Commercial Linux distributor Red Hat started out as a catalog business peddling Linux and Unix software and started tucking a homegrown Linux created by Marc Ewing in the back of the catalogs. It didn't take long to realize that the Linux was worth more than the catalog business, and thus the poster child for the commercialized open source movement was born.
What you may not have realized is that for Red Hat, open source is not just about business. The company turned a tiny open source business into a stunning amount of shareholder value in the waning days of the dot-com boom a decade ago - remember in the months after Red Hat went public and the company had a $26.9bn market capitalization? - and despite the euphoria over open source and the desire to get rich by Wall Street investors, Red Hat has steadily grown that Linux business so it almost fits its much smaller $5.2bn market cap.
But open source is more, at least for Red Hatters. It is about life, and it is a value system that for all intents and purposes constitutes a kind of religion. Today, Red Hat revealed its true self to the multitudes as it launched a community called Opensource.com.
Red Hat wants to lead the way in an open source lifestyle, according to DeLisa Alexander, senior vice president of people and brand at Red Hat. (That sounds like the kind of a title you'd expect at Big Blue or in an episode of The Office - and I mean the British one, not its weaker American reflection.)
"We have some experience we can share, and there are other businesses that do as well," explains Alexander. "And by coming together, we hope to create connections and a dialog, and to make the world a better place by sharing."
Jim Whitehurst, Red Hat's chief executive officer, says in a posting on Opensource.com that Red Hat believes that open source principles - by which he presumably means merit, transparency, and sharing, but Whitehurst doesn't say that - have been the "backbone" of Red Hat and "there are opportunities to apply the open source way broadly in business, in government, in education, in the law, and throughout our lives."
As you might expect, the Opensource.com community runs on open source software. Specifically, Red Hat has tapped Acquia's commercial variant of the Drupal content management system running atop Red Hat Enterprise Linux and using the Apache Web server and the MySQL database. Acquia hosts this Drupal service on Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud, which is about the most closed source iron you can get, by the way.
Don your Red Hat and join the movement here. ®