and Debian because they are community-based and open source – something that Howard said was a natural migration path from the free community version of Red Hat that his department was using in the past.

Students, faculty and staff members of qualified institutions can access Red Hat’s academic solutions as either individual subscribers or through a site program, Red Hat said in a statement.

The two types of programs available are the Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS Academic Edition, which provides a platform for applications such as network infrastructure, Web hosting and High Performance Computing server farms. The annual subscription cost is US$25 for an individual system. Academic communities can also buy a site subscription for either the entire student body or a group of departments. A basic package costs US$2,500 per year and includes unlimited subscriptions to Red Hat Enterprise Linux WS Academic Edition for all systems personally owned by students, faculty and staff, the company said.

There will likely be some of Red Hat’s academic versions popping up around campus, Howard said, but only if the university requires a qualified version of Linux because of an application dependency, such as and Oracle Corp.-based application.

“We’ve been nervous by Red Hat for the past eight or nine months because we knew that we would have to make a decision,” Howard said. “They’ve given us the impetus to make a choice, but in many cases it’s alleviated many of our concerns because now we know the direction that they are taking.”

Howard said his department hasn’t made a final decision, but they’ve pretty much decided to stick with Fedora and Debian.

“It’s a major philosophical difference,” he explained. “For people who believe in open source, it’s almost religious.”

The academic solutions are currently available in the U.S. and Red Hat said it would roll out the solutions in other regional markets shortly.

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