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Red Hat accuses Novell of releasing buggy beta code

Red Hat is accusing Novell of releasing beta code...which Red Hat wrote.

Techworld is reporting that a Red Hat executive has accused Novell of stealing and reselling its code. But ZDNet is reporting that Red Hat is simply accusing Novell of releasing beta-quality code that it developed (which Novell allegedly did no development on). Which is it?

It all revolves around real-time Linux. Today Red Hat launched its MRG (Messaging, Real-Time, Grid) product, while Novell released a similar product (Novell's SuSE Linux Enterprise Real Time 10 (SLERT 10) last week. Red Hat is claiming that SLERT 10 is a weak version of its MRG, stolen code, or both.

On the theft, Techworld writes:

At the London launch of MRG, line of business VP Scott Crenshaw said that the Utah-based rival had used beta versions of Red Hat's code in its offering. "They haven't contributed a line of code", he said. As a result of this change of code, he argued that "all their prior users are cut off" from previous versions.

I'm wondering if Techworld simply misunderstands open source. Novell doesn't have to contribute code to distribute open source'd code. Just ask CentOS. It may be that the code isn't of production quality, but that's Novell's call as to whether it ships it.

Am I missing something?

ZDNet seems to get it right, noting the accusation really revolves around distribution of beta code that Red Hat wrote:

"Till last week, Novell sold a Real Time system that forked their kernel," said Scott Crenshaw, VP of Red Hat's infrastructure business unit, on a visit to London today. Last week, Novell announced SUSE Linux Enterprise Real Time (SLERT), using open source Linux code that Crenshaw says was "80 percent" written by Red Hat people. "We welcome Novell to the real-time community," he said, slightly stingingly: ""We look forward to them making contributions to it."

"They've put out an unstable variant," said Crenshaw. "It doesn't help your customers to ship unstable code - though there may be a market in it."

Doesn't sound like "theft" to me. It sounds like an attempt to jump the gun on getting code out before Red Hat to score a PR win, but Novell isn't known for shipping buggy code. I suspect the company has made improvements to the "beta code" which it is now shipping.

Any comment from Novell?