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Red Hat Doesn't Want Mono

There are a lot of great new programs and innovations expected in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5. The Novell-led Mono project isn't one of them.

Mono is an open source implementation of Microsoft's .NET framework. It recently hit version 1.2 offering the promise of improved Windows-to-Linux .NET portability.

It is included in Linux distributions beyond Novell's SUSE Linux, including Red Hat's Fedora Core 6.

Fedora first began including Mono in Fedora Core 5, which also includes the Mono-powered Beagle desktop search, F-Spot photo management utility and Tomboy note-taking applications.

Mono is also covered for patent protection under the terms of the Novell-Microsoft deal, though Mono's developers claim that Mono is patent free and aspires to remain that way.

That said, Mono isn't in the beta 2 of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, which was recently released.

Coincidence?

During the press conference to announce the deal with Novell, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer warned the Linux community that the patent deal was only with Novell and that others would still be at risk.

Evidently, Red Hat was listening, though Red Hat doesn't cite the Microsoft agreement as the root cause for not including Mono in RHEL 5.

"It had nothing to do with recent Microsoft Novell thing," Joel Berman a Red Hat Enterprise Linux product marketing director, told internetnews.com.

According to Berman, discussions related to the inclusion of Mono had been going on before the Novell Microsoft deal was announced.

Rather than citing the potential legal risk Berman noted the technical limitations of Mono as the reasons why Red Hat won't include Mono in RHEL 5.

"We don't like the fact that though it's very easy to write stuff in Mono and port to Windows, it's very difficult to take Windows applications and move them back over to Linux," Berman said.

"We also think the whole Java way to go with Web Services works just fine. Obviously with JBoss we made a strong commitment to that."

Red Hat acquired JBoss for $350 million in 2005. Just this week it announced a new SOA strategy for JBoss that will see the open source Java application vendor roll out an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) to help to facilitate integration.

Beyond Web services and enterprise applications, though, Mono serves as a platform for desktop applications, notably Tomboy, F-spot and Beagle.

"It almost sounds like I'm bashing another open source vendor and I hate to do that but the thing with beagle is that I can tell about as many people that like beagle that don't like it," Berman said.

"I think there are other good alternatives for searching."

Tomboy, however, is a different story. Berman said that he knows a lot of people that use and like Tomboy. But the issue that Berman has with Tomboy is with its Mono backend.

"There is no good reason for Tomboy to need Mono," Berman said. "It turns out that a relatively small application brings in a huge amount of dependencies so I wouldn't be surprised to see an equivalent type Tomboy thing to emerge."

Berman did not provide any details as to what Tomboy alternative may emerge but he did hint that something that looks more like a wiki sharing desktop is possible.

Fundamentally, though, the reason Mono isn't being included in RHEL 5 may well have to do with demand.

"We haven't had many customers actually planning a real infrastructure beyond the desktop on Mono," Berman argued. "I would say that everyone we talk to, especially those looking at Web Services, they are all using Java."