Okay, here's a cool little trick, that I doubt IT is aware of:
- Ubuntu offers commercial support for Dapper 6.06.* LTS for 5 years on the server and 3 years on desktop with no initial upfront expense.
Wait, I thought I said that this was cool. What's so cool about commercial support for a GNU/Linux distribution? Let's look at it for a second:
- Redhat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) charges an upfront expense with 4 options between $349 USD to $2499 USD. Each having their strength and weakness. Contractual support is available above and beyond those prices and vary extensively. Point of note: RHEL is supported for 7 years, and on a release schedule of 18-24 months.
- SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED) offers a vast array of options, anywhere from single user single processor licenses to multi user multi processor. The initial cost starts at $50 USD, and goes up from there. Contractual subscriptions are also available with the purchase of a license, which increase the initial cost substantially. Point of note: SLED ships with XGL and Compiz by default and removes many corporate barriers with VBA macros and other utilities.
Both Enterprise Linux vendors are solid players in the industry, and are doing very well with helping Linux penetrate the commercial sector. In fact, I would say they are doing more than 90% of the other Linux vendors. Even with the initial cost, you can't go wrong with either choice.
Ah, but you can make a better choice.
Canonical believes that Ubuntu should be free, in both senses of the word. Not only free to modify and redistribute, but free to download and install as well, no catch. Ubuntu does offer commercial support starting at $250 USD and goes up. But the initial out of pocket is $0. So, as an IT manager, you look at your existing IT setup, and decide what your needs and options are, and what road to take. If that road leads you to RHEL or SLED, you'll be in good hands, if it takes you to Ubuntu, you'll be in better hands.
Why in better hands? Well first, not only do you have no initial out-of-pocket license expense, but Ubuntu is built on the best GNU/Linux distribution around: Debian. Every other package management comes 2nd behind apt. Debian is known for it's rock-solid stability, and Ubuntu brings this feature to the table as well. Next, with a single CD install, you can have Ubuntu installed on a plethora of workstations in a fraction of the time as compared the SLED and RHEL. With time being money, Ubuntu has just saved you even more. Lastly, Ubuntu has a 6 month release cycle, with the Long Term Support (LTS) releases every 24 months (I've heard conflicting things on this, but nothing official from Canonical or Ubuntu).
From my standpoint, Ubuntu is looking mighty good.
Not only is the commercial support available, but community support ranks #1 in the Linux community. Everything from forums and wikis to blogs, planets and email. The Ubuntu community support outranks anything out there, in terms of quantity and quality. I personally have seen other GNU/Linux distro users use the Ubuntu community for help, as elsewhere, they aren't getting the help they need.
There are a couple drawbacks though, that might lead you to the path of RHEL or SLED. Currently, Ubuntu 6.06 LTS server only offers a single stack, namely the "LAMP" stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP). This makes it easy to have a web server up using Ubuntu as the appliance, rather than installing and configuring separately. Ubuntu also lacks many of the management tools that seasoned veterans, such as SLED and RHEL, have in their toolkit. However, already, there are in the works of a web based management framework and acquiring other tools from 3rd party vendors. Needless to say, the next LTS will be a lot further ahead, and ready to run full steam with the Big Dogs.
While there may be drawbacks, Ubuntu is a great contender in the commercial sector. I am using it as my workstation at work, and it has been flawless. Even a bad sector on my hard disk, I was able to fix with only 20 minutes on Ubuntu. I use it for my email, task list, office applications, web browsing, programming, intranet server, DBM and instant messaging. It hasn't failed me yet. Updates are seamless, easy, and have yet to cause me any grief or headache. And this is on a full-scale production machine!
In conclusion, if your are in IT, and are looking at deploying Linux in your environment, give Ubuntu worth your decision making time. If it doesn't fit, it doesn't fit. But I think that you will find it can surprise you and it can walk the line.