Judging open source innovation with Red Hat

From the ‘just cause you vote for someone doesn’t mean they’ll win‘ files:

Red Hat has announced its Red Hat Innovation Award winners this a.m. It’s a process that I was invited to participate in as a judge this year. I got to see all of the raw applications from companies and groups hoping to win recognition for their innovative use of open source technologies. While some of the final winners are the same as what I voted highly, some were not the ones I personally had rated the highest.

I guess I have a slightly different view of innovation than some of the other judges — though not much since I ranked all of the winners highly. But first let’s talk about the winners that I do agree with.

Nortel won in the Delivered Value category. Nortel, which I personally did not know as a Linux user, actually manages some 2,000 machines with Red Hat Network Satellite server. The application that I saw from Nortel wasn’t just a ‘oh we needed a solution then chose Red Hat’ — it was more a case of Nortel had a need and Red Hat created a solution for them.

In a real sense Nortel was among the first users of RHN satellite, which is a solution that thousands of enterprises around the globe rely on. I saw it as a case of a company working with a vendor to solve a problem and the resulting solution truly delivering value. While there were other really good entries in this category, Nortel really stood apart from the rest.

In the creativity category IBM and Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems won for a system they built for the U.S. Navy. Yup Linux is on U.S Naval Warships defending the free world and American interests. The system that Red Hat fits into there (again something that required all kinds of interesting work) is the Zumwalt Total Ship Computing Environment (TSCE).

Now while I voted for IBM/Raytheon, if I recall correctly I had them higher in a different category for awards. The innovative use of open source in a U.S. Navy ship is certainly creative, but it’s also a case in my opinion in which Linux won out against other alternatives. Certainly the U.S. Navy and its subcontractors have built shipwide systems before — in this case they had a real challenge, which Linux was able to solve better than any other solution.

For creativity I was totally blown away by a different submission that didn’t make the final awards.

So wanna know who I had tops in the creativity category? Unfortunately, I don’t think I can name names (right Red Hat? Confidentiality and all that), but I will hint at what the project was doing.

Robots playing soccer.

Cool, eh? Sure a full U.S. Navy ship system is a cool tool, though that’s a more functional sense in my opinion. When I think of creativity I think of creativity in terms of using Linux (or any open source) in a completely different way than anyone has ever thought off before.

So congratulations to the winners — both those who were recognized as winner this year and to those who had awesome submissions this year that I suspect could be winners in the years to come.

It’s always incredibly enlightening to me to see how groups and companies use open source technologies in areas and situations you wouldn’t think off. It’s always interesting to see how problems turn into solutions (and not just the marketing double-talk that we all hear so often — but real-life situation without any b.s.). So thanks Red Hat for inviting me to participate in the process.

(Oh and hey if any other group/vendor/org needs a judge, I’m usually happy to help out!)

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