Red Hat VP Describes Virtualization Road Map

Says open-source, Linux-based virtualization will play an increasingly important role in market, and in Red Hat's product mix.

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Max McLaren, MD for Red Hat ANZ: One of the cool things Red Hat did when they released under an open source subscription was take care of the legal impacts that corporate Australia or America would be concerned about. Red Hat has something called the software assurance policy that generally caters for most things that corporates talk to me about when they have a concern. The first question they have is; "is there someone to call?" and the second question is "is someone going to protect me if I'm being sued by using something that I shouldn't be using?" Red Hat does both of those things with the open source assurance policy. What we've done recently with the copyright case against us was we settled that and did it on behalf of the whole of the open source industry as opposed to just Red Hat. These are the sorts of things Red Hat does in terms of trying to put forward an industry stand point and to satisfy some of the concerns out there.

Paul Cormier: The other thing is we are a member of the Open Invention Network, which is a consortium of us, IBM and some others. We've all thrown in some very large dollars and patents into this consortium as a sort of collaboration and agreement with each other, so that should anything come to bear with patent problems within open source the force of this entire consortium would be behind it. The OIN patent portfolio right now is getting very strong. What do you make of Microsoft's recent moves towards interoperability, their open specification promise, and recent public donations to Apache and the Open Source Census?

I have been with the company for a while - eight years or so - and we made a decision a long time ago that we are a completely open source company. It makes our lives, strategic and tactical decisions, and everything else across the company that much easier. We never have to figure out and try to determine and outwit ourselves on what should be below the line as open source, and what should be above the line in proprietary and closed source. Really, we're the only commercial vendor out there that has that luxury. For Microsoft to make some donations here and there, well unless you are going to go across the board I truly believe it's half-hearted. It's very difficult to say "I'm going to open that piece and not that piece". It is a way you develop software or not, it's either a development methodology or a marketing statement - we're doing it as a development methodology and not as a marketing statement.

What did you make of the Microsoft Novell collaboration deal announced a couple of years ago - and how has it evolved since, in your opinion?

The Microsoft Novell thing, in my opinion, was touted as an interoperability thing, but it seemed like there were strings attached to it from an IP perspective and we didn't believe in that. We have worked with Microsoft occasionally and we have offered many, many times to work with Microsoft to whatever level they would like on interoperability, provided that the only strings attached were better interoperable systems for our common customers. That's our offer out there. Novell seemed like they had some strings attached and they took a lot of flak from the community for it and lost a lot of developers over it. I still have trouble understanding how it's in Microsoft's best interests for Linux to succeed- just think of it that way and make your own judgements.

How can open source software aid businesses that may be suffering from the current economic downturn in the US and its subsequent impact in other countries?

I think one of the things that open source has brought to the table for commercial enterprises is agreed return on investment, it is part of the model for open source. So certainly in an economic downturn the ability to have a great return on investment, and to actually gain performance, interoperability and stability and things like that, open source is actually a pretty winning formula. So from a customer base perspective, I think it opens up customers who might not have in the past thought about it to consider open source technologies. Once they consider it and take a look, we're finding that many of them are pleasantly surprised with what they are getting.

Max McLaren: In Australia there are two key elements really when you are comparing an open source infrastructure to a closed source environment: one is obviously the procurement costs, so you can drive down your costs because you can use commodity hardware as opposed to traditionally high proprietary Unix or other type of hardware. Then it's the ongoing management and ancillary stuff: we spoke to a customer yesterday using 12-15 percent of their IT budget just for anti-virus software, if you could take that out of the equation you can put that money to better use. And we generally find that when you look at some of our large corporate customers managing hundreds of our servers, they are generally doing that with just a couple of administrators whereas with other proprietary environments you normally times that by four or five.

What's happening with Alan Cox at the moment - does he still work for Red Hat?

Paul Cormier: Absolutely. Alan is going great, he is still one of the top contributors to the Linux kernel. Alan spends a lot of time at the hardware layer, but Alan typically goes off and looks for the hardest problems that are out there in the Kernel and works on that. We don't go to Alan and say "hey Alan we want you to implement this functionality and here's the schedule', rather Alan finds the hot spots on his own and solves them before most other people even realize them. Alan is very much with Red Hat and is a great resource, a great engineer and a great guy.

This story, "Red Hat VP Describes Virtualization Road Map" was originally published by CIO Australia.

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