Home > Red Hat > Q&A: Red Hat exec talks of challenges to open source Q&A: Red Hat exec talks of challenges to open source Eugenia Loli 2004-10-20 Red Hat 36 Comments VP Michael Tiemann discusses the open source movement, Red Hat’s strategies, and his recent blog debate with Sun’s Jonathan Schwartz. About The Author Eugenia Loli Ex-programmer, ex-editor in chief at OSNews.com, now a visual artist/filmmaker. Follow me on Twitter @EugeniaLoli 36 Comments 2004-10-20 2:46 am The biggest challenge right now is that there are not nearly as many open source developers as there could be. There probably would be enough open source developers if everybody and their brother wasn’t busy re-inventing the wheel over at sourceforge. 2004-10-20 2:55 am MT: I was talking with some Indian companies the other day, and they asked me how we were prepared to deal with competition from local Indian companies. I basically said that if the local Indian companies are developing open source software, according to open source principles, then we benefit in any case, because we have got the libraries that that software will need. What the hell is that supposed to mean, “we have got the libraries that that software will need”? So RedHat somehow has these magic libraries that random Indian company has, and nobody else has? How does Tiemann know what libraries this software needs? That’s just a bizarre statement. 2004-10-20 2:57 am You are 100% right. I am actually tired of too much choice in open source. Same way i am tired of 100s of linux distro. Open source needs more groups like mozilla and apache which has clear focus and develop a product to be actually useful. Most developer in open source otherwise are there just because the work interests them. Once the work is not interesting, they will say bye bye…. 2004-10-20 3:07 am “I basically said that if the local Indian companies are developing open source software, according to open source principles, then we benefit in any case, because we have got the libraries that that software will need.” Translation: Redhat will blow the indians out of the water if they try to compete. 2004-10-20 3:16 am Michael Tiemann seems to understand open-source 10 times better than us. I liked his reasoning of 100 millions developers for 10 millions projects, for example. If an Indian company uses the term open-source for its products, then it should make the source-code available just like everyone else. Michael was referring to that. If RedHat is allowed to use the source-code, then it’s ok to have some more competition. And he is bold enough that the companies that don’t adopt the open-source model, are dated and may not stay long. At least they won’t be problem for RedHat. From all the CEOs of the world, this one has my deepest respect. 2004-10-20 3:21 am He wrote something interesting in there recently about how Sun competes with intellectual property. Well, that’s exactly how Linux competes. But with one difference. The Linux way of competition is by sharing that intellectual property and competing by your work, designs, intelligence, and not just some lame piece of property. This is a competition of minds. Who can outthink who? The Linux community knew that MS Windows and Sun’s Solaris were way more advanced than their GNU software, but they recognized that without Sun and MS dumping money into their products they would stagnate and hardly be competition in this battle of whits. 2004-10-20 4:43 am “Michael Tiemann seems to understand open-source 10 times better than us.” Which makes a lot of sense. Ever see Revolution OS? Michael was one of the first guys to go into the “open source business” (Cygnus, I believe). Red Hat has not deviated an iota from their free software stance, and I respect that. -Erwos 2004-10-20 4:53 am MT: We are really looking towards LSB 3.0 because the 2.0 compromise is not compatible with prior decisions we have made with respect to C++. Can anyone please elaborate on what he’s talking about here? 2004-10-20 5:18 am johnMG: From http://lwn.net/Articles/96347/: “The core of the problem is that the LSB specifies that compliant systems must offer a modified version of the “v5 ABI.” This is the binary interface used by gcc 3.3; current versions of gcc 3.3, however, are not compliant with the specification. Patches exist toward a future 3.3.5 release which will bring it into compliance; this release will probably happen, though no promises to the effect have been made. The real problem, however, is that gcc 3.3 is already old technology, and is considered to be a dead end. Current development efforts are going into gcc 3.4 and even 3.5; gcc 3.4 can already be found on some systems (such as your editor’s Fedora Rawhide box). gcc 3.4 is widely held to be a superior release; it has much improved performance, better interoperability with other C++ compilers, and better standards support. It also has a different and incompatible binary interface, of course. Since the C++ environment is only now being nailed down by the LSB, it is asked, why not go with the newer, v6 ABI, which will actually be relevant into the future?” 2004-10-20 6:36 am The biggest challenge right now is that there are not nearly as many open source developers as there could be. This is an unusually candid statement on Tiemann’s part. The implication seems to be that if he could just get more open-source developers to work on projects that RedHat is interested in, he won’t have to actually employ developers to do any of RedHat’s work. Then, he could just make money without having to spend any. (Or he could outsource the remaining few jobs, like his, to India). I still don’t understand why anyone who has spent a reasonable amount of time developing their software skills would volunteer to work on a software project unless they were already employed as a developer. So long as you still have to pay software developers, Tiemann is probably going to continue to find a shortage of them. That’s why I’m taking night classes on cattle-ranching. Gotta have something to fall back upon once there are enough open-source developers for Tiemann. Then, I can ride my horse around in Montana and develop software for him for free, so he can sell it and make money while I get dirty ranching cows. What a nut. 2004-10-20 6:40 am Would you rather make money for Bill Gates? The open source people build software for their own needs using commodity hardware and commodity software tools, they than share their work with the community. 2004-10-20 6:43 am And corporations pay, as they should, but what they get is a product that will not be phased out, and there is much more to say, just can’t say it all. 2004-10-20 6:48 am Lastly, a company like IBM who is a vertical market, has a different strategy. You can become an ISV and work your way to a higher tier in the partnership, and your team would target specific industries and develop software for them, yet these organizations have extensive needs so your application would have to integrate with IBM middleware, DB2, Websphere, etc. There is no shortage of choices. The open source way is fine also, but there isn’t money being handed down by a vertical market, just support. 2004-10-20 8:21 am If everyone becomes an OSS developer, then where will the money come from? Can someone here explain how thousands of programmers that are getting paid for commercial software development will get their money? Could there be an open source VMWare? Could there be an open source SoftIce? My main point was that without commercial software, we will get only what a developer feels interested in. Linux is coming along due to high investment in it from big companies and those companies are making money by selling hardware. Over a longer term, i still wish more success to commercial software company for innovation to happen. So its good that their are not enough oss developer because “hello!!!!” people need money, ok?? 2004-10-20 8:45 am OpenOffice.Org? 2004-10-20 8:52 am You can make money if you become an ISV for HP, IBM, Microsoft, etc. They all have a different model though, so you have to find out how they operate and how become a partner. FOSS is commodity software running on commodity hardware. It does serve the needs of small and medium sized business, but it is cut out of certain markets. Again, you have to talk to RH or Novell in order to find out how to “make money”. It appears that most of the big firms are outsourcing jobs because they don’t want to pay high salaries. I wouldn’t want to enter that world. The big firms are trying to sell their products to America because it is the largest consumer market in the world. Bottom line, is that you have to go to these vendors and find out how to become an ISV partner and find out how they use commodity software in their strategy. Otherwise you should not work in IT directly as a labourer, instead you can apply commodity software to a horizontal enterprise, in other words a hobby. Develop a skill set, and you probably find opportunities, just that nobody will hold your hand. That’s why these big companies become so powerful in the first place, because people want someone to hold their hand, they want to be told what to do, and then they complain because they don’t like it. It’s the same in all types of work, so you have to learn to block it out. 2004-10-20 8:57 am Ahem, companies would still hire people to make programs. That those programs would be open-sourced doesn’t mean shit. A company needs to have control on the way a program goes. Open source doesn’t change that. Some of you guys really need to get out of the ‘open source means no need to hire people’ mindset. Red Hat, Novel and other companies show that’s bullshit. Open source programmers doesn’t necessarily mean volunteer programmers and with only volunteers companies would never get exactly what they need. Of course one needs to be more open (see what I did there?) to a different way of business than what you learned in high school to understand that. 2004-10-20 9:36 am It seems to me that there are more open source programmers in the Western world than in Asia (or so i think), im from Asia. Being a programmer, I will starve to death if my business model is open source. Money is i think the main factor here. You guys in the US, Europe, or wherever you may be in the Western part of the world are lucky because I do believe you have the money to support your family. We in Asia are not that rich, more programmers in Asia will adopt open source when we can catch up with your country’s economic status. Just my two cents opinion. 2004-10-20 10:08 am Now you are falling in the same trap as others, thinking opensource means working for free. YES, there are a lot of volunteer programmers working on open source programs for fun. But do you think Red hat and Novell and such companies don’t pay their programmers because it’s opensource? 2004-10-20 11:31 am Developers are users too you know… BTW, with commercial products we will get what consumers are interested in?? We all sigh and say “I wish we had this piece of software” and then magically Microsoft creates it..I think not. With commercial software you also get what the developer is interested in, with one major difference: Commercial developers are interested in what makes the most money. For example Windows could probably be a zillion times better but it does not have to, it sells as it is. On the other hand an opensource project has to keep evolving toward what is technically best or people will switch to a better one in a heartbeat (certainly since compatibility can be made easy due to the free exchange of code) The evolving process in opensource is much more organic and vicious like in actual nature and will ultimatly lead to superior technology. (available to everyone) 2004-10-20 11:40 am Talking about future technologies, look for a strong Xfce desktop, that has a lot of potential, some time next year. I think that it will surprise people. 2004-10-20 2:27 pm Could there be an open source VMWare? Could there be an open source SoftIce? Um…bochs, qemu, plex86, pearpc, list probably goes on. And I don’t see why in the world you’d need something like softice on an open source system like Linux. 2004-10-20 3:06 pm why would anyone develop for Microsoft? It seems like suicide. You know they’ll bundle your ideas into the next generation of Windows and put you out of business and out of a job. Don’t people realize that they need to make money to live? 2004-10-20 3:22 pm YES, there are a lot of volunteer programmers working on open source programs for fun. But do you think Red hat and Novell and such companies don’t pay their programmers because it’s opensource? No, I believe Tiemann already made the point. There aren’t enough open-source programmers. If there were, why would RedHat, Novell, etc need to pay people to do their development work? The demand for talented programmers presently outstrips the supply; however, it sounds like Tiemann would really like the opposite to be possible. Then, an open source programmer really would be an volunteer programmer. Keep in mind that RedHat, Novell, et. al. are still businesses and would love nothing more than to spend less money to make more. 2004-10-20 3:44 pm It seems to me that there are more open source programmers in the Western world than in Asia (or so i think), im from Asia. Being a programmer, I will starve to death if my business model is open source. Money is i think the main factor here. You guys in the US, Europe, or wherever you may be in the Western part of the world are lucky because I do believe you have the money to support your family. We in Asia are not that rich, more programmers in Asia will adopt open source when we can catch up with your country’s economic status. given the economic situation that most asian countries are in it is more imperative that you consider open-source solutions. the costs of licenses is just too prohibitive enough for many startups to participate. open source lowers down that barrier. At this rate, all are now equals – we all have equal access to information since we have the source available. And since you aren’t paying licenses to foreign software money is retained within your local economy. That helps your country, imho. And btw, I’m asian, and I do make my living on open source software. Going the other path is not just feasible for me – I’d rather spend my hard earned cash paying for the necessary electricity and network billing and acquiring more powerful hardware rather than paying billyg and send money away from my country which needs it most. Just my two cents opinion. My two cents too 2004-10-20 6:42 pm An indian company mostly makes money by selling services to US using US based patented products or open source technology. But they neither have the guts nor the ability to build a patented product as the American do. SO Indian companies overtaking an American giant is out of question!!! 2004-10-20 7:11 pm Ridiculous misleading and outrageous statement. Perhaps you havent really heard about software giants like infosys and wipro. how about the MS and Novell offices in banglore? 2004-10-20 8:21 pm Funny that you said that because US software patents are fundamentaly flawed from the root. You won’t hear that some patented algorithm method were done by non-Usans thus raising a serious question about that issue. Do not underestimate countries like India because you only embarrass yourself with that assumption. 2004-10-20 8:36 pm The biggest challenge right now is getting more people excited (about open source development). Really? Not surprising the message is bust your ass creating GPL software and watch it get packaged and sold without seeing a penny for you effort. Makes me want to jump right in. 2004-10-20 10:55 pm My point still stands. With only volunteer programmers redhat wouldn’t be able to get the things done that they want done, specifically. I think what Tiemann wants is more opensource companies in parts of the world like India. Sure you can take his comment as if it implies he wants free workers. But let’s face it, that’s nonsense. All he wants is progress, and with open source growth Red Hat is more likely to be hiring more people than less. 2004-10-21 5:17 am Um…bochs, qemu, plex86, pearpc, list probably goes on. His point precisely, I think. None of those products is even close to VMWare in terms of functionality and features. 2004-10-21 5:35 am I think what Tiemann wants is more opensource companies in parts of the world like India. Sure you can take his comment as if it implies he wants free workers. But let’s face it, that’s nonsense. All he wants is progress, and with open source growth Red Hat is more likely to be hiring more people than less. You can believe that RedHat has altruistic motives if you like. However, Tiemann works for a corporation, and last I checked, corporations were responsible for making money for their owners (or shareholders). So, while you may be naive enough to believe that Tiemann’s comment should be taken at face value, I don’t see how RedHat is any different than any other company trying to make a profit. Just because RedHat is willing to release their products under an OSI license doesn’t mean that they aren’t going to engage in all the other inherently corporate behaviors. I think that once this so called “progress” occurs, which of course it never will to Tiemann’s satisfaction, products will be developed for free the way RedHat wants them to be, and then they won’t have to hire people. Of course they’ll still have to hire people to do their bidding while there aren’t enough open-source developers, but once their are, why should they have to? There will be enough. But don’t take my word for it. Wait until Tiemann has enough Open Source developers and then see for yourself. 2004-10-21 5:58 am Not to beat the point into the ground, but open source != free. Go look at some of Stallman’s rants to get a better idea of the difference in concept between “free as in beer” and “free as in freedom.” 2004-10-21 6:04 am I don’t care if RH makes millions, just keep the code open and accessible…I enjoy learning with Fedora’s free tools and the books that I purchase, especially O’Reilly books. I like getting into the computer science issues rather than pimping a product line. I’ll be making contributions to the rebel FOSS alliance in the future, and for a couple decades. I hope that RH makes a lot of money. 2004-10-21 12:41 pm I know red hat is a company, but name me one company, opensource or otherwise, which works without employees. As you say, we will say. 2004-10-22 1:40 am Not to beat the point into the ground, but open source != free. Go look at some of Stallman’s rants to get a better idea of the difference in concept between “free as in beer” and “free as in freedom.” Stallman’s idealism aside, the ability to charge money for OSS software on any sort of scale is practically zero, unless you tie it to some other product (eg: Redhat’s up2date). Stallman likes to talk up how you could run a business giving away software, but real-world examples are very thin on the ground – particularly examples where the business is actually doing the bulk of the software development, rather than polishing and repackaging existing code. Stallman’s philosophy is that the “IP” in software – ie, the code – should be free. However, for some reason he doesn’t think other forms of “IP” – eg, professional services, graphics work – should be free. I’m not entirely sure whether to call this world view inconsistent or hypocritical, but the end result is that making money off OSS basically requires you leveraging some form of “closed” knowledge, the same way closed-source software does.