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Red Hat criticizes 'lousy' open source participation

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OSBC Red Hat has joined a growing call to stop vendor domination of community software projects, saying the industry is doing a lousy job involving enterprise users in the development of open source software.

Jim Whitehurst, Red Hat's chief executive recently recruited from Delta Airlines, called on open source vendors and project leaders to work harder to involve users in the job of building the software they use internally.

He claimed there's a lack of user-based projects and that hundreds of billions of dollars are wasted each year as enterprises build their own software.

"We [Red Hat] bought the value of the community development model to the enterprise," Whitehurst told the OSBC crowd, during his opening keynote "[but] we are doing a lousy job of getting enterprises involved in the community."

Whitehurst said Red Hat along with the open source community share the burden in getting users involved in projects.

Whitehurst’s intent is to grow Red Hat’s business by getting users involved in the software development cycle, using the Red Hat platform. The recently stated goal is to have enterprises use more of its JBoss middleware.

His words come as the Java Community Process' chair Patrick Curran conceded his organization must do more to get away from its IT vendor bias. According to Curran, end users are "seriously under represented", a problem that's affecting the JCP's ability to deliver technology users want and to take decisions over Java specifications in a transparent way.

Curran spoke after Spring inventor Rod Johnson said the JCP had set back the cause of object-relational mapping by six years and was responsible for billions of dollars in wasted development on Entity Beans because it had ignored existing work in the community

The Eclipse Foundation, meanwhile, talked last week about ending the domination of its platform project by at least one IT vendor - IBM - and increasing the number of committers and participants from other companies.

Picking up the cause of user participation in development of software, Whitehurst said the plan is for his company is to become nothing less than "the defining technology company of the twenty first century". The plan is threatened, though, unless there is a fundamental change in the way non-commercial software, intended only for use internally by customers, is built.

While Whitehurst was talking about Red Hat the implication is other open source businesses will also struggle to grow in the longterm unless they bring customers into the software development cycle.

"Even if we owned the operating system business... that would not be enough to become a defining technology company," Whitehurst said. "Changing the way software is developed - that's how we can become a defining software company, and that's working on the 90 per cent of software that's not for resale.

Whitehurst highlighted the University of Wisconsin's Condor project, for high throughput computing, that found its way into Red Hat's Enterprise Manager as one of the few examples of a user-based project that vendors like Red Hat can use.

"Hundreds of billions of dollars are wasted a year... our job and the open source community's job is to make companies understand that," he said. "Then we will truly change the way software is delivered."®

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