Red Hat has set the standard for world class software support, consistently earning top marks with CIOs for its efforts. On Thursday, however, Red Hat outdid itself, introducing a new product support plan called Extended Update Support. In a nutshell, Extended Update Support enables customers to run their mission-critical systems for longer stretches of time without having to take production systems offline to update them.
From the announcement:
Extended Update Support allows a customer with a large mission-critical deployment to reduce server administration and management costs by standardizing on a single update release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux for up to 18 months--all while preserving stability and data security.
As Red Hat explains, most software companies allow customers to standardize on a minor, "point" release for 6 to 9 months, or at most 12 months. Through its Extended Update Support program, however, Red Hat is letting customers pick a Red Hat Enterprise Linux build and stick with it for up to 18 months, up to three times the industry average. That means less downtime and less need to re-validate software stacks running on RHEL.
While Red Hat commits seven years of support for a major RHEL version, the dot releases within the versions change about every six months. Within those dot releases, the company ensures application compatibility because it doesn't change the runtime environment, the area where the Linux kernel interacts with applications. So even if there are patches for security or bugs and whatnot in the dot release, customers do not have to go through application testing and certification, which can take many months, as long as they stay within a RHEL version.
This is a great service to Red Hat's customers, and provides further evidence that Red Hat's subscription model helps it to be more attuned to customer needs. Red Hat isn't selling an upfront license: it's selling the continued value of an ongoing subscription. By tuning that value to actual customer needs--in this case, the need to disturb production systems as little as possible to reduce risk and save money--Red Hat ensures renewals.
Subscription models align vendor interests with customer interests. Red Hat's Extended Update Support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux is setting the pace. It will be interesting to see who follows.