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Re: This was posted on Digg.com -- Linux Distribution blog/article

Jeff Licquia <jeff@licquia.org> wrote:
> I'm not convinced such departments exist in any quantity. 

Remember Munich?

The IBM-SuSE proposal won Linux over Microsoft's Windows
proposal, but in the end, the city decided to go Debian. 

> Nor am I convinced that even a majority of the few which do
> exist do what you describe.

I'm sure some tap IBM, Progeny or other consulting firms for
some work.  But there are large departments that do their own
regression testing, integration testing, deployments,
configuration management, etc...

Heck, as a developer, I like to do prototype development on
Gentoo first, because I'm swapping in and out all sorts of
different versions of things.  Once I nail down a good set, I
like to adopt the appropriate Fedora Core release that uses
the versions, with Fedora Extras and 3rd party packages as
needed.  Once regression and integration testing is complete,
I find the most appropriate RHEL release and build any
necessary packages that aren't included for it -- and that's
what is builded as the development/run-time for the software.

> Sure, all departments should have QA in some form.  But I
> would be surprised to learn that the QA for the
> users is really all that better than the QA for the
> package-distro users.

What is "better"?  How do you define "better"?

If a company is not changing many of the packages included
with the packages distro, then they can leverage all that
mindshare and collective knowledge that goes into the
packages distro -- especially if their needs are just what
comes with an enterprise flavor that changes very little.

But if a company is changing many, many of the packages, and
there is a great amount of conflicts, dependency hell and
other, radical changes to the distro that not only impedes
rollouts, but _negates_ the regression/integration testing
that was done (because enough things are changed), then is it

Yes, it would be "better" if the distro largely met the needs
of the company "out-of-the-box," because the company would
get all that mindshare that went into the packages distro --
especially a mature, enterprise distro that already had 2-3
non-enterprise/community revisions used by possibly hundreds
of thousands.

But now let's talk about niche configurations, the area where
fewer and fewer people are using a similar configuration.  At
some point the distro is changed enough that it's no longer a
well trusted distro in its form.  So not only does the
customization load incur cost, but there's reduced benefit
because the integration has changed radically enough it has
to be re-tested.

So sometimes it's "less work" and "better" to start with the
custom base you need -- be it from Debian or Fedora project,
or maybe a ports distro like Gentoo -- and then put all the
efforts towards regression, integration and other testing, as
well as roll-out and a custom configuration management
approach.  Gentoo was basically designed to lessen the
administrative headaches of this burden than Linux From
Scratch (LFS), so people could focus more on the testing and
management aspects (instead of just being happy they could
get it to build and stopping there).

> More likely, they just have a hole in their QA, and they
> likely suffer for it.

Again, depends on what you need to do to a stock packages
distro to get it to do what you want.  If not much, of
course, I agree with you!  But if it's a radical mod, then
no, it's likely to negate all the mindshare already done,
while impeding the customization.

I agree that many Gentoo users do _not_ take configuration
management seriously.  I've also seen some projects adopt
Debian and fail to look at such things -- at least versus the
"enterprise" distros.  But when testing and configuration
management are addressed well for necessary, niche,
customized solutions, they work extremely well.

> (And if they don't, I argue that they could save IT budget
> money by switching to a package-based distro, especially if
> they contract Progeny to give it to them.)

Depends on what they need.

> Not that departments don't exist with the capabilities to
> do this, or that organizations in general never test.  But
> building and maintaining a distribution is hard work.

A distribution for _who_?

I agree, maintaining your own distro for _others_ is
difficult.  But maintaining a distro for your _own_,
_internal_ organization is sometimes _better_ the farther
your needs are from the general.  You understand your
business better than others, especially the more it is not
commonly addressed.

> I don't see how it's possible to justify the cost of that
> work unless you're one of a very small number of
> organizations whose whole business derives from that kind
> of work.

I can.  It's not common, but it does exist.

There are just some situations where Gentoo makes far more
sense than Debian, Fedora or RHEL.  Especially development. 
Especially very customized web/Internet services where you're
replacing the entire Apache stack anyway.

Bryan J. Smith                | Sent from Yahoo Mail
mailto:b.j.smith@ieee.org     |  (please excuse any
http://thebs413.blogspot.com/ |   missing headers)

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