June 3, 2005

Red Hat Summit Day 3: Fedora is free

Author: Joe Barr

NEW ORLEANS -- The third and final day of the inaugural Red Hat Summit opened with a bombshell in the keynote address delivered by Red Hat Deputy General Counsel Mark Webbink: Red Hat is freeing the Fedora project to allow it to become a fully independent entity. Red Hat will continue to support Fedora financially, but the project will be governed by an independent board of directors.

Webbink's keynote -- interrupted three times by applause -- focused on patents and innovation. Webbink said that when he first came to work at Red Hat five years ago, he didn't know the GPL, because all of his experience had been with proprietary software. Today he is passionate about free and open source software.

Intel Senior Fellow and Vice President Richard Wirt followed Webbink's talk to explain to attendees how and why Intel has been involved in open source collaboration over the years. In addition to opening the source code to compilers and tools over the years, Intel has worked with IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and others in developing the Eclipse framework to provide a graphical environment for C/C++ development. It has also contributed code directly to the Linux kernel.

So you want to be a kernel hacker

Rik van Riel gave a Thursday afternoon session for programmers on how to get involved with open source development work. He talked about how best to submit a patch to an existing project -- such as the Linux kernel -- and also about how to make your own closed project open.

Red Hat's Mark Webbink.

Van Riel is one of the best-known Linux kernel hackers, as well as the driving force behind KernelNewbies.org, so he has a lot of practical experience to share on the topics.

The talk was a mix of common sense and practical tips -- just the thing for someone interested in making the move to open source development. Things not to do include dumping a huge patch on the Linux kernel mailing list or setting up a project on SourceForge.com and then abandoning it.

For someone wanting to get a new feature or a bug fix into Red Hat Enterprise Linux, van Riel suggested submitting a patch upstream on the Linux kernel mailing list. He also suggested that you explain to the maintainers what your patch is intended to do and add an explanation of your approach.

Open communications is critical to the process, so van Riel stressed the need to accept feedback on your suggested solution, good and bad. He said the best attitude about negative feedback was "Always question, never defend."

Global impact of open source

Red Hat Vice President Michael Tiemann led one of the final Thursday sessions with a talk entitled "The Global Impact of Open Source." Tiemann offered Alan Cox's Interop Hypothesis (see the graphic) as a metric for measuring this impact. Cox's Hypothesis combines Moore's Law and Metcalfe's Law of Network Value.

Tiemann demonstrated the accuracy of the hypothesis using Unix fragmentation as an example of poor interoperability which decreased the total value of Unix to about half of what it would have been had all the Unix variants worked together. He also noted that the value of open source is driven by the number of participants rather than connections.

The Open Source Parade.

The food and party tracks

Summit attendees gained valuable face time with Red Hat engineers and execs during the various official tracks conducted each day, but the unofficial food and party track also provides a great opportunity for one-on-one time with peers, hosts, and partners.

The food was both good and abundant and the service gracious at the daily breakfasts and lunches, and also at the three large parties Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights. I enjoyed meeting and talking to Red Hat customers and partners from Canada, Dubai, Tunisia, Tulsa, and elsewhere. I also chatted casually with people from HP, IBM, Intel, Fujitsu, community colleges, technical training firms, and other industries. Most were Red Hat customers, some were there as partners, and I met a few who were only there to talk to existing Red Hat customers while considering their technology and services.

While Red Hat sponsored the Tuesday night mixer, partners HP and IBM hosted the following night's gala affairs. Wednesday night was Casino Night, and HP set the bar high with free gaming tables for blackjack, roulette, and poker. IBM met the challenge with an eight-block "Open Source Parade" from the hotel to historic Generations Hall for the Thursday night affair. All the events featured great food and drink backed with live music. Prior to the parade, attendees were given beads and a hurricane -- alcoholic or non-alcoholic, as they preferred -- to sip on as they followed the band to the party site. A bus was provided for those who didn't want to make the walk back to the hotel.

In closing

The Summit ended today with a ceremony annnouncing Red Hat awards for visionary open source leaders.

It's been a fun and interesting three days at the Red Hat Summit. Everyone I've asked has enjoyed their time here, some saying it was even better than they expected. Red Hat has been extremely focused on making sure the important people here -- customers and potential customers -- are happy and getting what they need.

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