Paul Cormier, Red Hat: “Open Source Shows That Collective Intelligence Makes Any Job Better” | Technology
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Less than two decades ago, open source (the one that has no copyright and is developed by the community of hackers) enjoyed a dubious reputation. It was said that it was not reliable, that it was the option low cost, that of those who could not afford a program from Microsoft or another provider. Today, most of the world’s banks, as well as other critical infrastructure, use software opened. The tables have turned: now they offer more guarantees than any private development.
The American company Red Hat leads solutions for companies based on this type of code. Its CEO, Paul J. Cormier (Fitchburg, Massachusetts, 1959), speaks enthusiastically of the possibilities offered by writing code collectively, with contributions from engineers around the world. In 2019, IBM paid about 34,000 million dollars to acquire the signature of the hat in what remains one of the largest operations in history in the technology sector.
Red Hat has held a corporate event this week in which, among other things, it has announced a collaboration with General Motors to shape the cars of the future. Cormier attends EL PAÍS by video call from his office in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Ask. Is Linux in good health?
Response. He is in better shape than ever. Linux [el sistema operativo abierto más usado] and open source lead innovation in the world today.
P. What is special about open source? How would he convince someone to bet on him?
R. Open source is really not a what, but a how. Unlike proprietary models, the code is free for everyone, whoever wants to can download and use it. And most importantly, everyone can contribute to improving it. I think that in practice it has been shown that this is the best way to develop software, because everyone contributes their ideas. You can have good engineers in your company, but collective intelligence will always improve the work. The best ideas are the ones that prevail.
P. The big technology companies are turning to the software opened. They use code developed by the community for private profit. Does that seem perverse to you?
R. I have been in the world of software and in all this time I have realized something: what people do not understand is that the development phase only represents 5% in the life cycle of a computer program. Most of the value of a software it’s about what happens during the time it’s going to last, how you’re going to get it, how you’re going to upgrade it, how you’re going to keep it secure. All that is not solved by the developer community. We dedicate ourselves to that, so that customers can use their products. We are not an open source company: we are a programming company that works with open source development models. We take some open projects, improve them and turn them into products. We give them a life cycle: we support them for 10 years, we solve any operational or security problems they may have. When we think we’ve learned something relevant in the process, we share that knowledge with the developer community. Thus the cycle is closed. This is how you innovate.
P. Has the pandemic affected the perception of open source?
R. I think it has accelerated everything. Long before covid hit, open source contributors worked remotely. Our company is also structured that way. More than 50% of our employees were already working at home before 2019. Our projects continued, as if nothing had happened. And from a commercial point of view, many clients took advantage of the health crisis, which triggered the use of digital solutions, to transform their softwareso business has been very good.
P. Red Hat often appears at the top of rankings of the best companies to work for. How do they do that?
R. I think it’s because we run the company in a very similar way to open source projects. It doesn’t matter whose idea it is: if it’s good, it goes ahead. In the company we try to ensure that everyone can contribute, that one can collaborate with the other, and we take good proposals very seriously. We also pay good salaries, but more companies do that. I think what people like about Red Hat is that they know it can help them grow because we listen to them.
P. This week they have announced a strategic agreement with General Motors. What does it consist of?
R. Cars are becoming mobile data centers. The software It has more and more weight in the automotive industry: speed control, energy efficiency systems or the warning if you step on the line are possible thanks to programs. And as we move towards the electric car, and then the autonomous, that component grows. We offer GM an operating system that coordinates all those subsystems, making them work as an integrated platform and can communicate with each other. The fact that the weight of the software it gives you a lot of room to innovate, because it’s faster and cheaper to improve a program than the mechanics. Updates can be offered, features added or problems solved without the car owner having to go to the workshop.
P. What do you think of the metaverse? Do you see it as an opportunity for open source?
R. I know many engineers in Meta and I know that they use Linux [se ríe]. I think the metaverse is really interesting. But like anything in this world, it is not a revolution but an evolution. Also for us: the software it’s being built with, OpenShift, we brought to market in 2011.
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