Building Open Source Acceptance

The evolution of globalization, security and the green movement propel the need for open source forward, but first a community mindset needs to take shape.

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Thu, June 19, 2008

CIO — Children are taught as early as preschool that sharing is an essential part of learning to get along with others. Yet some people still can't grasp the concept of sharing code or they reject open source because of the monetary value of ideas, said Jim Whitehurst, president and CEO of Red Hat, at the recent Red Hat Summit in Boston.

Claiming that "open source is the greatest driver in technology," Jim Whitehurst, president and CEO of Red Hat, suggested IT professionals take another look at the open source model as a response to solving the most talked-about computing issues, such as globalization, security and the green movement.

Support is the critical backbone of a community and helps move a society forward. When companies accept that the combination of community innovation and the open source model should be accessible to all customers, costs decrease and innovation increases, according to Whitehurst.

In many instances however, propriety walls still stand, resulting in a huge waste of IT development software. Additionally, customers, developers and testers are simple labels for people doing multiple roles within the online community. The relationship of those roles are different for Red Hat and other open-source companies, said Whitehurst. "You aren't just our customers," he told the audience. "You're our developers, our testers and our community." No one plays just one role anymore.

That spells opportunity for enterprise developers, Whitehurst believes. For example, he pointed out that with the vast majority of software written for in-house use (and much of it never deployed... a pitiful waste of resources), Red Hat wants to encourage companies to free code from behind proprietary walls, to the industry's benefit. For example, he said, the CIO of JP Morgan recognized that the Merge real-time messaging they'd created was useful for more than the company's own needs. Now, everyone who needs that functionality can benefit—and the community can support and extend the feature set.

The tie between Linux and green IT isn't a far-fetched one. Because of the greening of the industry, data centers are one division greatly affected, said Jim Stallings, general manager of IBM's Enterprise Systems Division. The cost of exiting the heat from the data center often is more than running the data center, he said—and energy costs are accelerating.

"You don't buy a new enterprise data center, you evolve to it," Stallings pointed out. The biggest return in energy savings is from server consolidation: more than 40 percent in savings, he said. Certainly, that's where innovations such as virtualization become relevant (and Red Hat just announced more virtualization options at the conference). Data center energy efficiency assessments show an average payback under two years, Stallings said.

There are three main stages of a data center. First, it is in a simplified state, when the IT is checked for efficiency. Then it is in a shared state, when new infrastructure is added, and finally, the data center evolves into a dynamic state, and becomes driven by business growth.

Other transformations are taking shape in the technology world as well, explained Stallings. By 2010, medical imaging will consume 30 percent of the world's storage; more than 70 percent of mobile subscribers will be located in emerging economies. Companies have to change now, he urged. Just as oil drove the industrial age, Stallings said, "We think Linux will be the oil of this age."

Senior Editor Esther Schindler contributed to this report.

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