IBM Purchase of Red Hat Software: There is No Fear Except Fear Itself – with Thanks to FDR


Paw Prints: Writings of the maddog

Oct 29, 2018 GMT
Jon maddog Hall

IBM bought Red Hat Software.

The world wide web is alive with the news, and many of the people who have worked and used Red Hat in the last 25 years are lamenting the “fall” of their beloved company and software.

I understand how they feel.

  • The first company I worked for, Aetna Life and Casualty is much smaller than it used to be through various economic reasons.
  • The college I taught at, Hartford State Technical College, was merged with the state community colleges and is not even mentioned today.
  • Bell Laboratories, renamed Lucent and broken off from the world's largest telephone company, purchased by Alcatel, then by Nokia.
  • Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), once the second largest computer company in the world was purchased by Compaq, then by HP.
  • SGI (who I worked for briefly) is gone.

Believe me, I know the pain.

Yet IBM has been a friend of Linux for a long time.

As early as 1998 IBM said they were going to support Linux, one of the first major companies that said that while Microsoft was at its peak and calling Linux “a virus and a cancer”.

I still remember the IBM ads of the early 2000s touting Linux on TV and in magazines. I remember the little white-haired boy who represented Linux and how “on spot” the IBM advertisements were.

In 2001 we all cheered when IBM announced they had invested a billion USD in Linux (and made two billion from that investment).

I was invited to Austin, Texas by Daniel Frye, the VP of Open Source for IBM when Lou Gerstner Jr. (IBM's CEO) wrote the memo that made Open Source a focal point of IBM.
Lou wrote that in the past IBM had produced closed source products unless someone make a case for the product being Open Source. In the future IBM would produce Open Source products unless someone made a case for the product to be closed source.

Being from DEC, and knowing how engineers often were put through the legal and business gauntlet when they wanted to make a product Open Source, I understood the power of that memo from Lou.

I remember that day in Austin, when Dan asked me if the Open Source community would be afraid of IBM taking an active interest in Linux. I told him that some would, but the people I respected (Linus, Alan Cox, David Miller and others) would welcome IBM's involvement in Linux, GNU, and Open Source.

I remember when people left the Linux project because “other people were making money on the work I do”. This was and is a wrong attitude. You write Free Software for whatever reason you write it. The fact that other people make money off of it is not a concern as long as they obey the license you wrote it under.
IBM has Open Source advocates all over the world. Their purchase of Red Hat should increase the exposure of Red Hat to even more people, to allow Red Hat to be used in even larger commercial-grade opportunities.

The statements I have read from both companies state that Red Hat will still be an autonomous division of IBM. We will see how true that is, but it is a good sign that Jim Whitehurst is to remain at the helm of Red Hat and will join IBM's executive team.

Early on IBM hired many FOSS developers, even for projects not directly in their line of business. They gave support to Apache and many other Open Source projects. They were sponsors of many Open Source conferences.
IBM even has a server line called “LinuxONE” which touts security, scalability and lightening speed.
I can not predict the future, but if the past is any example of IBM's respect and love for Linux, than Red Hat should be confident in their future.

Carpe Diem.

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