Red Hat takes heat over certification program

Criticism of Linux vendor Red Hat for its certification policies ended a debate today called "The Future of the Operating System" here at the System Builder's Summit.

Hosted by a panel of representatives from Red Hat, Caldera Systems, Gartner Group, and Novell, what began as a general overview of the need for more applications to run on the popular open-source operating system closed with heated charges from several audience members who claimed that certification by Linux-vendor Red Hat is both expensive and risky.

"Until [system builders] get the support we need from Red Hat, until they come to us instead of thinking we all have to come to them, open source and Linux is going to continue to be all hype," said Mike Daher, vice president at MicroStandard Distributors.

Daher, backed by cheers of support from others attending the debate, said that the Linux community is counting on "Microsoft bashers to praise them and come to their side."

"I'm no more of a fan of Microsoft than the next person, but I can say that the support we get from Microsoft is superior, and less expensive," Daher said. "Microsoft always comes to our door, they bring demo units, keep us in touch with their engineers, and certification for our people costs only $US2000 each, on-site. Red Hat wants $5,000 a person and we have to fly our people to Durham (North Carolina)."

Daher also said Linux certification through Red Hat presents the risk of attrition by those gaining certification.

"You have to get your key people certified on these operating systems," Daher said. "Our customers ask if we are, and certification gives our business more legitimacy. But look at it from our perspective: It's hard enough to find and keep talented IT people, and Red Hat is asking us not only to spend $5,000 a person, which eats heavily into our cost, but we also have to lose a $60,000-employee for two weeks, who after being certified, can move almost anywhere he wants, maybe even over to Red Hat. There aren't that many Linux-certified people out there."

"There are about 1,500 certified Linux engineers right now, and the time required for certification is actually one week," said Lisa Sullivan, the director of channel development at Red Hat, and a member of the debate panel.

Sullivan said that Red Hat is making an effort to bring the Linux-certification process closer to companies interested in certifying their employees. A recent contract between Red Hat and Global Knowledge, an education integration company, will bring Linux certification workshops to regional areas across the United States, according to Sullivan.

"(Red Hat) knows we need to up our visibility," Sullivan said. "That's why we're at events like System Builders."

Representatives from Microsoft were not in attendance at the System Builders conference.

Dan Neel is an InfoWorld reporter

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