[Arm-dev] Enterprise distros and the two faces of 'reliability'

Gordan Bobic gordan at redsleeve.org
Fri Oct 26 16:36:07 UTC 2018

I think "Enterprise" and "Embedded" are diametrically opposed for a start.
I cannot think of a single non-embedded distro that doesn't tick all your
requirements under 1)
2) generally means no updates unless there's a major bug or security
exploit, and fixes for those only get backported - no major updates.
Having said that, such backporting is in itself problematic and often
introduces bugs. Personally, I run my own built and packaged LT mainline
kernels on all my servers, rather than distro provided ones because I find
them less problematic and upstream tends to be much more responsive to bug
reports unless you are paying very substantial amounts for a support
contract that guarantees you actual fixes within an SLA period.
And even then, on enterprise distros like CentOS, updates often break
things. For example, I've had to disable Xorg updates and mitigate security
vulnerabilities in other ways because latest 1.19 completely fails to start
up on my system while 1.17 works fine. Older post-1.17 versions would
randomly crash out. So just because a distro is "enterprise", it doesn't
mean it's more stable in the sense of likely to crash your systems (servers
or workstations) less often. The moment you stray off a _very_ well beaten
path (handful of models of highly branded servers that sell by the hundreds
of thousands that everything gets extensively tested on), you are going to
be on your own.

If you are working on your own embedded project on hardware that only a
handful of people use on a daily basis, I would say using an enterprise
distribution as a base buys you close to nothing. And I say that as one of
the original guys that ported EL6 on armv5tel (See: RedSleeve Linux). My
motivation is that I'd rather have at least the upstream security fixes
long term back-patched, and deal with the porting myself, but while that
buys you something in terms of the security aspect, my experience is that
it doesn't really buy you all that much in terms of stability.


On Fri, Oct 26, 2018 at 5:19 PM Fred Gleason <fredg at paravelsystems.com>

> Howdy Folks:
> Our discussion of the distinctive elements of CentOS’s Aarch64 variant has
> gotten me pondering. What does an ‘enterprise’ distro bring to the table
> that makes it desirable over the alternatives available? (By ‘enterprise
> distro’, I here mean the stream of data originated by the Upstream
> Provider, as well as those modified and distributed by all the various
> downstream projects, including CentOS). To my mind, I see two basic
> categories that are relevant here:
> 1) ‘Enterprise’ features, by which I mean things like: supports ‘big iron’
> systems, supports fault tolerance and scalability, interoperates well with
> all of the common ‘non-native’ protocols and features found in a typical
> large computing environment.
> 2) ‘Stability’ features, by which I mean: has a well-defined
> infrastructure for distributing code fixes and security updates, has a long
> support lifetime, manages the ABI carefully so as to ensure that system
> updates can be applied with good confidence that they will not break
> existing locally-installed applications.
> These two categories are largely orthogonal. I say ‘largely’ because there
> is a hidden implicit commonality: reliability. Yet the presence of one need
> not necessarily imply the presence (or even desirability) of the other. For
> example, a project that uses an ‘embedded’ board (BeagleBoard, etc) to make
> small, autonomous ‘widget’ type devices really does not care about about
> the presence of 1), while 2) can be a highly desirable attribute. Category
> 1) is essentially an *operational* attribute, desirable in certain use
> cases but superfluous (or even counterproductive) in others, while category
> 2) addresses *maintenance* issues, critical for long-term service and
> support of a system but largely irrelevant to the typical day-to-day
> operation of applications.
> All of this to pose the question: is an ‘enterprise’ distro (in the
> specific sense meant here) an appropriate long-term choice for an
> ‘embedded’ project? Given the stated intention of the Upstream Provider to
> support only ARM systems that integrate APCI and comply with SBSA  [Server
> Base System Architecture] standards in future major releases (see
> https://lists.centos.org/pipermail/arm-dev/2017-October/003120.html), is
> such a distro an appropriate long-term choice for an ‘embedded’ project?
> Cheers!
> |----------------------------------------------------------------------|
> | Frederick F. Gleason, Jr. |              Chief Developer             |
> |                           |              Paravel Systems             |
> |----------------------------------------------------------------------|
> |       A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.      |
> |                                        -- General George Patton      |
> |----------------------------------------------------------------------|
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