Red Hat CEO: Open Source Now Legitimate

In his opening keynote at the Open Source Business Conference, Matt Szulik discusses where open source stands in the enterprise.

SAN FRANCISCO—Open-source software and the community around it does not need to be legitimized anymore as it is now legitimate, Red Hat CEO Matt Szulik said in the opening address at the Open Source Business Conference here on May 22.

In his address titled "The Evolution of Open Source in the Enterprise," Szulik said that enterprise companies have more opportunities today than ever to search for the capabilities they are looking for—across open and proprietary solutions.

The notion of being able to unlock the trillions of dollars of legacy logic is amazing, and there is a desperate search for the next generation of applications that will unlock all this data and logic housed in legacy applications. "This is an enormous opportunity for some clever mind," he said.

The software industry is also not trained to deliver high degrees of services, otherwise the 40 to 50 percent of customer IT budgets would not be related to service, he told attendees, noting that "as the open-source industry we need to develop service levels that scale beyond what is currently being offered."

On the issue of interoperability, Szulik said no open-source vendor has an issue with interoperability, since the industry believes in open standards. "Data has to be in a neutral format to allow new metadata models to be built and data to be federated," he said.

"This is all about standards. When a vendor says interoperability, this is not really about interoperability. For us its all about open standards. Why do you think governments are now spending time on things like the OpenDocument Format?" he asked.

"The customers I speak to are thinking about, and asking for, new data models that replace cost with value and new ways to federate data," he said.

Turning to the controversial issue of software patents, Szulik said industry leaders have always been respectful of intellectual property and that patents are a relatively new phenomenon. But the focus should not be on patents, but rather on innovation.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read more about the patent controversy.

"The issue that we are challenged with as an industry is to focus on what is original; patents are really a challenge to innovation, and industry innovation moves much faster than the remedy process," he said.

"I think the debate is flawed right now, so what we are seeing is that the relationship between manufacturers and customers has changed. It is no longer one dimensional or passive, but rather customers are now active participants in the process," he said.

This has created a great opportunity for collaboration as customers want to be heard and participate in the development process. This is a compelling part of the open-source software development process and a huge change from the past where customers had no voice, he said.

"We now have an opportunity to challenge the dialogue and move it around those issues that are increasingly frustrating customers. We can change this," he said.

Szulik also said that competition is "fabulous," even referring to Oracle and its competitive Unbreakable Linux offering, as this is what drives the industry. "If it wasnt them, it would be someone else," he noted.

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