Support for the commercial distributions is always available directly from the distribution providers. You do have other choices, though, and you need to be aware of the consequences of making them.
When you buy SLES from Novell/SUSE, the cost of support is separate from the cost of the upgrade protection. You’re not required to buy support, either from Novell/SUSE or anyone else. This is also true if you buy SLES through someone other than Novell/SUSE. Novell sees this as a way to give its customers choice and flexibility. Some of Novell’s business partners sell SLES as well as support for it. IBM Global Services (IGS) does the same, via their SupportLine for Linux offering. IGS’ official policy is that it will only sell a mainframe Linux distribution when it’s in conjunction with a SupportLine for Linux contract.
When you buy RHEL from Red Hat, support is included in the price. You have the choice of selecting standard or premium support. Some shops have bought RHEL with standard support directly from Red Hat, and then bought SupportLine for Linux from IBM. Because they were medium to large IBM “Gold Card” customers, this wasn’t a large expense for them. Your situation may be different, of course. #When you buy RHEL from someone other than Red Hat, make sure you understand who you can and can’t call for your support. In the Intel market, several companies that sell RHEL have agreements with Red Hat that don’t let you call Red Hat directly. This may or may not be the case with Red Hat for S/390 and zSeries, but make sure you know what your obligations are.
Spend at least a little time thinking about the trade-offs of buying support from someone other than the distribution provider. Some shops like the convenience of having one company to call for any and all mainframe operating system problems. The counter argument is that SUSE and Red Hat know their distributions better than anyone else.
Getting support for the non-commercial distributions is simultaneously:
- Easier because you’re not tied to a small number of choices
- Harder because you or your management may not trust a small company to do the job.
Many executives and managers want to work with support companies that have offices and employees all over the world. Companies that fit those requirements aren’t likely to be interested in supporting a non-commercial distribution with which they have little or no experience. Companies that are known to provide support for mainframe Linux are:
- Mainline Services Group