Smells Like Open Source Spirit: Red Hat’s Breakthrough 2012

A few weeks ago, our own Floyd Strimling decreed August 2012 as Red Hat Month here at Zenoss. Why? Because in short, the company been kicking ass! Back in March, Red Hat became the first open source company to earn $1 billion in revenues. Then the company followed this announcement by joining OpenStack in April, revealed the pricing structure for its OpenShift PaaS solution in June, and made available the preview version of its OpenStack IaaS project about a week ago. And this is just a partial list of its accomplishments.

To me, Red Hat’s ascension is like the technology equivalent of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit shooting to #1 on the Billboard Charts and making the hair metal bands that used to dominate MTV irrelevant.[1] When Red Hat released Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) back in 2003, I remember a lot of tech pundits being skeptical about it. Sure, they said, it had its place in certain situations, but no big enterprise was going to trust its infrastructure with the hippie of operating systems.

Well, we know what happened. Companies like Dreamworks, Fujitsu, Sprint, and Casio, along with non-profits and universities like the American Psychological Association and Cornell, among so many others, rely on Red Hat solutions, most of which have RHEL as its base. Even the NYSE migrated to RHEL a few years back. So how did Red Hat become such an open source leader? Matt Asay, who used to work at Red Hat competitor Novell/SUSE, describeswhy Red Hat leads the enterprise Linux pack:

Why did Red Hat win? Community. No, not the kind of community we sometimes associate with open source, ie, individual hackers staying up late for the love of coding, though that demographic matters. Red Hat contributes more to the Linux kernel than any single individual or company. This, in turn, led Red Hat to attract the second type of community: the “professional developer,” or third-party application developer. Red Hat managed to amass an unassailable third-party application ecosystem lead…Call it the virtuous cycle of commercial open-source community development.

Red Hat may not be Nirvana, but it’s made IT a much better place to be.

  1. This dates me, I know, but try to imagine a time where to hear or even find out about anything good, you either had to buy the whole album, borrow from friends, spend a lot of time at your college radio station, or time your VHS to record MTV’s “120 Minutes.”  ↩
  2. Image via Wikipedia


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