Like many mixed shops, we started to use Red Hat linux on commodity x86 hardware for Apache, Snort, Ethereal, and other functions about two or three years ago (right when the Red Hat 7.x series emerged). We were able to leverage our Unix admins as well as old and new cheap hardware to fill in gaps when our budget couldn't buy a new Sun or HPUX box dedicated to a single function.
For those of us who needed a dedicated Unix box on our Desktop that would work with the Windows-centric computing environment for users - Mac OS X and G4 Macs were made to order, but we also used a lot of Linux desktops as x terminals for administration as well an even cheaper form of Unix Workstation.
During this time we also were one of the first groups to purchase from the Ala Carte support offerings including Engineering Development Support from Red Hat...for an initial product it wasn't half bad. But then Red Hat started screwing with their support offerings every two to three months. They would change what is available or what was supported and many times this would be while we were negotiating with them for additional support. Eventually the Red Hat Sales Rep said that we had to purchase Red Hat Advanced Server at $2k a pop to get Engineering Support and other Niceties that we had with a similar support agreement from Micro$oft. When I told the Red Hat Sales Rep where is my ROI compared to MS products - because w2k server was only costing me $2k a pop - he said that I didn't have to pay the MS client licenses tax on the workstations. When I told him that I already owned the licenses, he got mad and hung up the phone on me (needless to say he doesn't work at Red Hat any more). Ironically it is cheaper to buy a Sun Fire 100/120 or Sun Fire LX 5X/6X series server with the Solaris license rather than buy a Red Hat AS License. I even get a free year of support from Sun.
What has happened is that if you want to use Red Hat Linux is that you have to pay $$$ for it as opposed to just having to pay for support. I understand that Red Hat is having financial woes and that they are trying to focus on a market that they have some market share in...but what they are forgetting is that the guys who brought linux to that market used the free versions to demo an application and then they added support when they got the OK from management to do a production implementation. It also eliminates the use of the product for quick fixes with a limited budget (Snort Sensors, Ethereal).
Lastly Red Hat has forgotten that People who use Windows at home are going to encourage it at work. Especially if Linux is not available in a form that they can use at home. The main issues with Linux today are: 1. Driver support - this is being fixed every day by hundreds of developers; 2. A reasonable software installation system - Red Hat started a great system with the Red Hat Package Manager, but really have not developed it from the initial product. Many other RPM based distributions of Linux have much better implementations of Red Hat Package Manager than Red Hat (Mandrake comes to mind). Both of these are areas that Red Hat has to devote development dollars and time to help correct for their server/workstation market. They could still make it free to users who don't need support without making that user use an unstable Fedora product. This is the value that they can bring to market...not another Micro$oft type of pricing scheme that is going to turn IT managers and Corporate Managers away from wanting to use their platform. No one is going to build an application on Fedora because of its BETA nature and most corporations aren't going to buy a copy of Red Hat AS for a test implementation. In reality I see Novell/SUSE, Mandrake, and even Debian taking the platform farther than Red Hat.
It was good while it lasted, but it seems that Red Hat did not have the leadership, creativity or imagination to have created a business without reverting to the tried and true schemes of its biggest competitor.