Because the value of Linux is far more than just being free. Linux is great technology, and Red Hat is well supported great technology. If your only use for an OS is it being no cost, you can't be doing much that's actually important. ;-) Of course, if low/no cost *is* vital to you, then use Fedora, not RHEL.
I'm a old Red Hat fan from way back, but I must admit to feeling lost at the moment with it. I've bought boxed sets for nearly every version since 3.0.3, and have worked to subscribe clients to RHN or RHEL when required. I try to play the Bugzilla game as well. I try to be loyal.
I'll also mention that I'm speaking for myself in a professional sense, and most definitely not my employer.
Horizontal spreading of services has been an often used method for spreading the risk around a machine room. That is, putting your mail server on one machine, and your web server on another.
I support machines for an office of developers, this means I'm not making increased revenue with each extra machine I install. What I am interested in is quality assurance and consistency on security updates, and that one machine going down doesn't take out all the office services.
24x7 support doesn't solve this issue, especially with the specified support turn around times. I could quite potentially burn the cost of a license with idle developers in the time it takes for Red Hat to return my phone call.
I have no objection to paying for software, and I believe Red Hat is worth decent money. Having said that, a yearly subscription is hostile, not to mention a licensing agreement that is hostile and untrusting, followed by a pricing structure that appears to be the sum process of taking the USD value and applying an exchange rate. I know of admins who are requesting things like site licenses, money in hand, and are getting brushed off by sales reps.
Attitudes like "If you can't afford it, it mustn't be a real task" only shows lack of understanding what business in the real world is like. I cannot rationally burn up the annual salary for a junior programmer on recurring subscription licenses for 10 development boxes that may sit unused for a month at a time.
The sad thing I have to admit, is as a sane, professional, and rational admin who has my, my users, and my employers interests at heart, 64-bit Sun hardware and Solaris looks to be an attractive proposition. At least it's not a bottomless money pit for services I won't use.
-- David Jericho