Jim Whitehurst at FUDCon

Jim Whitehurst took some time out of his almost certainly busy Summit schedule of talking with press, analysts and customers to actually come and talk with attendees of FUDCon for an hour or so. I took some notes about what he said. Any mistakes are mine and probably don't represent what he said :-)

He started off with some big points.

  • Red Hat is following the spirit of GPL and open source, not just the letter of them. This was a reiteration of what he had said in his keynote yesterday.
  • An example of this is the recent patent settlement; the settlement protects open source overall
  • ODF work over OOXML is pretty public; the Liberation fonts (announced last year) are metric compatible with “other common models”
  • Red Hat has built a business model to build a community and work with them and then make the software Enterprise Ready ™. This is very consistent with open source
    • Take Fedora every two years or so and freeze it

    • Test it, tune it, performance testing, etc
    • Then tell enterprises that Red Hat will support that for 7 years
  • Currently, about 15-20% of the value of open source is gotten by the customer
    • Iterative innovation

    • But the bits are being used in a traditional way. We need to work more to help merge customers into the community. There are some examples where this already has occurred
      • NSA work on SELinux

      • JP Morgan work on on the M part of MRG
  • Anecdote: RHEL has the highest security clearance of any OS by the Russian Defense. Due to SELinux, written by the NSA, … But since they can see the source, they can audit it and feel comfortable with the code.
  • As leaders of open source, Red Hat needs to recognize the power of the community and bringing the rest of Red Hat and the customers into Fedora
  • You can't continue to apply old world economics of property to abundance of knowledge and information.

After that, things were opened up to questions and there were plenty :-)

Q: What can we do to improve the experience for new people wanting to come into the community? (quaid)
A: Need to invest real dollars and work hard to make the lives of developers easier, turn it into a place that developers want to be. Michael Tiemann is talking to customers to try to figure out how to get customers involved in open source more directly. One thing is to evangelize open source principles vs just open source software

  • Open source is as much about interactions with community as much as just opening the source. (side note — this is a huge and key point that I've been picking up based on reading various blogs and also from some of the stuff that was talked about in my Tech Strategy class)

Q: Are you talking with C-level execs at companies that are customers to try to help them understand some of the value of open source and helping to get internal innovations to be opened (stahnma)
A: Take case studies that we have (M of MRG by JPMC, Electronic Service Bus (ESB) for JBoss written by a Canadian insurance company) and showing the benefits that they gained by actually open sourcing — lower maintenance costs, improved rate of innovation and improvement. Support is provided by community. Big wins for them.

Don't get too transactional during the sales process; we have to make the message clear and convince customers to be a part of the community if we're really going to get things to thrive. Have to get out and help the smaller companies who don't employ a lot of Comp Sci PhDs to get it. C-level execs don't even necessarily know about the RHEL usage within a company, have to raise the awareness.

Q: How does Fedora fit into Red Hat's desktop strategy? (notting)
A: Red Hat's desktop strategy is horribly misunderstood. Red Hat is, will be, and should be a provider in the Enterprise desktop space. As a business, we make open source accessible to the Enterprise. We need to invest more heavily in the desktop to improve the Enterprise desktop space. We've underinvested to avoid being in the consumer space

As for the consumer space and why it doesn't make sense — there are very few companies successfully sell to both enterprises and consumers. Even Microsoft is just getting into the Enterprise. And for 95% of the world, there is little reason to be paying for a consumer desktop. Average person doesn't really have a need for paying for support. We don't want to exploit open source or our brand — we could sell lots of copies at $5 a pop. But we're not set up to do support, etc.

As a consumer desktop, Fedora is incredible. “Fedora is so much better than RHEL”. Fedora has newer hardware support, faster, newer stuff. It's a phenomenal desktop. The ecosystem is important — you get used to what you're using. Fedora therefore plays a key role in keeping us on desktop for non-enterprises. And the components then flow back into Enterprise desktop and people are comfortable with it.

Q: What about OEMs wanting to do Fedora preloads? (jkeating)
A: Good idea, the more people we can get using Fedora, the better. But there are questions around what the right place to draw the line for the brand is good. If you have to add a proprietary driver, should they be able to use the Fedora brand?

Q: What is RHT doing to get commercial open source companies more involved? (dgilmore) Eg, zimbra won't let people from the outside contribute to it; if you're going to install it, you have to follow guidelines; etc.
A: A lot of companies see open source as “cool” right now. Two different versions offered, etc. Not meeting the spirit of open source. When meeting with the CEOs of these companies, advise them as to the spirit and try to help educate.

Q: How much do you meet with Shuttleworth or worry about Ubuntu? (wwoods)
A: They're big players. Has real issues with their model — it's self-promoting and the question of meeting the letter vs the spirit of the GPL and open source. We work hard to match the spirit of open source, not just the letter. Would like to meet Mark because he's an interesting character.

Q: What's Red Hat and Fedora's role in Free Media? (mizmo)
A: We have a limited amount of time for our influence and have things closer to home. But we are supportive of it in general, just limited resources for it.
Q: Brought up by press release about Spacewalk being WMV or Realmedia only.
A: We should look into that and fix it. Will look into it.

Q: Much of open source is individuals scratching an itch. What about patterns of growth for corporations contributing to open source? (sadmac)
A: Condor (G in MRG), oVirt, are projects which are things that an individual doesn't generally need.
A: (skvidal) Look at moodle, universities working on PeopleSoft replacement, … So there's some success, but it's a little slow.
Q: Are there efforts to find things like that to be replaced? (wwoods)
A: No. We don't do a good enough job there. And we're hoping to do better. Factoid: Looking at Enterprise IT spending on software — it's $200 billion. Of that, $130 billion is not spent on apps or databases. Its spent on infrastructure stuff.

Q: Mobile device space. Should Red Hat be doing something in that space? (skvidal)
A: Would love to see Fedora targeting the space. Us being involved from community is easy and obvious, but harder to figure out commercial aspect

Q: Should we be paying attention to user side of web application development in Fedora? We have lots of TurboGears people. (skvidal)
A: Send mail and talk about it more.

Q: As a follow-up to trying to get more customers as a part of the community. Are there fears of hijacking if community gets larger?
A: You have to have faith in the model. No protection around that explicitly through licensing, etc. Continuing to have real leadership across key areas/projects is one aspect that helps. And really, if you think about it, this would be a great problem to have to worry about.
A: (jkeating) Have to provide strong leadership and not leave a vacuum when building a community

Q: Any fixes to prioritize during the hackfest? (sadmac)
A: Wireless for the eeepc required a binary blob. Can't really think of anything specific otherwise. Sprint wireless card just worked in Fedora 9 with NetworkManager.

Q: So you feel the pain of open drives not being available. What do you think of our strategy of not compromising and not shipping the non-open drivers? (warren)
A: It's a pain, but our strategy of not compromising has helped to drive change. Need to get nVidia onboard. AMD (ATI) changed because of us. “Stay the course”. One of the big differences between us vs Canonical. We're true to open source. Sure, you can make it easy, but you won't change the world just by taking the easy path.

Thanks to Jim for taking the time to talk with us and also for being so candid and open on a variety of topics!

5 thoughts on “Jim Whitehurst at FUDCon”

  1. Nothing to speak of… it was a pretty short point in passing, but I thought it was cool enough that it was worth mentioning.

    The other “cool” SELinux related thing that happened during FUDCon was at FUDPub last night — mdomsch was letting davej play with his laptop, but as an xguest user. So davej tried to run dmesg and got (rightfully) denied. Amusement ensued :-)

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