I have been fondly thinking of the "good old days" of Red Hat 9 recently. It seemed so clear back in the day that if you wanted to run any kind of server (or proprietary server software) that you could just run it on Red Hat 9. Everyone seemed to be using Red Hat. Debian was extremely popular, but if you just wanted to get going and run something Red Hat 9 seemed to be the obvious choice.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Suse Linux Enterprise just never could obtain the same kind of ubiquitous/de facto status as those early distributions had. All of a sudden sysadmins had to scramble to find new solutions or pay up. A lot of uncertainty ensued for vendors and for customers. The reasoning behind the change was sound but it left a big gap, which Debian and more so Ubuntu gladly filled. I know that Fedora and more recently OpenSUSE are strong, robust alternatives, but it just doesn't fit the bill as old Red Hat 9 did.
Could it be that had Red Hat just opened their development process to leverage the community more (the Ubuntu model) the world would've been a different place? I think now that things are really starting to take off the opportunity for revenue through services and support is really taking off for Ubuntu (and Canonical for that matter).
It is hard to tell how things would've been different, but I cannot seem to shake the feeling that if the latest server offering from Red Hat was still as free and ubiquitous as good old Red Hat 9 the world would've been a very different place by now.