Red Hat learns the white paper game

Microsoft loves white papers done by others, making claims which benefit it. It's a key marketing strategy. The fact that Red Hat is engaging here is a positive sign. The fact that Red Hat is competing actively for government business is another positive sign.

One of the most time-honored traditions of technology marketing is the white paper. It appears as an unbiased, scientific study of an important problem, but there is usually a vendor behind it.

Red Hat is learning how to play this game, but at a cost and in a manner open source can live with.

Thus we have this PDF, under the byline of Caroline Boyd, which states your government would save about $24 billion over three years by switching to open soruce, virtualization and cloud computing.

The paper, from the MeriTalk community, is mostly charts and assertions. Microsoft was quick to discredit it, saying it tries to simplify a complex problem, and that while clouds and virtualization are cool open source is "just a business model."

The merits are less important to me here than the method and the engagement.

Microsoft loves white papers done by others, making claims which benefit it. It's a key marketing strategy. The fact that Red Hat is engaging here is a positive sign. The fact that Red Hat is competing actively for government business is another positive sign.

By doing this through MeriTalk, which is filled with techie bling like podcasts and video, and which aims to bring actual federal employees to the party, Red Hat appears to be bleeding edge when it's really doing something out of the 1950s. A nice touch.

All this is, of course, part of a larger game. With a new Administration comes the hope for new approaches in contracting, and new favorites among contractors. Now is a good time for open source to pounce on this opportunity.

It's also more fun to make proprietary interests respond to open source rather than have it be the other way around.