Although Linux devotees, by virtue of their oppressed minority status in the enterprise software market, have been forced to band together in theand make common cause against the dark forces of proprietary, closed-source software. All this merry singing and hand-holding has eclipsed the fact, to the general public, that in fact there are quite a number of different permutations of Linux out there, each with its own priorities and strengths, a state of affairs which surely has some of their advocates gritting their teeth behind the scenes as they attempt to build businesses around products which, of necessity, have been almost impossible to differentiate to business decision-makers.
Advocates for four of the major distributions do their best in this recent article from CIO Magazine, "Making the case for Linux distributions in the Business." Unfortunately, I don't think they succeed.
Spokespersons for Red Hat, Suse, Ubuntu, and Fedora all make their cases in individual statements, but all come away sounding either the same or as though they are repeating bland marketing platitudes which might have originated in Redmond. The poor guy from Fedora has the worst of it, as the distro is basically Red Hat before it hits quality control… he has both the challenge of explaining to potential enterprise clients why frequent patches are cool, and trying not to sound like a test-case for Red Hat.
I think the advantages and disadvantages of Linux in the enterprise are already pretty clear cut and I am sure that each of the four advocates would still agree that free and open software is prefereable to expensive proprietary code. You have to wonder, though, if beyond this general agreement there lies a conflict waiting to erupt should Linux, as a whole, ever unseat Microsoft as king of the hill in the corporate data center or desktop. Would Red Hat vilify Ubuntu as they have Microsoft over the years? Will Waltham ever carry the same ring of dread in some ears as does Redmond today?
I don't think we're anywhere close to finding out, but it's intriguing to speculate how much rhetoric is involved in all these debates and how much legitimate difference.