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RHEL vs. Oracle Linux pricing

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Oracle is cheaper and "Basic" license is per system, not per two sockets, like Standard license for RHEL.  Oracle does not impose an artificial, IBM style, restriction on the number of virtual guests, which makes Red Hat smell really bad. So if you are using virtual instances Oracle Linux is "highly preferable".  Also XEN is higher quality virtualization solution then KVM. If Docker is adequate for you needs then it does not  matter.

For RHEL6 Oracle provides longer support (till March 2021, not November 30, 2020) than Red Hat. The cost of extended services for Premium support is lightly cheaper.  This is important because in many organization resent systemd (which does not provide any value for stationary, wired servers) and RHEL6 is the last release without systemd.

And now we have so called CentOS8 fiasco, when Red Hat abruptly and arbitrary cut the support of CentOs8 from 10 to one year. The question arise: "Should not Red Hat be at least slightly punished for its obnoxious behaviour?". They have a right to abandon CentOS (and it was uneasy relationship from the very beginning as Red Hat brass thinks that it cuts in RHEL sales), but if they promised support of CentOS8 for 10 years they should keep the word, no matter what it cost them.   

The technical steering committees in major  corporations since this surprising news are still digesting it, but early signs suggest that this move might  cost Red Hat real money. From what I can tell, CentOS 8+ from 2021 will serve only as an unstable testing ground for RHEL releases, king of RHEL beta release. Thus making it a poor choice for production environments where using paid version is counterproductive and the quality of CentOS was adequate to the tasks in hand.  Also dealing with Red Hat licenses is a sysadmin's nightmare, even if money is not a problems. They slightly improved this messy licensing system since RHEL6 by introduction of  Subscription Manager (RHSM)  but the problems for testing and research remains.

Also with systemd  Red Hat has established a pattern of taking a good thing and destroying any faith placed in it. In a way, CentOS8 fiasco is a continuation of the same trend.

In addition the level of complexity of RHEL7 and 8 is such that RPM based package management is yet another sysadmin hell. Red Hat RPM system is the copycat of Solaris system, which was designed for proprietary OS,  for which source code was not accessible.  For open source system FreeBSD/Gentoo way of dealing with packages, where you can compile contain libraries statically, is probably preferable and less prone to complex errors and conditions like "Multilib version problems" typical for RPM database. The idea that very library is loadable library from advantage on early stages of Red Hat history, with the growth of the number of installed RPMs turned into huge disadvantage and now bites both programmers and users in the butt.  I think one reason of popularity of GOlang languages is that it uses static linkage. 

In any case, dealings with the esoteric problems in RPM database became a favorite pasture of Red Hat system administrators ;-). And this is not a good development. The level of knowledge of RPM and YUM required represent another level of overhead in already overly complex  system. While Red Hat fully controls enterprise Linux (note how they shoved such an inferior solution to a minor problem as systemd down the throat of the community) and we can do nothing about it, it is counterproductive to encourage such behaviour by providing Red Hat with excessive number of licenses. 

So the problem of minimization of the number of Red Hat licenses is not only a question of saving money; in view of systemd it is also the matter of technical policy and, in view of CentOS8 fiasco and is also a matter of fairness. IBM/Red Hat  brass needs to be kept accountable for its actions. In this sense moving to clone such as Oracle Linux can be a form of the protest against the current technical direction of Red Hat Linux and obnoxious behaviour of IBM/Red Hat brass in case of  CentOS8 fiasco

The problem of minimization of the number of Red Hat licenses is not only a question of saving money; in view of systemd it is also the matter of technical policy and, in view of CentOs8 fiasco and is also a matter of fairness.. IBM/Red Hat brass needs to be kept accountable for its actions. In this sense moving to clones such as Oracle Linux can be a form of the protest against the current technical direction of Red Hat Linux and obnoxious behaviour of IBM/Red Hat brass in case of  CentOS8 fiasco.

Conversion from Red Hat to Oracle linux is possible using special script and in most  cases can be done by a sysadmin of medium qualification, who knows Bash well (you need to understand the conversion script to use it on production boxes). There risks like in any complex conversion and with proper preparation they can be minimized. And the ability to run the same OS in unsupported "patched only" variant while enjoying Premium support for critical severs  is an advantage that should not be overlooked  (to say nothing about huge savings if you have over 1K Linux servers in the corporation and only 100 needs paid support ).

For example, in a computational cluster you need the support only for one computational node and the headnode (two Premium licenses, or one Premium for the headnode and regular for one computational node). All computational nodes but one can run on CentOS-style version of Linux. Oracle allows this, Red Hat allowed it in the past in inconsistent way before (stressing the differences and without smooth conversion path from CentOS to Red Hat and back), but not any longer (or, more correctly, one year for CentOS8 and until June 2024 for CentOS7.)   Oracle took a more reasonable, Ubuntu style,  position and allows to convert and license CentOS servers to get support and vise versa to switch to free patches in for a particular server support is no longer needed, or desirable.  That's in addition to the advantage to have unlimited VMs without paying extra for licensed versions of Oracle Linux, and the ability to use XEN (which is a higher quality VM solution then KVM.)   In other words, Oracle beats Red Hat in its own game.

Oracle took a more reasonable Ubuntu style, position and allows to license CentOS style boxes to get support.  Paid version has an to the advantage of unlimited VMs without paying extra for each instance.

See Converting CentOS to Oracle Linux as for details and possible pitfalls of the conversion. It is doable and is reasonably reliable to be applied to production boxes. It need higher qualification of sysadmin to deploy it (seniors sysadmin level with a good skills of programming in Bash and excellent knowledge of yum), though as it does not always finishes successfully the first time and you are left with the OS in some intermediate conversion stage; at this point you need to modify the script removing executed steps and proceed with the conversion by emulation of remaining steps. In the current version after to re-run the script after you fixed initial error due to which it bolted leads to a disaster -- removal of over 3000 RPMs including   dracut, sssh, cron and other vital daemons. But if you ensure that all prerequisites are met and the RPM/YUM database in in good order, the conversion itself is very reliable and the server always reboots into new OS.

In enterprise environment one year licensing cost for Red Hat Linux is generally 10-20% of the cost of the server,  which means that if you pay Red Hat premium license for, say five years that would be the cost of a decent two socket server with 128GB of RAM and two fast CPUs. So in five year period Red Hat doubles the price of hardware.  That's too much for almost non-existent support and crippled by systemd OS. And here you need to take a pause and think about how to cut those costs.


Source: CDW prices

  1 year 3 year
Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server Self-support (up to 1 guest) $349/socket-pair $995/socket-pair
Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server Standard (up to 1 guest) $799/socket-pair $2,277/socket-pair
Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server Premium (up to 1 guest) $1,299/socket-pair $3,702/socket-pair
Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server Standard (up to 4 guests) $1,199/socket-pair $3,417/socket-pair
Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server Premium (up to 4 guests) $1,949/socket-pair $5,555/socket-pair
Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server Standard (unlimited guests) $1,999/socket-pair $5,697/socket-pair
Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server Premium (unlimited guests) $3,249/socket-pair $9,260/socket-pair

Oracle Linux

Source: Oracle Linux Support and Oracle VM Support Global Price List (PDF)

  One year Three years Licensing metric
Oracle Linux Network 119.00 357.00 Up to two physical CPUs
Oracle Linux Basic Limited 499.00 1,497.00 Up to two physical CPUs
Oracle Linux Basic 1.199.00 3,597.00 System, unlimited sockets
Oracle Linux Premier Limited 1.399.00 4,197.00 2 sockets
Oracle Linux Premier 2.299.00 6,897.00 System, unlimited sockets


Comparison matrix for one year licensing costs

  Oracle Red Hat Licensing metric
Patches and access to knowledgebase (Oracle also provides patches for free in CentOS style) 119.00 $349 Up to two physical CPUs
Patches and Web-based tickets support 499.00 $799 Up to two physical CPUs
Patches and (supposedly) better than just Web tickets support 1.399.00 $1,299 2 sockets. In case of RHEL only one KVM guest

Extended support

Extended support is expensive in both cases.  for Oracle you can license support only for critical serves (which has Premium license already) paying 10% or 20% premium, and use CentOS-style license for all the rest. For Red Hat you need to continue to buy licenses for each server plus  extended Life Cycle support license for critical servers, which is approx  $428per for each server or VM.  If we assume that 120% of  1.399.00 is 1678.8, then Red Hat premium support plus $428.8 would be $1727 and Oracle has a small edge on Premium level, but costs substantially more, if you use Red Hat standard license.

CDW does not disclose price for Red Hat extended support license ( Red Hat Enterprise Linux - Extended Life Cycle Support - 1 physical-virtual - RH00270S),  but other merchants mention the price $428,80 (physical or virtual node).

Both Oracle and Red Hat provides the extended support only RHEL6.10 (the last release)

If you require software maintenance and full technical support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6, Red Hat strongly recommends that you purchase the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 Extended Life Cycle Support (ELS) Add-On subscription. The Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 ELS Add-On complements your Red Hat Enterprise Linux subscription and provides software maintenance services not otherwise available in the Extended Life Phase. Customers who purchase the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 ELS Add-On subscription continue to receive software maintenance (per the RHEL 6 Inclusions List, certain Critical and Important security fixes and selected (at Red Hat discretion) urgent priority bug fixes) and technical support as provided in the Maintenance Support 2 Phase. Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 ELS is available through June 30, 2024, and requires that you have an existing Red Hat Enterprise Linux subscription with equivalent subscription terms and support level. ELS is only available for Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server subscriptions, and is not applicable to all RHEL versions covered by ELP.

NOTE: ELS is only supported on the last minor release. In this case, RHEL 6.10.

For more information on the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 ELS Add-On, visit the ELS section of the life cycle.

The Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 ELS Add-On content (per the RHEL 6 Inclusions List, certain qualified Critical and Important security fixes and selected (at Red Hat discretion) urgent priority bug fixes) for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 will be available via Subscription Manager as a child channel of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 base channels. The child channel will be located under the product “Red Hat Enterprise Linux ELS.” For more information on how to access Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 ELS content on Subscription Manager, visit How do I access Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 Extended Life Cycle Support (ELS) content after Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 transitions to Extended Life Phase?.

Extended Support is available for Oracle Linux at the following uplift rates:

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