Szulik Speaks on Linux

By Jim Louderback  |  Posted 2005-05-24 Print this article Print

The highlight of the main conference was an hour-long chat between conference host Mark Anderson and Matt Szulik, CEO of Red Hat. It provided an interesting contrast to Bill Gatess mostly empty discussion from the day before at D. Like Gates, Szulik started off with a video, built entirely from open-source images, words and music. It was a powerful and emotional validation of Linux, drawing on a quote from Ghandi:
First they ignore you
Then they laugh at you Then they fight you Then you win. The talk started by going over Red Hats recent financial snafu, where results needed to be restated. According to Szulik, it was a process of changing revenue recognition from monthly to daily, with no material changes. And it was all done last Friday, so he said. Much of the talk focused on how Linux is becoming much more popular in other parts of the world. "North America is the major stronghold of the Windows franchise," Szulik said, while the third world is the most rapid area of open-source adoption. He attributed that in part to the fact that "the developing nations dont have an infrastructure that they have to repair to move forward." And in the United States, Szuliks experience is that most CIOs offer to pay just two cents a desktop to switch, he said, because the Microsoft environment has already been fully depreciated. Szulik went on to describe how the leaders of these third-world countries see open-source software as a way to move from being a developing nation to being part of the industrial world. "Culturally, this theme of collaboration, this theme of sharing, and this theme of advancement as a society is much more compelling. There seems to be a growing raison detre where open-source software is a way to … move their societies technically forward without a dependency on a single American supplier." Szulik defended Red Hat, saying that theyre not religious zealots. Red Hats offices are free of anti-Microsoft posters. Instead, the company is focused on "a faster, better way to produce software at a lower cost to the consumer." The talk ended with a discussion of open source versus free software such as that coming from Google, MSN and Yahoo. "Open source works because were having to replace something," Szulik said. "Google is coexisting in an established environment. They arent delivering software that you install physically on your machine." "I think we approach markets differently," he continued. "We focus on the back-end office infrastructure as the greatest opportunity in the near term." Szulik was followed by Fortune editor David Kirkpatrick, talking security with RSA CEO Art Coviello. Coviello put the technology world into perspective, calling it "The Dynamic Flat." He compared our current state to a pond, saying that "at the surface of water it doesnt appear that were driving a lot of progress on the Internet. But under the surface theres a lot of experimentation going on with Web services. Over the next several years well see wide deployment and things bubbling to the surface." Coviello pointed to three main areas that need to improve to help drive the state of computing and the Internet forward. First, we havent created sophisticated Web applications yet. Most of todays applications, he argued, are still front-ending old applications. We also dont have a robust and interoperable Web services platform. "We have to have the standards developed that will allow that to happen," he argued. "The XML standard hasnt developed to a degree of specificity." And thirdly, he focused on RSAs main business, security. We just dont have the confidence that security provides, he said, and its getting worse. "For the first time in the last year youve actually seen some banks retrench from the Internet-based applications because of the sheer volume of fraud," Coviello said. He singled out banks in Australia as an example: "Theyre not the fourth-largest economy, but Australias the fourth-largest phished country." Thats because their banks moved heavily online over the past five years, and "The thieves go where the money is. Phished accounts had payments directed to hacker accounts within 7.5 minutes of the hack taking place." And the outcome? "Rather than implement more security, they have stepped back." Coviello pointed to "pharming," or the process of using code to steal identities, as the next threat to explode on the Internet. He laid out a chilling scenario in which "if the anti-spyware software doesnt have the ability to stop [pharming] software from getting in, then we will have wholesale identity fraud in the next 12 to 18 months." He went on to discuss the sorry state of passwords at most companies, by describing a study RSA did with a major chemical company. "They hacked the passwords of employees, and had 15 pages of names and passwords within 12 seconds to 12 minutes. Fully 75 percent of the passwords were capable of being decrypted within 12 hours," he said. What can we do? "The average person needs to ensure their own security, and stop individually acting like adolescents," he said. Coviello urged the audience to "make sure basic things are in place," including updating operating-system, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and using personal firewalls. The best of the rest? George Poste, Director of Biodesign at Arizona State University, threw a scare into the audience, claiming that super-powerful influenza bugs are just waiting to pull a pandemic on us. "The government is asleep at the switch to the growing threat from infectious diseases. The protection from drugs is waning," he said. Poste pointed to urbanization, the relentless pace at which viruses are evolving antibiotic resistance, and how illnesses are jumping from animals to us—like HIV, SARS, Ebola and more. Six billion people are at risk from an influenza pandemic, he said, with only 300 million anti-flu virus doses currently available. If that happens, he predicted, "up to 2 million Americans will be dead in six months." His solution: have your doctor write you a prescription for TamiFlu today, and put it in your bathroom, because there just isnt enough to go around. Colin Angle, CEO of iRobot (the only overlapping guest at both FIRE and D) had the best line of the day. Talking about the Roomba and the just-introduced robotic mop Scooba, he said that his company provides "high tech for Midwestern homemakers" and that its all about "a paradigm shift in domestic floor care." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.

With more than 20 years experience in consulting, technology, computers and media, Jim Louderback has pioneered many significant new innovations.

While building computer systems for Fortune 100 companies in the '80s, Jim developed innovative client-server computing models, implementing some of the first successful LAN-based client-server systems. He also created a highly successful iterative development methodology uniquely suited to this new systems architecture.

As Lab Director at PC Week, Jim developed and refined the product review as an essential news story. He expanded the lab to California, and created significant competitive advantage for the leading IT weekly.

When he became editor-in-chief of Windows Sources in 1995, he inherited a magazine teetering on the brink of failure. In six short months, he turned the publication into a money-maker, by refocusing it entirely on the new Windows 95. Newsstand sales tripled, and his magazine won industry awards for excellence of design and content.

In 1997, Jim launched TechTV's content, creating and nurturing a highly successful mix of help, product information, news and entertainment. He appeared in numerous segments on the network, and hosted the enormously popular Fresh Gear show for three years.

In 1999, he developed the 'Best of CES' awards program in partnership with CEA, the parent company of the CES trade show. This innovative program, where new products were judged directly on the trade show floor, was a resounding success, and continues today.

In 2000, Jim began developing, a daily, live, 8 hour TechTV news program called TechLive. Called 'the CNBC of Technology,' TechLive delivered a daily day-long dose of market news, product information, technology reporting and CEO interviews. After its highly successful launch in April of 2001, Jim managed the entire organization, along with setting editorial direction for the balance of TechTV.

In the summer or 2002, Jim joined Ziff Davis Media to be Editor-In-Chief and Vice President of Media Properties, including, Microsoft Watch, and the websites for PC Magazine, eWeek and ZDM's gaming publications.


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