"Linux is the hype du jour." -- Gartner Group, 1999
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NEW ORLEANS -- Red Hat's CEO gave new meaning to the phrase "preaching to the choir" yesterday when he took to the stage in a preacher's robe, with a gospel choir in tow and told the open source company's customers that proprietary software vendors are on the wrong side of history.
Matthew Szulik kicked off the first Red Hat Summit with a fast-paced keynote address deriding proprietary software vendors who, after years of nay-saying, have begun to acknowledge the viability of the open source development model.
"One of the things that brought all of us together today is that we believe we're on the vanguard of a new revolution," Szulik said.
"No longer should one vendor dominate 94 to 96% of the information that we look at and that we view and that we use. No longer should organizations be able to come into your domain… and challenge how we use information. No longer should patents and copyrights and trademarks be held hostage to a policy that began in the industrial age," he added.
The keys to building the software that companies need to be effective today are vendor-neutral standards and community-based development, Szulik said.
"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that open source is the… development model of the 21st century," he said. "We're coming to the realization that society cannot advance without the contributions of each and every one of you."
The CEO then seemed to cut his speech short and walked off stage. About one minute later, he emerged once again. This time he was wearing the gown of a preacher and was accompanied by the Joyful Choir of New Orleans.
Szulik then surprised the audience by leading the choir in a gospel style song that summed up Red Hat's feelings about the world's reaction to open source over the past several years.
"I've been lonely, mistreated, been misunderstood," Szulik sang to the crowd.
Attendees weigh in
Linux users interviewed following the keynote said they agreed with Szulik that the open source revolution has arrived.
"I personally feel that the growth and usability of Linux is very much enhanced through open source," said Lloyd Kirk, an independent IT contractor currently working with ObesityHelp.com. "I don't think Linux would be nearly as far along if it weren't open source."
Ram Balasubramanian, a systems administrator from Duluth, Georgia, agreed with Szulik, but had a few misgivings about the way Red Hat does business, and the way it's positioned in the marketplace.
"I think [the open source revolution is] already here, but I don't think it all belongs to Red Hat," Balasubramanian said. "I don't like the fact that Linux equals Red Hat."
Balasubramanian, whose company migrated to Linux from Solaris about two years ago, also voiced displeasure with Red Hat's subscription-based pricing policies.
"The big thing about Linux to me is the kernel, and when you get a subscription service, you have to run their kernel," he said. "I think it defeats the point of Linux."