Red Hat: Open source is driving innovation and the information economy -- but battle is not over

Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst said the standardization -- aka commoditization or componentization -- of technology though the open source model has catapulted the information age into an information economy -- but the battle against proprietary vendors is not over.

The information age is finally evolving into the information economy because of the standardization enabled by Linux and open source -- but it's still a battle, Red Hat's CEO said.

The computer was invented roughly 60 years ago but only now are we seeing dramatic innovations, particularly in the cloud, mobile, and big data sectors -- which are run largely next generation open source architectures, he said.

"One of the key reasons is we're finally seeing componentization happening," Jim Whitehurst told thousands gathered in Boston for the Linux leader's annual summit. "More innovation will happen first in open source and that's a radical change from even five years ago."

He's talking, of course, about the standardization, or the componentization, or the commoditization, if you will, of the underlying computing platform upon which innovation happens.

Big data was not driven by a vendor but by end users and the open source project Hadoop. Cloudera is one vendor innovating on top of that platform but it does not control Hadoop, the Red Hat CEO noted.

Whitehurst, a former airline exec, likened Linux and open source (the LAMP stack) to the nuts and bolts and other standardized pieces of machinery that led to the explosion of innovation in the industrial age -- such as the development of combustible engines and jet planes.

Linux and open source is driving the next generation information economy but the battle is not over. Proprietary vendors are still trying to control the code, the means of production, and that grip must be loosened to drive more substantial innovation.

"Open source has gone mainstream ... open source is the default choice of the next generation IT architecture," he said, adding that if proprietary companies were able to patent nuts and bolts or own the copyrights to a screwdriver, jet engines might never have existed.

"The decisions we make over the next few years [are critical] ... if we have a new architecture with an old business model it still does not get us there.

"This will be a battle," he claimed. "Openness, standardization, commoditization is not done and it's a battle we'll continue to fight over the next few years."

Red Hat this year surpassed the $1 billion marker. Open source has become the default choice for next generation IT architectures. Innovation in the cloud, mobile and big data markets is happening first (aside from Apple) in open source.

The battles will continue but I'd say the war is won.

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