Red Hat: Lead with open source

China's adoption of open source will put the country in a leadership position in IT, says a Red Hat executive.

SINGAPORE--China's adoption of open-source technology will put the country in a leadership position in IT, according to Michael Tiemann, Red Hat's vice-president of open-source affairs.

"China's decision to adopt open-source technologies is based on its positive aspects, such as the ability to mobilize a large population of technical people who have the freedom to collaborate," he said.

The open-source software development model, he added, can bring together developers with diverse interests to accomplish a common goal. "I hope China's entry into the world of software will benefit its own people and the world."

China as an emerging economy, he added, has the benefit of identifying the hits and misses in technology developments in the last 40 years. "It can pick and choose what the world has learned, and this gives them the chance to be leaders."

Tiemann noted that it would be difficult for China to realize its potential as an IT leader if it adopts the proprietary software model, because the history of proprietary software has limitations.

The proprietary software model creates barriers to collaboration, he said. Historically, this has restricted the development of technology such as hypertext, which only began to carry meaning when everybody was able to participate and contribute, he noted.

Even though there were privately-funded companies building proprietary hypertext systems in the 1970s, no system could achieve the critical mass of users required for it to succeed, he said.

However, the World Wide Web--a hypertext system--became what it is today because it was built based on an open-source model that brought people together to collaborate on its development, Tiemann explained.

"China, India, Brazil, and others in Asia and Europe, could look at that (hypertext) example and ask if they want to enter the 21st century surrounded by barriers," he said.

Open-source software can also give a country the ability to develop home-grown technologies, rather than rely on foreign companies. "Why should countries seek independence, and not seek independence in technology?" he said.

China and the Philippines have already developed local flavors of Linux--Red Flag Linux and Bayanihan Linux, respectively.

But Red Hat is not competing with these Linux distributions, he said. "We don’t compete with other people who are growing the open-source pie. If we try to compete with them and take away their customers, it will not help (the overall market) very much."