September 24, 2009

LinuxCon: Community, Collaboration Key to HP's OSS Strategy

Addressing the LinuxCon attendees in his Wednesday keynote on "The Freedom to Collaborate," HP Open Source & Linux Chief Technologist Bdale Garbee announced the launch of a new HP-sponsored web portal for supporting non-commercial Linux distributions. will "promote an active community of like-minded users that are interested in running Linux distributions like Asianux, CentOS, Debian, Fedora, OpenSUSE and Ubuntu on HP hardware and for sharing the latest information, tips, best practices, issues and resolutions," according to the site.

"[ is] a focal point for collaboration on ways to use HP servers and related products with non-commercial Linux distributions," Garbee explained. This new site seems to expand upon HP's current support of the non-commercial Debian GNU/Linux distribution.

The announcement of the site was part of Garbee's larger message, which descibed the value of collaboration in the open source environment.

For Garbee, the collaborative model can deliver what companies really need. "Tech companies don't want to compete only at delivering commodities. That drives low margins and won't fund further innovation. They need to add value that customers will pay for," he told the audience.

The big question from Garbee: "How do we best enable innovation in an open collaborative context?"

Garbee cited a strong example on how open collaboration can bring great benefits. Mostly, he explained, innovation really comes from unexpected, even amateur, sources. To demonstrate, he showed portraits of the Wright Brothers and Robert Goddard, three men who were pioneers in aviation and rocket science, respectively, and were completely self-taught.

But tapping into innovation like this is not just a matter of throwing the doors open on a project and hoping things magically happen. Certain criteria need to be met to maximize the benefits. Here's what companies and developers who use an open collaborative model need to ask themselves:

  • Is the development process transparent and accessible?
  • Who gets to participate and when?
  • Can we meaningfully engage?
  • Will this help us deliver a compelling new user experience?
  • Who are the primary copyright holders?
  • Does contribution require copyright assignment?
  • What license(s) are involved?

Also, companies need to realize that individual reputations matter to participants. Sometimes, it's the only coin of the realm.

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