Over the weekend it was announced IBM was buying Red Hat. A lot of gasps in the community. Personally, I'm not surprised and some other strategic moves may follow. My guess is Canonical's phone is ringing today. I sometimes think these acquisitions are forty percent about the technology/people and sixty percent about keeping it out of the hands of competitors. In this case, I believe it is about renting remote servers, sorry, cloud computing.

First, think back to when Open Source was a socialist plot to destroy the computing industry (okay maybe a little dramatic on my part). For the those that doubted the power of open source, a company that shares its all of its source code just sold for $34 Billion (with a B) In many books that is win. A big win. Those looking for funding for their next great open source company need only point to Red Hat as an example of how open source can earn money for investors. And, maybe, just maybe, the message will sink in, "It is not all about source code. Shakespeare is freely available and open and unless you know how to put it on stage in a way people will pay you, enjoy and use it as you like." Red Hat has paying customers who derive value from the way they perform Cyber Shakespeare. My invitation to those who somehow feel threatened by these events, take a breath, this is what is supposed happen.

That said, I am also taking a breath today. I am a longtime user of Red Hat Linux. After Slackware, I jumped on the new Red Hat distribution because I could upgraded things easily thanks to RPM packages. In the early days, I had the opportunity to talk with Bob Young (who started Red Hat). What intrigued me was he did not have a technical background nor did he ever do technical marketing. He saw something when he noticed the Beowulf project (Supercomputing using open software and commodity hardware) and an arts student using Linux for an interactive display. Something about Linux and GNU software was touching both rocket scientists and the arts. Now take another breath and think about the last time there was something that built community across disciplines and enabled creativity and discovery. That is what I think Bob saw.

Now Red Hat is to become part of IBM. I have read many comments with theories about how IBM will destroy Red Hat Linux (already!) I don't know what IBM will do with Red Hat Linux any more than I can predict the weather three weeks from now (which by way, has become more accurate thanks to Beowulf computing). I can speak from my experience with IBM, however. IBM "groks" open source and Linux. Almost from the beginning they have contributed to the kernel. They also gave SCO a proper smackdown when they tried to lay claim to Linux. Yes they were looking after their own interests and they could have just bought SCO and ended it (I think that was SCO's plan all along). They did not, they make sure Linux was free and clear of such nonsense.

You can also forget all the doomsday stories about IBM somehow fencing off RHEL and shedding developers. That is not going to happen. Why do you think IBM became such a huge Linux supporter back when AIX Unix was a real shipping product? The answer is simple, the cost to produce a modern server operating system and ecosystem is too large for one organization to bear. Before you start screaming "What about Microsoft or even Apple," they have a desktop and device ecosystems feeding them. Let's try and think, what does Google use again?

Will RHEL change now that IBM owns it? Of course, it has changed since I first started using version 4. Will IBM do the "right thing?" (what ever that is) In my opinion, mostly yes. They understand how to make money and they understand community and the pervasive nature of open software. Why buy a butterfly if you are going to put it in glass jar, close the lid and let it die.

And now what happens to things like CentOS and Fedora? Another unknown and there are options thanks to that "open" thing. Distributions like Debian and Ubuntu are not tied to the RHEL dock and can be used if you are concerned. Most packages are available and if not, compilers and source code are.

In my world, I build desk-side clusters using CentOS and Scientific Linux because they work pretty much like RHEL. Admittedly, I'm just now changing over to version CentOS 7 because I'm not real happy about the whole systemd thing. (Yes it improves speed and optimization by ingesting all services and a bunch of other things under one umbrella. Optimization creates Fragility, you may want to check out N. N. Taleb) For now, I'm going to keep using CentOS because I have no reason to change. Should I need to go another route, there are freely available options to which I can use and contribute. I have a Choice. Neo was right, it is about choice.

Just as I am delighted that Red Hat has fetched a nice price, I am also encouraged with the Devuan fork of Debian that does not use systemd. See how that works. And that my dear friends is why I can breathe freely in the open source community.


0 #1 Douglas Eadline 2018-12-06 12:41

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