Since my conversation with the good folks at Red Hat (see Discussion with Red Hat’s Joel Berman and Nick Carr - 1st take) I've been thinking about the company's strategy and how that plays out in the real world. Red Hat presents the notion that a stack of open source software can address organizations' IT requirements nearly as well or as well as can proprietary software.
In many cases, it can be demonstrated that that notion plays out quite well in the real world. That is, open source software is often good enough to do the job. That being said, it is also true that proprietary tools might look more polished, fit into a specific vendor's environment a bit better or offer more bells and whistles.
IT management is made up of rather conservative folks for the most part. Once they find a set of tools that does the job they want done, they stick to them. This continues to be true when technology has marched on and when new tools might do the job better, cheaper or faster than their "old reliables." I believe the time-worn quote attributed to Abraham Maslow fits really well here - "If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail."
The challenge Red Hat faces (along with all of the other suppliers focused on open source solutions) is helping IT decision-makers to look at what open source solutions can do for the organization first and then consider the development and support methodology that produced the software. After all, how many people really understand how HP, IBM, Microsoft or Oracle develop and support the software they're offering to the world? I would dare say that many employees of these fine companies don't understand that process in detail either.
So, I applaud Red Hat for doing its best to stick to open source software while building a full stack of virtualization technologies. At this point, they are able to offer application virtualization through creative uses of JBoss and Tomcat, processing virtualization through Xen, LVC and many third party tools and storage virtualization through the global file system (Red Hat GFS) it acquired.
There is a way yet to go for Red Hat, but they've made a good start. I'm hoping to learn more from them in future converstaions.