Linux in the glass house / Linux at the edge
Recently, as noted here, the IBM T41 has been through a raft of distros. It/I has/have settled in on Fedora Core 6 for now, although OpenSUSE 10.2 is probably in it's near future. All part of a search for a perfect laptop distro that can run Evolution decently enough to connect to the corporate MS Exchange server and read my calendar therein. Even though it does not have the Evolution requirement (all Gmail needs is Firefox), my personal IBM X30 Linux laptop runs Ubuntu 6.10 at the moment.
When RedHat and SUSE came up with their data center editions, they were not just addressing the need to include RAID controllers and lights out or SAN controller cards, and all the sundry things servers have that desktops and laptops do not. They were also addressing the fact the software companies such as ourselves here at BMC were knocking ourselves out trying to maintain the updating pace that the desktop oriented distros maintain. Really: Ubuntu and kin release a major new version every six months: Same thing over at Fedora Core. OpenSUSE too. That kind of schedule would be brutal to BMC to try to fully test and certify our products, to be sure.
That rate of OS change and updating, so viscous to us as a software vendor or for that matter to a customer trying to run a data center with a predictable service level, is actually nice .. no... make the necessary... for me on my Linux desktop or even more so my laptop: the hardware technology changes so fast, with new chips and new wireless cards, and whatnot coming out all the time. I would really be unhappy if I had to wait 18 months to get a major feature, like a new wireless card, working.
There is the happy side effect that anything we all test on the dynamic distros is shaken down and tested before it makes it into the data center version of the OS.
There is a bit more to it than that though.