Managing open source skepticism

I had an opportunity to speak to a few people from a government tender drafting committee on Wednesday.  They are looking at solutions that will be essentially a cloud for a large number of users and have spoken to many vendors.

I was given an opportunity to pitch the use of open source technologies to build their cloud and I think I gave it my best shot. I had to use many keywords – automatic technology transfer (you have the source code), helps to maintain national sovereignty, learning to engage the right way with the FOSS community, enabling the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs and preventing vendor lock-in.

By and large, I think the audience agreed, except for one person who said “yeah, now it is open source, but it will become proprietary like the others”. Obviously this person has been fed FUD from the usual suspects and I had to take extra pains to explain that everything that we, Red Hat, ships is either under the GNU General Public License or GNU Lesser/Library General Public License.  The GPL means no one can ever close up the code for whatever reason. I am not entirely sure I managed to convince that member of the audience. In a lot of ways, this is the burden we carry as Red Hatters in explaining our business model and how we engage with the FOSS community etc.


  1. I understand the general gist of what you were trying to tell him but Red Hat does release code under various permissive licenses (MIT, Apache, BSD .. you name it). What needs to be told however is that once code gets released, it cannot ever be unreleased regardless of what open source license it is under and Red Hat has a long history of buying proprietary code and releasing it under open source with not a single instance of the other way around. Even if Red Hat does that, the last release of the code can continue to go forward without the vendor’s support as has happened in the past with other projects

    • I only mentioned GPL and LGPL because the audience, or rather that one individual, was not fully clued in with the entire range of licenses and confusing them at that juncture is not appropriate. GPL gives a very strong message that the code is there and will be there open forever.

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