Red Hat Criticised for Potential Anticompetitive Behaviour

News Article - Tuesday, 20 May 2014 11:38

By: Kerry Butters Category: Hosting

Red Hat has come in for criticism from the open source community regarding a policy that apparently discourages the use of rival products such as OpenStack. However, Red Hat says that the policy is only in place as it would cost too much to support the different versions of OpenStack and "its cloud software needs to be tied tightly to its Linux distribution for technical reasons.”

According to Red Hat President Paul Cormier , the reasons for the policy also include the fact that without tight integration between the two products, a company’s systems could be at risk. Mr Cormier also said that it would be "reckless” to ship untested OpenStack compilations, as without standards, enterprises would lack adequate security.

It’s thought that the policy, which has been described as vendor lock-in, could potentially reduce take-up of OpenStack distributions, as Red hat currently accounts for over 60% of the paid Linux enterprise market.

The story was widely discussed at the OpenStack Summit in Atlanta, with many open source advocates offering the thought that the policy goes against everything open source stands for. Red Hat responded by posting a FAQ , which many feel has only further muddied the waters.

It also emerged that Red Hat employees were told some time ago to stop working on Mirantis, which is an OpenStack systems integrator. This led to a post from Boris Renski, an executive at Mirantis, which said that Cormier’s comments were open to different interpretations.

He went on to say that whilst many OpenStack users and partners felt that the policy gave rise to the idea that Red Hat are engaging in anticompetitive behaviour, he "sincerely want(s) to believe this is not true.”

"We are currently in active talks with Red Hat to collaborate on supporting RHEL for customers who choose the Mirantis OpenStack distribution. While Red Hat does not support customers who choose rival OpenStack distributions today, they did not explicitly shut the door on anyone (yet),” he added .

Renski went on to describe Red Hat as an "open source poster child”, but continued on to point out that "with 64% share in the enterprise Linux market, Red Hat is in a position to dramatically stifle healthy competition in open source ecosystems tied to Linux. OpenStack is one of the most prominent examples of such an ecosystem.”

The domination enjoyed by Red Hat in the sector also means that it has inherited certain obligations, Renski continued, saying also that the company have a duty to invest in certifying Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) on many virtualisation platforms as one of the industry leaders.

Renski said while it may cost Red Hat more to support many cloud technologies, "it is Red Hat’s obligation to invest in this in order to provide customers with choice and access to innovations from vendors besides just Red Hat.”

It’s thought that the OpenStack board will meet in around six weeks to discuss the issues surrounding the policy in more detail. In theory, OpenStack can stop Red Hat from using the OpenStack trademark if it’s found to be behaving in an uncompetitive manner, due to non-compliance of its policies. However, the board said it would need to speak to Red Hat in more depth before it even considers taking any form of action.

"We want a healthy competitive ecosystem,” said OpenStack Foundation executive director Jonathan Bryce. "Anytime there is something that is not good we will take action.”

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