Google and Facebook owe their success largely to Linux -- not the technology per se, but to the cheap innovation and mass collaboration it enables, Red Hat's CEO says.
Yes, free, as in freedom, but also free as in free beer, said Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat.
Had it not been for the no cost software, open licensing and mass collaboration, all business models enabled by Linux and open source, none of the top Web 2.0 companies -- including the cloud crowd -- would have been able to lift off, scale and run their businesses.
Backrub.Stanford.edu, a little experiment begun in the mid 90s that become Google, was written in Java and Python and on Linux. More importantly, the technical innovation that came at such a low pricetag is what changed the game forever, the Red Hat CEO said.
"Google would not exist today if it were not for Linux. Initially, the business model of throwing it out and making it free and scalable.. those business models only work if you can start them and get innovation going cheaply. If you can't innovate cheaply, the amount of innovation stalls," Whitehurst said at LinuxCon, which is being held this week in Vancouver.
Could Facebook have built and scaled its infrastructure without Linux and open source? Whitehurst said no.
"The power of innovation that Linux [enables] from a business perspective is hallmark about what open source has done for Web 2.0," he noted. "Web 2.0 would not exist in its current form if it weren't for the business model of Linux."
Linux Foundation Exec VP Jim Zemlin noted during his opening keynote Wednesday that Red Hat is expected to break $1 billion in revenues this year.
Whitehurt said he takes exception to analysts who describe Linux as simply a solid alternative to traditional platforms when it has become the default platform for next generation application development and platform computing.
Wall Street knows: Red Hat's stock has returned a 400 percent increase in price over the past 10 years while Microsoft's has flattened and dipped some, he added.
Red Hat is a huge beneficiary from open source but Wall Street trading platforms, Facebook, Google and cloud companies are even bigger beneficiaries, he said, noting that 75 percent of stock exchanges now run Linux.
"Now we have large companies doing the innovation ... Google, Amazon and facebook are defining the next generation roadmap and where the next innovation is coming. It's not Sun and Microsoft, but what's happening in open source," Whitehurst added.
Whitehurst said open source projects are also more powerful in defining next generation technologies than traditional software companies, citing the successes of Hadoop and Cassandra in the big data movement.
"Innovation is happening in open source first and then established companies are working to implement them," he added.
"Linux is enabling business models that have nothing to do with technology [because]customers can do it cheaply, scale it and build businesses based on it," he added.