A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing
Big Blue Buys Red Hat
It was October 28th that IBM announced its intended purchase of Red Hat. What we will try to discover is, if merging red into blue produces a purple downpour or if raspberry berets will be the new millinery of choice.
Firstly, this purchase should not have been too much of a surprise. IBM has been looking at this type of purchase for many years. Initially, IBM showed an interest in the purchase of SUSE by Novell in 2004. Not only had IBM been stalking SUSE, but they had also had Canonical and Ubuntu in their sights, or at least they did until they feasted upon Red Hat. Canonical had streamlined their operations, ditching their OpenStack and LXD divisions in readiness of a sale. Secondly and more positively, we should mention that IBM has been involved in the promotion of Linux well before Red Hat. It was IBM that began an Enterprise Linux training program well before Red Hat and SUSE ever did. IBM is most definitely not new to Linux and has shown a corporate love for community and sharing.
Are Big Corporations Good For Open Source Software?
Microsoft loves Linux. They are major investors in Open Source projects including Azure. They have recently purchased GitHub, the online code repository, which supports code sharing and collaboration. But what is their gain and what do they want from OSS? There is certainly much mistrust of Microsoft within Linux, but how much of that is due to their previous masters and should we trust the current governance more?
Oracle has dabbled in Linux with their clone of Red Hat in the form of Oracle Linux and now they own the prominent database server MySQL. MySQL was originally bought by Sun Microsystems in 2008; in 2009 Oracle acquired Sun. This suited Oracle well as they had already acquired Innobase. This was a Finnish company that developed the InnoDB engine that allows for database transaction and foreign keys that are used within MySQL databases. The Innobase acquisition dates back to 2005 and illustrates Oracle’s planned approach to the takeover of MySQL.
Since the acquisition of MySQL, development has been slow and a competitor has been released in the form of MariaDB. This database server is a “from the ground up” rewrite of MySQL by the original author Michael ("Monty") Widenius.
The Demise Of SUSE
Novell Inc. acquired SUSE in 2004. SUSE was the first enterprise designed Linux distribution, with its HQ in Nuremberg, Germany. Whilst the purchase initially was good, giving SUSE much more publicity and focus, especially in North America; it quickly went bad. Novell had difficulties with their own product range and in 2010, Novell was acquired by Attachmate. This did not last too long before Attachmate was merged into Micro Focus in 2014. It has recently been released that SUSE will be sold in 2019 to EQT Partners.
To be honest and frank about this, SUSE is one of the oldest Linux Distributions to be found and they have been neglected. Passed from one carer to another. Their market share has disappeared and big corporate ownership has destroyed this goliath of a distribution.
A Passion For Open Source
It seems to me that big corporations do not have the passion for Open Source Development. Products can easily become lost within the boardroom where the corporation is the guardian of many. Without focus, a product can easily become lost and it has always been the case that small projects are equally important to the success of Linux as larger ones. SUSE is a good example of big corporate ownership losing focus. There were 3 years between to release of SUSE 10 and SUSE 11. Between version 11 and 12 there was a massive 6-year gap for the enterprise offering update. So many customers were lost during this time and they are unlikely to go back.
And What Of Red Hat
This is where your guess becomes as good as mine. Personally, I would be hopeful of a kind governance by a corporation that has viewed Linux with interest for many years. A patron, who will be able to provide funding and support for growth, is always welcome. I also hope that they will be equally benevolent to the community edition CentOS as they will be with the commercial Red Hat Enterprise version.