Red Hat: open source genesis, to mainstreaming revelations

Computer Weekly Open Source Insider continues its analysis and deconstruction of major open source distros this month with a series of personal conversations inside Red Hat.

Stormy Peters, senior manager for the Red Hat community team has reflected on what open source has accomplished over the years.

Peters insists that the open source community has changed not only how software is developed but how companies collaborate. Pointing to the number of times she has read about things in science fiction books and then gone on to using them in everyday life, she says that even when new solutions are not completely built on open source, they very typically run on various pieces of open source infrastructure.

Her opinion is that the speed of innovation has only been possible because we are all cooperating at a tremendous level.

A catalyst force

Nick Hopman is senior director for emerging technology practices at Red Hat. He says that he views open source as much more than just a process to develop and expose technology – he sees it as a catalyst to drive change in every facet of society.

“Government, policy, medical diagnostics, process re-engineering, you name it. All these things can leverage open principles that have been perfected through the experiences of open source software development to create communities that drive change and innovation,” said Hopman.

Mainstreaming joint innovation

Jim Whitehurst, president and CEO of Red Hat insists that over the next decade, we will see entire industries based on open source concepts, as the sharing of information and joint innovation, become mainstream.

“We’ll see this impact every sector, from non-profits, like healthcare, education and government, to global corporations who realise sharing information leads to better outcomes. Open and participative innovation will become a key part of increasing productivity around the world,” said Whitehurst.

A personal developer experience

Chris Wright, vice president and chief technology officer at Red Hat explains how he first got started in the open source community.

“Late 1995 or early 1996, I was out of university and working in my first “real” job. During school I had discovered UNIX and loved it. At work, our product was UNIX-based, and I was hungry to learn as much as I could about the programming language. Because of that, one thing was missing for me… and that was the ability to play with UNIX at home. UNIX itself was expensive and even more expensive was the hardware it ran on,” said Wright.

“A friend of mine worked at an ISP and he suggested I try Linux as a way to create a UNIX-like environment on a PC I had at home. So I dialed-up, connected to the Internet and began downloading over 50 floppy disks of Slackware, an early Linux distribution. The installation was tough – and configuring X for a graphical desktop was truly mysterious. But even this was interesting as I had to learn about Linux and my hardware to make it all work. Linux was still rough around the edges, but to me it was fun,” added Wright.

For Wright, the appeal of open source has always the chance to collaborate with the community – indeed, he says he read the GNU Manifesto and was excited by the idea of software freedom.

Open source has, obviously, changed from being something hobbyist programmers do for fun – it has become a real working paradigm for software application development.

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