Open Source Old Timers Take Linux Measure

TORONTO — Early players in the open source movement and the creation of Linux distributor Red Hat found themselves taking stock of the open source movement during a Red Hat event here Tuesday.

Linux visionary and founder of Red Hat, Bob Young, made a surprise appearance at a press event to join Red Hat’s CEO, President and Chairman Matthew Szulik, as well as executives from IBM and members of OSDN (Open Source Developer Network) at a discussion as part of Red Hat’s seven-city tour.

“Did I ever expect Red Hat to be as big and as successful as it is today? The short answer is No,” said Young, a member of Red Hat’s board of directors who also heads, an on demand publishing start-up. “When we started, Mark Ewing [Red Hat’s CTO] and I had no idea. What we were trying to do was just pay our bills.”

Young said early on, he saw the open source business model as a way to “fix” the ills of the software industry regarding improving products with a network of developers. At the time, he and his colleagues didn’t think it would evolve to where it is today.

As Szulik began his remarks, he joked that Red Hat “wanted to deal with hard issues that some of you may have in your minds like, “whatever happened to Red Hat Linux and why did you guys kill it?” I know you want to talk about that and we should talk about it.”

Szulik said he sees Linux continuing its growth from being an operating system for serving up Web pages and running some e-mail to enterprise level that can support applications of some of the largest companies in the world. And apparently, he added, venture capitalists think so too, pointing to open source projects such as Ximian, Sourcefire (makers of SNORT), MySQL and JBoss that recently received funding rounds.

“There is a lot of interest in this space,” Szulik said. “It is no longer the heresy that Bob and I had to deal with when we went out and started raising money.”

The whole cloud of doubt that has been created by the SCO issue was not dodged by Szulik who confronted the issue head on, in both his keynote and in the subsequent Q & A session with the audience. He referred to the SCO issue as, “broken glass thrown on our highway of progress.”

In response to a question from the audience about what impact SCO’s lawsuit over Linux might have, Szulik responded, I think the SCO thing has been a really good thing. He said the whole incident has helped to bring the issue of software patents to light and to review by the U.S Federal Trade Commission. He also noted how it has helped Red Hat customers because the company has formed an indemnification policy to help address client’s potential exposure to copyright issues the lawsuit has raised.

The Linux desktop was also discussed by Szulik who noted that most reports don’t properly acknowledge the difference between the consumer and enterprise markets. He talked about how the “FAT” desktop paradigm that has been perpetuated by Red Hat’s competitor (a thinly veiled reference to Microsoft which was never mentioned by name) was not the direction Red Hat was taking.

The Red Hat World Tour was sponsored by IBM, who also made a presentation at the event. In his presentation, IBM spokesperson Chris Pratt talked about how Linux has infiltrated almost every layer of Big Blue. In particular he highlighted the big name websites that IBM manages like Wimbledon, the PGA Tour and others and how Linux solutions enabled them to scale to meet demand.

Richard French, senior vice president and general manager of the Open Source Developers Network (OSDN), which operates open source websites sourceforge, slashdot and newsforge, made a detailed presentation on his network’s Linux infrastructructure. According to French, OSDN sites have served over 13.5 million unique users in March so far across their network. French revealed that OSDN operates across a network of 264 systems, 241 of which are web servers and all but 25 of those are currently being served on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. The final 25 servers are currently running Debian Linux and according to French are scheduled to be migrated to Red Hat by June of 2005.

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