Red Hat Summit: Overview and Reflections

The topics from last week's Red Hat Summit, and what they might mean for the future of the open-source revolution.

Last week in New Orleans, Red Hat held its first annual conference called Red Hat Summit. I've used Red Hat Linux for quite a few years, so this seemed like a good opportunity to meet some of the Red Hat people and to learn more about the operating system and related software. Although the newness of this conference showed at times, overall it was a good meeting. Many interesting presentations were given, which made it worth attending. In this article I give an overview of the conference and conclude with some reflections on Linux that occurred to me during some of the presentations.

General Comments

Over 700 participants attended the Red Hat Summit--not the thousands LinuxWorld Expo can brag about, but a respectable showing all the same for Red Hat's first conference. At the registration desk, attendants were given a neat bag worth keeping, a hat and an impressive booklet describing the speakers and sessions. The registration package looked like it went over budget. I can't imagine it being as nice at future conferences. Each night a reception or party was offered with live music, an open bar and plenty of food. The breakfasts and lunches all were part of the admission price and were excellent as well. The parties along with the meals were paid for in part by corporate sponsors, such as IBM, HP and AMD. Throw in the talks and the hotel room, which was part of the registration fee, and there certainly was good value in the price of admission.

Figure 1. Matthew Szulik (Photograph by Jonathan Opp)

One complaint that many of us had, though, is that the conference didn't provide users with wireless Internet access. We had access initially, but the staff realized it inadvertently had left the network open. By late morning of the first day, they had locked us out. Many of us complained, but it did no good. The staff's retort was that we should use the hotel's wireless network. Unfortunately, it wasn't free, it was down much of the time and it wasn't available in the meeting rooms where the conference was held. Maybe I'm spoiled, but I find it difficult to dedicate several days to a conference and thereby forego all of my other work. Also, it's useful to pull up Web pages and download software discussed by speakers at the various sessions. Hopefully, next year the conference staff will change its attitude on this point.

Keynotes & Announcements

The conference started off each morning with an opening keynote address by a top person from Red Hat, immediately followed by a partner keynote talk from an executive of one of Red Hat's partners. The introduction capped off with a visionary keynote from a member of the community. The executive talks were interesting from a business perspective, but the visionary keynotes were much more interesting for general attendees. The staging, lighting and videos were spectacular, by the way: a highly professional crew orchestrated the keynote talks. My only complaint about the organization of the keynote talks was they rolled from one to the next without a break. For some, though, this may be good in that we were able to listen to three presentations in a row without having to get up.

The first day's keynote address was given by Red Hat's CEO, Matt Szulik. He talked about the future of open-source and free software and how we're at the beginning of a new revolution. He finished off his talk by donning a choir robe and joining in with some gospel singers who sang about being misunderstood. Following Szulik, the partner keynote was presented by Martin Fink, Vice President of Linux at Hewlett-Packard. Fink gave a business analysis of the open-source market. The visionary keynote of the day came from John Buckman of Magnatune who spoke about the music-download industry. At a press conference on the first day, Red Hat announced the Red Hat and the Fedora Directory Server, both of which are based on the Netscape Directory Server that Red Hat acquired last year. According to one of the pamphlets, it is "an LDAP server that centralizes application settings, user profiles, group data, policies, and access control information into a network-based registry." Red Hat intends to make the related software open-source under the GPL fairly soon.

On the second day, the keynote line up was Michael Tiemann, VP for Open-Source Affairs at Red Hat, who talked about how this century belongs to open-source and not to closed-source companies. For the partner keynote, Irving Wladawsky-Berger, VP of Technical Strategy and Innovation at IBM, spoke in the same vein. Then, Greg Stein of the Apache Software Foundation provided an interesting talk on open-source and Apache and the activities at the Foundation. He wasn't originally on the schedule, but he made a great fill-in speaker and should be asked to speak again at next year's conference.

Figure 2. Mark Webbink (Photograph by Jonathan Opp)

The third and final morning offered keynotes from Mark Webbink, Deputy General Counsel of Red Hat; Richard Wirt, VP of Intel; and Bruce Mau, CEO of Bruce Mau Design. It was odd having a lawyer speaking at a software conference. However, Webbink was the right person to explain Red Hat's plan to give Fedora more independence, among other things. This includes handing over the copyrights of Red Hat code to the community spin-off. Webbink also announced that Red Hat is creating an organization called the Software Patent Commons that will work for the sharing of software patents. Red Hat has opposed software patents, but legal actions on the part of Microsoft has made it necessary for patents to be taken seriously.

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Drinking the water

Anonymous's picture

Come to a Novell conference or a IBM conference and you will simply see things from another perspective. You "drank the Red water" at this conference. Linux is 90% religion.
I've used many Linux distributions since Linus first released a working kernel and the only reason that it's moving the direction it's moving is due to the corporate world pulling it in that direction.
RH is desperate now that there are real companies behind real distributions...they want you to continue drinking their water...which you are. Welcome to Microsoft's world where water is already a commodity that they "make better" all the time and when you want to believe that M$ is not behind RH...you'll wake up.

Why are folks always attacking Red Hat?

Anonymous's picture

Folks,

Too many people, including the author of this article, are out here launching both subtle and not-so-subtle attacks against a company that has done BOATLOADS for Free Software. This recent announcement regarding the Netscape Directory Server code is but one example. I think it's great that they're hiring Free Software hackers and releasing all this code under the GPL. They're a part of our community, not its owner.

Mr. Dyer, you say, above, "For instance, frustrated with the haphazard progress of the various GUI desktops, Red Hat scooped up some of the volunteer developers of the GNOME desktop and gave them full-time jobs developing GNOME based on the needs of Red Hat's target markets and on its schedule. Admittedly, this has produced some great results. However, one has to wonder how much the herding and corralling of open-source developers helps and hurts the future of open source."

I don't see it as hurting FOSS at all. On the contrary, I see it as helping it greatly. RMS spoke of this back in the day when he spoke of how Free Software can indeed feed programmers when people need maintenance done on said Free Software. Guess what? Red Hat, Inc. is one of the "people who need maintenance" on that Free Software. By paying the programmers to hack on that code, they are directly furthering its continued improvement. Red Hat has itself become "that programmer" in that its entire business model is on servicing and maintaining Free Software, just like RMS himself did with Emacs back in the day. Just recently, my firm (a school district) funded a PERL hacker to modify the NMIS network management tool to include authentication and authorization, and I was the driving "management" force behind it. I submit that my doing this does not mean that I "hurt the future of open source."

Additionally, Red Hat is about as much for software patents as the Pope is for worshiping golden calves. They are fighting software patents rather loudly. This, too, is a Good Thing.

Firms like Red Hat that release their code under the GPL like they do are great--wonderful--for us. It is this act that we should continue to encourage. If you're going to knock someone, then knock firms like Microsoft, Sun, and Apple who lobby for software patents and restrictive EULAs. But not Red Hat.

I agree

Dave's picture

They say you have to take the good with the bad. RedHat did as noted "Boatloads" for FOSS. Sure, I don't always agree with things they do/want to do, but I wouldn't kill them off if I could as RMS surely would. It seems to be that some people can't comprehend the meaning compromise for the overall betterment of FOSS. Like RMS's, "It's my way or the highway" crap. If it weren't for companies like RedHat Linux wouldn't be what it is today. Linus would have a real job and would only be working on Linux part-time. Today's Linux wouldn't have the support of the companies that gave Linux RCU and other things. IBM wouldn't be protecting what Linux has become today because it would be SCO verus RedHat and RedHat wouldn't be able to compete with the power house lawyers the Canopy Group brought onboard. Thank you RedHat, IBM, HP, etc, but I still reserve the right to criticize you, but rest assured. I have no intention of trying to kick you out of this game.

I agree!

Anonymous's picture

If you dance with wolves it's likely that you will be eaten! My feeling is that the whole open software community nurish a secret dream of being commercially accepted. I believe that the slogan on the RedHat bottles we got at the summit "free as in water" is a big lie!

Brgds!

You need to come to OLS, it's

Anonymous's picture

You need to come to OLS, it's the geeky conference

Red Hat Summit, not Linux Summit

Anonymous's picture

This is the Red Hat Summit, not the Linux Summit. Of course it's going to reflect the corporate agenda of Red Hat (and if RHAT management is doing its job, the company's customers). Want a vendor-neutral Linux summit that's not run by a corporation, go to linux.conf.au or Linux Symposium in Ottawa.

*boggle* GNOME is a "commerci

Anonymous's picture

*boggle* GNOME is a "commercialisation of Linux and GNU" software? Dude, GNOME is the GNU desktop!

Linus' Goals

James Reardon's picture

> If the big software companies are to take over the revolution--as
> implied in Szulik's keynote comments--what will be the results? Will
> they be what Linus Torvalds set out to achieve 14 years ago?

14 years ago Linus set out to have a unix-like operating system on his 386. Nothing more. He accomplished his task.

You're right.

Anonymous's picture

You're right. Linus is a good programmer and a great distributed project manager, but not a "master planner". That's why everybody else used Linux, because YOU supply the master plan. Kind of like how kids would rather play with a a cardboard box than a fancy toy. With the box you make up what it is.

Chris DiBona on wireless at conferences

Anonymous's picture

GPL

Patrick Hallinan's picture

As long as Red Hat is releasing code under the GPL their contributions are contributions that (whether driven by business goal or not) belong to everyone. They are making real contributions.

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