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Commercial Linux Support Showdown

Can't Buy Me Love

  • February 25, 2009
  • By Kenneth Hess

Ken Hess
Money can't buy you love; nor can it buy you happiness. But it just might bring you peace of mind. The Big 3 commercial Linux vendors; Canonical, Novell and Red Hat are ready to serve you through support subscription services for your Linux infrastructure. There are some big advantages to using commercial vendor support for your systems: 24x7 priority support, fixed support costs and experts who know your operating system inside and out.

All three companies provide two basic levels of support: Standard and Priority. Standard is support during normal business hours and defined as either 9x5 or 12x5 support, depending on the vendor. A priority-level subscription buys you 24x7 support and one-hour turnaround on priority-one incidents. All subscription models include unlimited incidents. Prices vary widely between vendors, but all are on a per-machine basis.

The idea of fixed yearly support costs is an appealing one. Knowing exactly what your desktop and server support costs will be for the coming year makes it much simpler to create a budget. Purchase a three-year subscription and enjoy a 10 percent discount on the price. Imagine accurately planning a three-year budget -- that's the stuff of bean-counters' dreams!

You know you've spent your support dollars wisely when you hear a calm voice on the other end of your frantic support call say, "Thank you for calling (Vendor) support, I'm here to help." There's nothing quite like personalized support -- you'll experience no fumbles, no stumbles and no million questions about which operating system you have, which kernel you're running or why you picked this distribution over another. Your information pops up on the support person's screen and your incident enters the queue.

Now that you know why you want commercial vendor support, let's look at who delivers it and how much it costs. Please see the Support Pricing Matrix table at the end of this article for a cross-vendor comparison of support options. All of this information is also publicly available on the vendor web sites. Prices shown are "street prices" per physical machine and do not take volume or corporate discounts into account.

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