Red Hat exec: Open Source is mature, disruptive and innovative

Craig Nielsen was one of eight speakers at the WA open source symposium earlier this month. He talks about where the industry stands and where it is rapidly heading.

What were some of the questions about open source technologies that came from attendees at the WA symposium?

Attendees were interested in how vendors could assist in overcoming their internal barriers to open source adoption which they felt was largely driven by a lack of understanding of the open source business model at a senior exec level.

Organisations raised questions about open source skills and in the case of Linux how easy it would be to retrain technical folks like Unix administrators.

(My answer for this is that) it's very easy for Unix administrators to re-skill as most of the concepts are similar and Unix like in Linux.

Attendees were also interested in finding our where they could search for open source applications, and they were interested in understanding how Open Source vendors could assist them with pilot projects.

From your industry observation and discussions with business, what barriers still exist that hinder open source adoption by business and government?

The challenge in answering this question is that open source offerings differ in terms of their maturity and the problems they solve, therefore the barriers to adoption will vary based on the solution.

Three years ago many organisations did not have an open source strategy even though open source was used in many parts of their business. Today that has changed substantially with most large organisations having defined a Linux strategy and in many instances a broader open source strategy.

From a Red Hat perspective we have moved from "early adopters" a few years ago to "mainstream adoption" right now. We believe we have the economics, technology and partnerships right. Together with our partners, we work to ensure that we make the customer transition to Linux as painless as possible and have announced a program where we will share services frameworks and best practices with our partners to ensure predictable and repeatable services outcomes for companies looking to move to Linux.

Traditionally, skills have always been an issue when transitioning to new technologies, so we have focused heavily on developing skills around our platforms. Australia has, for its size, a disproportionately large number of Red Hat certifications by global standards. We're satisfied with that, but we plan to do more around skills development moving forward.

Many large Corporations and governments recognise that due to their size, inertia is often a barrier to innovation. In response, some have created specific technology units tasked with creating opportunities for alternative technologies including open source.

A few governments such as South Africa have created an Open Source Program Office across government to drive the adoption of open source as a strategy.

From a community perspective, the open source community in general needs to do more around communicating its utility to enterprises. CIOs are generally more risk averse than risk seeking and the community needs to understand that. We need to strike a balance between "cool" technology and "low risk" technology in our dialog with business.

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