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Q and A with Red Hat Software

Sep 08, 1999, 13:48 (1 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Dave Whitinger)

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Donnie Barnes took a few moments out of his day to answer a few questions about Red Hat Software.

Q: If Red Hat were preparing an IPO today, would it do anything different with respect to compensating members of the Linux community by offering them pre-IPO stock?

A: Hindsight is always 20-20. We had a very successful program after it was all said and done. While we would have certainly liked to have done it with fewer bumps in the road, we couldn't have asked for a better outcome. About 5000 open source contributors were invited to participate. Of those, 1300 indicated an interest. Of those, 1150 became Red Hat shareholders. Our goal was to include as many open source contributors and community members in our IPO as possible, and we had about an 88% success rate. We're happy that we were able to do that.

Obviously we wanted a smoother program. I think those who might do this next can easily identify most of the pitfalls and avoid them, however, and be successful as well. I strongly encourage them to do it.

Q: What advice would Red Hat offer to Linux and open-source companies who want to seek venture capital and prepare for an IPO?

A: Never "seek" those things. Work to grow your business naturally. When the time is right, venture capital will seek you. If your best business growth avenue is venture capital, then go for it. If the next business growth opportunity is an IPO, go for it. Make sure your company has the expertise and experience to deal with it properly and make those decisions intelligently, though. Never use an "IPO" as a goal. The goal for us and the challenge as well is to change the way business is done in the computing industry and show that open source development delivers more robust and stable solutions than proprietary development. We stay focused on that, and don't think of the IPO as the end but rather the beginning of what our mission is.

Q: Several ventures have been started to compensate developers of open-source projects: sourceXchange, CoSource, and Linux Fund, to name three. What is Red Hat's take on these projects and what is Red Hat's view on the best way to help active contributors to the Free Software community to participate in the wealth that it is now beginning to generate?

A: New ways are going to pop up like flies. Not all will work, but many will. There will be opportunities in custom programming, working for a venture that is already being successful, consulting, filling niche markets with specialized needs, etc. Taking advantage of what is out there will depend on the skill set and motives of the individual. We encourage folks to get out there and do what best suits, them, and we appreciate feedback of which or how many of these projects are accomplishing their goals successfully.

Q: What has Red Hat been spending the early investor money (Intel, Netscape, all those other companies that made "equity investments" pre-IPO) on?

A: Growing the business without going into debt, basically.

Q: Where do things stand w/Linux Standard Base?

A: We're still 100% behind those efforts and hope to help them out even more as we scale our business.

Q: Is Red Hat working on any embedded Linux projects, like Caldera/Lineo w/Motorola?

A: We're open to working on a vast area of projects, but we don't pre-announce any products until they are ready.

Q: Does Red Hat have any plans to integrate any "interesting pieces" (esp. SGI's XFS, other clustering or SMP enhancements) with their distro in advance of 2.4 kernel?

A: We try to stay with safe solutions for our customers. If additions to the 2.2 kernel arise that we can test and integrate in time before a 2.4 based release then we will certainly consider those.

Q: Any plans for a common Linux certification, or easier way for vendors to get certified on all major distro's at once? What is Red Hat's position with the Linux Professional Institute?

A: We are interested and involved in the LPI. We currently offer the RHCE program because there was not and still is not another comparable certification program. We need to provide the best solution possible to our customers, so if they tell us we need a different program, we'll certainly investigate other courses. The great thing about open source is choice, and it's true with certification too. The options are really completely open at this point, and we hope LPI is successful.

Q: How does Red Hat see Windows 2000 release impacting Linux adoption?

A: It all depends on what the best solution for the customer is. Customers in the server space are generally savvy enough to choose what works best for them. As always, we work to make sure that Linux is that choice where possible.

Q: What's the largest Linux implementation you know about?

A: Hmmmm....largest Linux implementation....well Cisco and the city of Garden Grove are the first 2 to spring to mind.

Q: Any examples you can cite of partnering w/IBM & others that have led to Linux implementations?

A: Burlington Coat Factory bought servers pre-loaded with Red Hat Linux from Dell.

Q: What is Red Hat doing to address the perceived absence of end user support?

A: Constantly reminding people that we do provide end user support. :-)

Q: Any plans for acquisitions? (companies or technology they're planning to buy w/IPO money)

A: Acquisitions are always a possibility, but as they always go, nothing will be announced until a deal is done.

Q: After servers, where do they see Linux' next big beachheads?

A: Desktop.

Q: Will they be offering the Trillian code when Merced ships?

A: Those plans are still a little far off, but I think you can rest assured that Red Hat will be available on Merced.

Q: Which of the many announced partnerships is producing the most results?

A: All of them.

Thanks, Donnie, for taking the time to chat with us!