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Q and A with Red Hat Software

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!