Red Hat CEO: Vista marks end of 'planned software'

Jim Whitehurst has claimed the proprietary software-development model is coming to an end, as open source better meets customer needs
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor
Big software releases like Windows Vista mark the end of "planned software" for the industry, according to Red Hat chief executive Jim Whitehurst.

Speaking at a forum in Singapore on Friday, Whitehurst said the proprietary, "top-down, planned" software-development model, characteristic of closed-source companies, is coming to an end. Such a model is demonstrated by Vista and the number of bugs within it, he said.

Whitehurst claimed that there are "half the number of bugs in Linux per thousand lines" compared to the Microsoft operating system, because of the open-source, collaborative model.

Vulnerability-research company Secunia released a report earlier this year stating there were more flaws reported last year for Red Hat operating systems than for Microsoft operating systems. This was denied by a Red Hat security team member.

Whitehurst explained his position in an interview with ZDNet Asia, saying closed-source models are hampered by limits on the amount of planning that can be done during the development process to foresee all the roadblocks that might arise. "If software gets too big, it cannot be organized. This is an indicator of what can be planned," he said.

The Linux stack, on the other hand, "had to be modular" because of how fast development efforts on it spread. Development from the global open-source community happens in tandem and at a rate not pre-planned by a "monolithic vendor", Whitehurst said.

However, because of the modular development model and the number of parties checking for errors, open-source software comes out with fewer errors and is more organized, he explained. Whitehurst attempted to explain the appeal of open-source software's participatory "community" model by likening open source to US reality TV competition American Idol and closed products to US pop star Britney Spears.

Of American Idol, he said the record studios were able to spend less to market the eventual winner because audience participation accurately showed which singer was preferred before the competition was over.

Britney Spears, on the other hand, as a "product of millions of dollars in investment" is not a sure bet when each record is released to the public, because the marketing surrounding her was pre-planned and excluded the public, he said.

Whitehurst said during his presentation that development through the open-source community is also faster and often more precise in terms of what customers need, because enterprises are able to contribute code that they have written for their pain points back to the community. He contrasted this with the traditional proprietary method of "listening to customers" and writing code based on that interpretation.

"Linux functionality leapt forward because customers could develop what they wanted, and Red Hat could help share it," he said.

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