Red Hat CEO: Google, Facebook owe it all to Linux, open source

Red Hat CEO: Google, Facebook owe it all to Linux, open source

Summary: Red Hat's CEO said the business models enabled by the Linux platform, namely cheap innovation, quick scale out and mass collaboration, is directly responsible for the success of top Web 2.0 companies including Google, Facebook and Amazon


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., 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.

Topics: Amazon, CXO, Google, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software, Social Enterprise

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  • RE: Red Hat CEO: Google, Facebook owe it all to Linux, open source

    In the mid-90s, Java was not [partly] open-source. This didn't happen until 2006. It was free as in free beer, though
    Rabid Howler Monkey
  • But its Windows Machines that make them a success

    If there weren't 1.2 billion Windows PC's connecting to these online services, they would just be hobbyist websites. Remember, Linux is just 0.76% of machines connected to the Internet.
    • Interesting


      It's funny you say this, because these numbers are debatable. The wc3stats OS site claims the Linux pie slice is around 5%, whereas Microsoft (Years ago... At that) conjectured Linux usage at roughly 8%.

      Statistics are difficult to trust, and are often very misleading. While I might be a Linux fan, it doesn't make me lose my objectivity. WinP7 is such an example. I don't trust current statistics (e.g. The recent drop in market share for MS). Likely they're floating a little above that number, but the statistics don't cover the entire scale well.

      Such are the woes of statisticians- their task I do not envy :)
      • RE: Red Hat CEO: Google, Facebook owe it all to Linux, open source

        @CommonOddity I while having a dual boot laptop and a few other linux powered devices, don't think that desktop linux usage is that high. But 0.76% of devices? I doubt it with Android looming a little under 50% for the worldwide smartphone market, and it being linux based.
      • RE: Red Hat CEO: Google, Facebook owe it all to Linux, open source


        I'm not quite sure what the numbers are. I don't mean to claim any knowledge pertaining to some accurate depiction of the current Linux marketshare. But I do understand the basics of statistics, and if there is anything that you ever learn is that they are very flaky.

        And I daresay, why not? I've many friends that use Linux (or BSD, etc etc) on a rather large scale. At home I have 4 boxes and a laptop all running distributions of Linux.

        On an overall global scale (device vs device), quite likely the Linux share is much higher.

        Hell, take into account all the network devices that are running it underneath. VMWare ESX servers? What's under that hood? Etc etc. The list goes on.
    • RE: Red Hat CEO: Google, Facebook owe it all to Linux, open source

      @adacosta38 While this is true the point of the article is to state that the amount of innovation possible was greater due to the ability to obtain and modify linux freely. To bend and scale it to what was needed for the times in order to lower costs.
    • RE: Red Hat CEO: Google, Facebook owe it all to Linux, open source

      I'm going to call BS. Your wireless router at home? Probably runs embeded linux. Got a Tivo? Yup, linux runs that too. Maybe your stats are looking at desktop users, but just about every home using broadband has a device running embeded linux.
    • That's Low for Just Desktop Linux

      The 0.76% figure for Linux is a low figure even for just desktop Linux. "Machines connected to the Internet" that run Linux are clearly much higher than that even if you exclude Android.

      Clearly the stat you are quoting must have been just for desktop Linux. Even for desktop Linux, though, more reasonable numbers seem to be in the 1.5% neighborhood. I'm guessing that number is from Net Applications, which also happens to be seemingly the only web hit analyzation company that claims Linux desktop usage has gone down rather than up over the past couple of years.
    • Awake much???

      The majority of servers on the net are linux, the majority of routers, firewalls, switches, hubs and other networking boxes are linux. Want to try that again??

      Great article again Steve! Keep it up!
      linux for me
      • Doesn't matter. That's not where MS competes.

        @linux for me. The point is regardless of usage statistics is that Google and others: make their money on providing a service. While Linux is being used to provide this service they are making their money off of proprietary software. I strongly suspect that if Linux had not existed they simply would have used another *nix variant (like FreeBSD) and gone on.
      • RE: Red Hat CEO: Google, Facebook owe it all to Linux, open source

        @MeMyselfAndI_z: Sure, Linux itself wasn't needed. It's just that it was better than the alternatives (like FreeBSD) and matched the demands.
        If FreeBSD and the other free *NIXen (that's actually correct grammar) would have matched the demands we wouldn't have known what Linux is today - but then this article would have been giving credit to FreeBSD or whatever *NIX that would have took the place Linux has.
      • This Article Is By Paula Rooney

        @linux for me
        Just a note: This article is from Paula Rooney, not Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols.
    • Small percentage

      @adacosta38 And the heart is only a small percentage of your total body mass. While most of us consumers connected at the periphery of the Net run Windows or Macs, much of the Net's core runs Linux.
    • RE: Red Hat CEO: Google, Facebook owe it all to Linux, open source

      @adacosta38 If you include servers which connect to the internet (about 45-50% are linux) and smart phones (a similar percentage) they you would see that Linux has in fact the highest number of users.<br><br>Reddit stats show Linux (desktop) at around 8%.....

      If it were not Microsoft using their illegal monopoly against Linux the number would be higher.

      Any company who are against Linux are against technological progress for humanity in general - Microsoft uses its monopoly (and patents) against innovation constantly.

      The fact that due to said illegal monopoly I have to actually fund the bas*ards through paying tax - I mean - WHY DO THE POLICE, HOSPITALS, ETC NEED WINDOWS????

      My tax money is helping legal threats against linux....
      • RE: Red Hat CEO: Google, Facebook owe it all to Linux, open source

        People use Windows because it just works. Linux does not have the hardware support nor does it have the available software out there. Most people really do not care about then operating system that they are using, they only care about the applications that they use. You have to face it, most open source applications are not production ready code. This is what you get when younuse a system developed by people in their spare time.
  • Parasites more like.

    Yes they are leveraging Linux. However it should be pointed out that where Google makes most of its money is via ads on its search engine. All this is proprietary code. And while the OS is important I think where Google has really done well is the way they designed their own hardware. If Linux hadn't existed, I suspect they would have simply used another free *nix variant like BSD. And if free *nix variants hadn't existed they would probably have created their own OS. I don't know enough about facebook or Amazon but they could have done the same thing.<br><br>It is true that Redhat is growing but they still don't make that much money relative to Microsoft. Google, Amazon, Facebook & others. Which, while all are utilizing Linux as an enabling technology, could have used others (Free BSD) and definitely make their money elsewhere than Linux. Linux is a tool not the business model.
  • RE: Red Hat CEO: Google, Facebook owe it all to Linux, open source

    What has Google & Facebook given back to the open source community other than filling up their pockets ????
    Google place should be in the most stinking bin the city could find.
    • RE: Red Hat CEO: Google, Facebook owe it all to Linux, open source

      "Cassandra was open sourced by Facebook in 2008, and is now developed by Apache committers and contributors from many companies.
      "The Chromium projects include Chromium and Chromium OS, the open-source projects behind the Google Chrome browser and Google Chrome OS, respectively.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
    • Owe? As in in debt?

      If Linux is what it claims to be, the headline of this article is a contradiction.

      [Irony mode on] I thought the whole idea of Linux is that it's all created by a bunch of little communists who doesn't want money or recognition?
      [Irony mode off]
      • Headline Is a Figure of Speech

        The headline is a figure of speech, and it is talking about some portion of the credit for success, not literally some kind of debt.

        Besides, open source takes its cue from the model for scientific research, not some political ideal like communism. Have you ever heard the quote, "Information wants to be free"?