Monday, June 23, 2014

RedHat Subscription model and why OEL is easier.

DISCLAIMER: Some colleagues got me started on this rant, and make no mistake this is a "rant", so I fully intend to blame them for this lengthy deluge of vehemently worded information.

I often work on keeping our repository of various Linux distributions available for my job. Tool's like cobblerd are a great help in this effort. By having our repositories readily available and being able to automate much of our deployment makes deploying Ubuntu, CentOS, and OEL systems a snap. I can have a new system built from scratch in less than 30 minutes and I can do many of them in parallel. (NOTE to self, really really need to start looking at RAZOR)

Now this is all fine and dandy but there is something missing from this setup, Redhat or (RHEL). Why you ask? RHEL repositories require you to be subscribed to them in order to get the updates. You cannot mirror them like you can mirror Ubuntu, CentOS, or OEL. If you want to have a local mirror you are ardently encouraged to use Satellite server. Which is great until you start figuring out the cost of having the privilege of mirroring Redhat's package services. There are other problems with this process, mainly that the mechanics of registering a license on a server with Redhat is an automation headache. It is very possible that I am missing something in this process but frankly I do not see anything that allows this to be automated because I have about 6 billion licensing combinations to go with. (Yes, that is an exaggeration because this is a rant). The astute among you will think well, Redhat has come up with using the answers file to make this process work automatically... Please note this requires Satellite.
Satellite sucks.

"But why do you think Satellite is so bad?". First the cost of Satellite is something like $10K. This isn't much for an enterprise and you would be right, it is not. I have no problem with the cost of the server itself, but wait their is more. $10K gets you the server but you need another subscription for each server you have managed by it. It's not a little bit either. Last quote I had was close to $200 to $250. I hope price has changed and I know the advent of the virtual machine and having RHEL be your Hypbervisor has mucked with how things are but really? $200 per server + $10K for Satellite + Hardware needed to run it locally + Subscription = I can pay for a good Sysadmin and do it all with CentOS or Ubuntu or Debian. This has not even touched on it's usability or lack their of. Redhat would do well to hire a UI designer and process engineer to stream line the workflow for managing it's systems.

I want to like Redhat. I really really do but OEL hosts the current repo for you to mirror. It's licenses are cheaper and it's basically the same as RHEL. Yes, Redhat made it first and Oracle just added their secret sauce for Oracle stuff but OEL is like CentOS but with support. Oracle's Linux engineers are some decent guys and I find them fairly easy to work with. (Oracle, your application support sucks. Sucks so bad I would probably only call support if I was drunk. Regretfully I don't drink so it makes your support process very hard.)

Redhat has great people but they really need to figure out this pricing and licensing/subscription game. As it stands now it is more pain than it is worth using.