IBM buys Red Hat, the open source backlash begins

Unless you were hiding under a rock holding a sign reading ‘don’t tell me about any big corporate technology news’ all week, you’ll know that IBM agreed to buy Red Hat for a total enterprise value of approximately $34 (£27) billion.

Yay, it’s all good then — enterprise open source will get an equal (or perhaps even bigger) injection of effort and investment than seen in Microsoft’s acquisition of GitHub.

Even better, IBM says that Red Hat will now join IBM’s Hybrid Cloud team as a distinct unit, but that there is a focus on ‘preserving the independence and neutrality’ of Red Hat’s open source development heritage.

Actually this is happening everywhere, aside from Microsoft’s $7.5 billion purchase of GitHub, Salesforce’s $6.5 billion acquisition of MuleSoft, we also saw the $5.2 billion merger between Cloudera and Hortonworks — and you can convert those numbers into £GBP if you really feel you must.

Happy days!?

Is everything happy days then?

Tyler Jewell, CEO of OSS integration company WSO2 and former CEO of Codenvy suggests that not everything is as rosy in the Red Hat deal as one might imagine.

He claims that during his own short tenure at Red Hat, discussions of the company being acquired were broadly discussed with Google, Microsoft and IBM as likely acquirers.

“While [this is] a fantastic validation of open source software, the acquisition is potentially damaging for customers if IBM moves Red Hat toward its traditional closed and proprietary model,” notes Jewell, in a blog post. “IBM will kill the Linux spirit that lives within Red Hat  — potentially opening the door for distributions other than CentOS and Fedora to gain wider acceptance.”

Jewell’s naysaying negativity continues as he suggests that IBM’s commercial- and patent-first culture will erode Red Hat’s open source and innovation advantages.

Further, he claims that this acquisition is a disaster for the Kubernetes and Docker communities, because these important competitors with differing views will be forced to rationalise their offerings.

Cheer up Tyler, it might not be that bad, we’re living through a Brexit nightmare after all.

Ramasamy’s ramifications

Karthik Ramasamy isn’t that happy either.

A software engineer by trade, Ramasamy co-created Twitter’s real-time engine, which it then open sourced called Apache Heron.Ramasamy was engineering manager and technical lead for real time analytics at Twitter before co-founding Silicon Valley startup Streamlio.

Ramasamy states that this acquisition is yet another data point validating the critical role that open source plays in modern IT infrastructure and IT business. He is positive and says that the particular ‘size of this deal’ has the potential to breathe new life into the open source ecosystem

“However, at the same time it does add a note of caution — to date, IBM has been largely a huge contributor to open source without entering the business of open source in a significant way. This acquisition represents a new phase for IBM, in which the open source ecosystem will tread carefully to see whether IBM continues to be a broad-based contributor to open source or narrows its focus to open source projects directly tied to its own offerings,” said Ramasamy.

Tu amigo de Amido

Principal consultant and DevOps leader at cloud applications company Amido is Richard Slater.

Slater says that IBM bought ALL of Red Hat (because them’s the rules and you can’t perform a half-baked acquisition at this scale), but really… IBM bought Red Hat for OpenShift, which RedHat has been building as a comprehensive enterprise self-contained Kubernetes solution.

“On the basis that IBM has been lagging in the cloud market and is desperately in need of having a presence in a microservices world then this is a pretty astute acquisition,” said Slater, in a blog.

Slater further comments to claim that there is some fear in the industry that IBM will be the end of RedHat.

“[This could represent] the end of products it currently offers such as RHEL and OpenShift, which will be consigned to the scrapheap along with IBMs mainframe and physical server divisions as part of the great ‘Big Blue’ falling rapidly from a great height,” laments Slater.

Well now Richard, you need to cheer up a bit too.

It’s important to remember that it’s very easy to jump on the negative press bandwagon and that none of the spokespeople quoted here work for companies as expansive, successful, historically innovative, philanthropic or capable or reinvention as IBM.

Time will tell… Red, Blue or some combination of the two.

Image: Amido

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