OUR SHARED HISTORY, PURPOSE, AND CULTURE
Customers come to
for the innovation and high quality of
open source solutions, without the risk of doing it all themselves.
Years ago, we put our trust in open source: a collaborative, collective way to create and constantly improve software. And we’ve built a strong reputation for critical innovation, world-class support, and deep open source expertise.
For us, open source is a development model and business model.
It shapes our business practices and corporate culture. It is the
ethos that guides our every move.
Open source made us what we are, and how that happened
is a great story.
and the story behind it
It was a red Cornell lacrosse cap, and it belonged to Marc Ewing,
one of Red Hat’s co-founders.
Marc wore his grandfather’s Red Hat when he worked at his job helping fellow students in the computer lab at Carnegie Mellon.
Marc was very helpful and well-known for his competence.
“If you need help, look for the guy in the Red Hat.”
When Marc started distributing his own curated version of
Linux®, he chose Red Hat as the name.
As luck would have it, red hats have historically been symbols of emancipation, liberty, and freedom.
Freed Roman slaves wore them during their emancipation ceremony. The bonnet rouge became a symbol of liberty during the French Revolution.
Many soldiers in the American Revolution wore red knitted stocking caps. Even today, the red hat is a symbol of freedom in the flags or seals of many states and nations.
Today, the official Red Hat fedora represents freedom of
a different sort: the freedom to connect, form communities, and share code.
This is the red hat of the information revolution.
is a way to sell free software
Red Hat co-founder Bob Young was a natural salesperson and
a strong advocate for Red Hat and open source. He always found a way to explain the value of Red Hat and open source in simple terms:
The best analogy that illustrates this benefit is with the way we
buy cars. Just ask the question, ‘Would you buy a car with the
hood welded shut?’ and we all answer an emphatic ‘No.’ So ask
the follow-up question, ‘What do you know about modern internal-combustion engines?’ and the answer for most of us is, ‘Not much.’
We demand the ability to open the hood of our cars because it
gives us, the consumer, control over the product we’ve bought
and takes it away from the vendor. We can take the car back to
the dealer; if he does a good job, doesn’t overcharge us, and adds the features we need, we may keep taking it back to that dealer.
But if he overcharges us, won’t fix the problem, or refuses to install
that musical horn we always wanted—well, there are 10,000 other
car repair companies that would be happy to have our business.
In the proprietary software business, the customer has no control over the technology he is building his business around. If his vendor overcharges him, refuses to fix the bug that causes his system to crash, or chooses not to introduce the feature that the customer needs, the customer has no choice. This lack of control results
in high cost, low reliability, and lots of frustration.”
We demand the ability to open the hood of our cars because it gives us, the consumer, control over the product.
and to a subscription
“Ship it” was meant literally.
For many years, Red Hat Linux was a boxed product, sold beside boxes of Microsoft Windows and Lotus Notes in retail stores. Before downloading was a possibility, it was burned onto CDs, packed in boxes, shrink-wrapped, loaded on trucks, and shipped to stores. “Ship it” was meant literally.
Typically, a new version of Red Hat Linux was released every six months or so. In that way, Red Hat was a lot like every other software company, hoping customers would buy a new version every few months to get new features. We also made a little money on the side selling hats, t-shirts, and stickers.
Our development model was open source, but our distribution and business model was very conventional.
Over time, Linux grew more versatile and powerful. Between 1991 and 2001, Linux went from a kernel of about 10,000 lines of source code to the core, consisting of about 19.5 million lines of code.
The retail box version of Red Hat Linux was occasionally used in business, usually by enthusiastic early adopters with strong do-it-yourself capabilities. But larger enterprises would never update their systems every six months. They expected 24x7 support. They needed testing and certification from hardware providers, as well as enterprise applications from independent software vendors that were certified to run Red Hat solutions. And the cost of migrating had to be low enough and the benefits pronounced enough that it was worth the effort.
If Red Hat was going to step up to this opportunity, we had
to innovate far beyond technology. We had to envision a new business model and invent a new kind of technology company. In order to succeed, Red Hat had to change dramatically
In 2002, we took a leap of faith.
LINES OF CODE
LINES OF CODE
Distribution of boxes of Red Hat Linux, our flagship product and a major source of revenue, would stop. Instead, an enterprise edition would be sold on a subscription basis.
Launching Red Hat Enterprise Linux was our defining moment, but it was not universally understood or accepted at the time. That took a lot of hard work in the form of discussion and debate; even those opposed knew they were not ignored, and over time, everyone began to feel some ownership of the decision. This made it possible to work together on solving the myriad technical, legal, business,
and marketing problems the change presented. As an
open decision, responsibility for its success now belonged
Fedora became the freely available community version of the Linux operating system, with rapid development cycles and innovative features. Today, Red Hat engineers collaborate with tens of thousands of contributors to keep Fedora free, full of features, and forward-looking. Fedora is a promise to the future of Linux.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux became our flagship product, our offering to the world’s most demanding datacenters. Red Hat products and solutions are used by more than 90% of Fortune Global 500 companies.* The success of Red Hat Enterprise Linux led to more than a decade of steady growth and allowed us the resources and flexibility to participate in many other open source communities. And it is this self-sustaining, broad participation that fuels our insight into choosing the most powerful future technologies. Open collaboration gives all participants a window into the future because the most promising technologies gather expertise and effort into the most active communities.
When confronted by a changing market and faced with an existential threat, we applied open source principles, debated fiercely, collectively adapted, and built an entirely new Red Hat.
It was our defining moment.
*Red Hat client data and Fortune Global 500 list, 2015.
statement was open sourced
In 2003, well before we arrived at our mission statement as
it lives today, we had a guiding principle. We called it our raison d’être or reason for being.
This was a heady statement. It showed the scale of our ambition—to be the defining technology company of the 21st century. It spoke to our love of openness and of the hope that our technology and very existence would be a liberating, progressive force.
But it didn’t say what we should or would do. It made no concrete promises. It was an aspiration, not a plan of action.
It was more vision than mission. It became our vision statement, and still is to this day.
Raison d’être 2003
and through our actions strengthen the social fabric by continually democratizing content and technology.
By 2009, it was obvious that we needed to make a concrete, coherent statement about who we were, why we existed, and what we were going to do about it.
It seems simple and straightforward, but putting our shared purpose into words was not easy.
At Red Hat, a mission statement could never be handed down from the boardroom. Something this important would have to emerge from a deliberate, participatory process. So we came together as a company and collectively wrote a new mission statement, with more than 400 Red Hatters participating directly in its drafting.
The process took time. After a lot of open and spirited debate, something we could all believe in emerged. It may not have been the easiest way to write a mission statement. But the extra effort was worth it because, together, we got
Allowing ideas to come from anywhere, opening up the creation of the mission statement so that anyone could contribute, promoting discussion and dialog, and then finally allowing the best ideas to win—this is how we created the Red Hat mission statement the open source way.
TO BE THE CATALYST
FOR A IN COMMUNIT Y IES OF CUSTOMERS, DEVELOPERS CONTRIBUTORS, AND PARTNERS USING OPEN SOURCE TO BUILDCREATING BETTER TECHNOLOGY
BETTER SOFTWARE FASTER.THE OPEN SOURCE WAY
In 2009, 400 people, 15% of all associates at the time, worked with CEO Jim Whitehurst, to write and rewrite the mission statement.
TO BE THE CATALYST
IN COMMUNITIES OF CUSTOMERS, CONTRIBUTORS, AND PARTNERS CREATING BETTER TECHNOLOGY
THE OPEN SOURCE WAY.
is the opposite of reinventing the wheel
The term “open source” generally refers to something that can be modified because its design is publicly accessible. It describes a collaborative approach to developing new technology and constantly improving it by sharing, learning, refining, and building on the work of others. Open source is a form of collective learning, but it is also a way of gathering and sharing wisdom. It is a way of constructing foresight.
Within software development, that means sharing code. In this context, open source refers to the visibility and availability of source code. But the definition of open source is expanding far beyond technology.
“Open source” is now used broadly to describe a means for many people to collaborate on a large scale. It is a cooperative, creative process that solves shared problems and ensures those solutions endure as common knowledge.
Our prescient move from a boxed product for PC hobbyists to critical enterprise infrastructure and then onward, from virtualization to cloud computing to mobile to containers and beyond, is the result of the insights and vision we gathered by participating in open source development. Our fast and often fortuitous moves into new realms may sometimes seem unexpected, but they are never accidental. We trust the open source way to help us sustain quality over time—this is the true advantage.
And although we are unique among technology companies, we are not the only ones who recognize the power of open source. Today, large traditional proprietary technology companies now participate in open source development (even the ones who once spread a lot of fear, uncertainty,
and doubt about it). Companies like Google, Facebook,
and Amazon all attribute their success to the power of
Today, humanity faces very complicated problems. No individual nation, corporation, or nongovernmental organization can tackle climate change, famine, migration, or disaster relief alone. As our shared problems get bigger and more complex, our means of collaboration must become more resilient and sustainable at a larger scale. Open source is an innovation engine; it is humanity’s latest response to a more connected and complex world. Human problems require open and collaborative strategies.
Although generous and optimistic in spirit, there is nothing nebulous or abstract about the benefits of open source. Connection and collective problem solving not only solve shared problems, but help us see what problems might lie ahead.
Connecting unlikely combinations of new and old ideas increases the likelihood of experiencing a meaningful breakthrough, especially when it comes to solving very complex problems.
When many voices are heard in an open forum, an enduring common vision can emerge. A diverse community with a shared purpose ensures that the most important problems are being addressed with the most pragmatic and effective solutions.
Everyone has access to the same information. The source code is accessible. Decisions might not always be made by consensus, but they are always made in the open. Everyone has a chance to contribute.
While the best ideas can come from anywhere, the people who care the most and work the hardest tend to rule the day. And not every great idea is immediately workable. Open source communities are not debating societies or think tanks. They exist to get work done. The winning idea is not always the most elegant or creative; it is the one that works best.
Communities are formed around a common purpose. A global, open community can create beyond the capabilities of any one individual. Communities multiply effort and share work. Self-organizing open source communities are governed by every participant who cares enough to do so.
creates more winners
Red Hat is an incorporation of open source ideals, and our deep roots in open source are our competitive advantage.
Open source is our strategic advantage, and it is why we exist. All customer value and shareholder value grows out of the technology, expertise, and wisdom we gain from being a part of the open source ecosystem.
Red Hat benefits from open source, but we do not feed on it. We are catalysts and a major creative force in the open source technology ecosystem. We cultivate projects, nurture collaborative environments, and when necessary, protect our technology ecosystem as a whole.
We do this because we know that the best way for us to win
is to create more winners. And we create more winners by joining and contributing directly to open source community projects, acquiring useful proprietary code and liberating it, and by fighting for the legal right to share and collaborate.
If it helps our customers and makes open source stronger,
we do it.
Red Hat has participated in hundreds of open source communities. When we spot a promising technology that has attracted an active and productive community and is useful to our enterprise customers, we join the project.
Our greatest contribution has been to the Linux kernel, where we are consistently a leading corporate contributor. The Fedora Project has thousands of account holders.
We also participate actively in things like the Open Compute Project, OpenStack®, Ceph, GlusterFS, RDO, and JBoss® communities.
Code, expertise, time, and complete faith in collaboration. When Red Hat shows up, we bring it all.
Most software is covered by copyright which, along with contract law, patents, and trade secrets, provides the legal basis for its owner to establish exclusive rights.
The traditional purpose of intellectual property (IP) law was to grant authors and inventors a temporary monopoly over their creations in exchange for making them available to the public forever. The emphasis was on the intellectual benefit to society. After a time, one’s ideas were meant to be shared freely for everyone’s betterment.
Over time, the concept of intellectual property became more like traditional tangible property law. Ownership and extracting value from an idea became more important than sharing it.
Nowhere has this departure from first principles been more detrimental to progress than in the development of software.
There isn’t much room for trade secrets in an open exchange.
Red Hat software is released under open source licenses, including copyleft licenses such as GNU General Public License (GPL) v2. Copyleft software can be copied, studied, changed, and modified, so long as the user then releases their modifications under the same permissive terms. Under this regime, freedom proliferates.
Patents are more complicated. Red Hat has consistently taken the position that software patents generally impede software development and are inconsistent with encouraging innovation in open source and free software.
But we have to exist and do business in the world as it is, so we hold our fair share of software patents as a defensive measure. Even so, we have a longstanding commitment to enforce them only as a defensive measure.
Red Hat representatives have addressed these issues before the National Academies of Science, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, and the U.S. Department of Justice. Red Hat is also a signatory on a petition to the European Union (EU) encouraging it not to adopt a policy of permitting software patents. Red Hat will continue to work to promote this position and is pleased to join the open source and free software community, as well as those proprietary vendors that have publicly stated their opposition to software patents, in that effort.
isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it
Red Hat is a company where people can make a difference.
It is a place to take chances and grow. Everyone at Red Hat has an opportunity to have a creative, inventive, collaborative career they couldn’t have anywhere else.
But no one at Red Hat will ever tell you that collaboration is easy, or that it is always fun and enjoyable. Real collaboration is hard work and requires faith. But working at Red Hat teaches us that it is worth it. Eventually, every Red Hatter discovers that working with brilliant, energetic, creative people is its own reward.
Working at Red Hat is not a zero-sum game. You can’t succeed and move up at Red Hat all by yourself. Red Hat is a meritocracy where merit is earned by how well you help others succeed. We succeed as an open source technology company when we create more open source winners. And we succeed as individuals when we help create more winners within our ranks.
Being the smartest person in the room is not enough if you don’t have the capacity to work with people who are in that room with you.
When you work with and through communities of contributors as Red Hat does, where you can’t order anyone to do anything for you, your ability to listen, process, and not take everything personally becomes incredibly valuable.”
The Open Organization
COOPERATE OPENLY AND SHARE INFORMATION
CREATE OPPORTUNITIES FOR ONE ANOTHER
SHARE RESPONSIBILITY, SPEAK UP, AND CORRECT MISTAKES
HELP OTHERS BE THEIR BEST
As a company, Red Hat has changed business models more than once. We have seen our way through three major shifts in our industry: from desktop PCs to client-server, and now cloud-mobile. Over time, together, we have been able to scale to deal with extraordinary complexity, diversity, and individuality—not to mention increasing rates of innovation. And the whole time we have delivered industry-leading reliability, manageability, and consistency.
We did it by recognizing that open source was more than
a better way to create technology. It is a very effective way to build a responsive, resilient, and revolutionary company.
Today, everyone appreciates the inherent value of open source—especially our competitors.
We don’t have to sell that idea anymore or prove that open source works. Everyone knows.
But our story is still worth telling. We believe that transparency, open exchange, broad participation, meritocracy, and sharing knowledge are better ways to build technology, and that it's the best way to run a company.
We follow open source principles, work hard in open and collaborative ways, and together, we can prevail.
The Red Hat story is still unique, but today every technology company is moving in our direction.
That’s fine with us. After all, when it comes to making technology better, more is more.
Copyright © 2016 Red Hat, Inc. Red Hat, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, the Shadowman logo, Hibernate, RHCE, and JBoss are trademarks of Red Hat, Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. Linux®
is the registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in the U.S. and other countries. The OpenStackTM Word Mark and OpenStack Logo are either registered trademarks/service marks or trademarks/service
marks of the OpenStack Foundation, in the United States and other countries and are used with the OpenStack Foundation’s permission. We are not af liated with, endorsed or sponsored by the OpenStack Foundation, or the OpenStack community.
Photo on p.7 courtesy of M Moser Associates.