Category Archives: Red Hat

Red Hat the company

Start-ups and patents


I have been part of a few start-ups and there has always been the conversations around “are we patenting our ideas?”.

I understand the nature and purpose of a patent and the lofty principles behind it and I still subscribe to them.

The growth of the Internet driven hand-in-hand by the proliferation of free and open source software has changed how I view the efficacy and value of patents. I clearly am on the side of the Free Software Foundation‘s and the Electronic Frontier Foundation‘s stands on the nature of software patents.

The reason there even exists software patents is because the US Patents and Trademark Office has been granting patents for software that clearly have no novel elements and has not been able to drive any new innovations despite the best intentions of the patent idea. It is a meme that the US patent system is broken.

We have to accept the reality that the system is broken and needs fixing, but that would take time, effort and political will on the part of many governments – lots of whom have vested (another way of saying corrupted) interests in keeping the status quo going.

Realising this, many people and organisations have come together to solve the issue. One of those is the 15-year old Open Invention Network which Red Hat is a founding member.

OIN recognises that the only way to work within a broken patent system is to work collaboratively with like-minded individuals and organisations to mitigate the ill-effects of the system. By pooling patents, any member of the OIN will become part of the large group of entities who can defend and remove threats that are brought upon by patent trolls etc.

With this background, it bothers me that start-ups in 2019 are still being “pushed”, “encouraged” by VCs and investors to “patent” their technologies. On the surface, it seems quite logical, but, as noted, it is “on the surface”. Patents are only useful if one actively licenses it out to others. That’s how you generate value from the patents. The more people who use your patents, the better for all. The larger goals of the patent system gets realized.

It does not also matter whether the licensing is offered at a price or at no cost (see Red Hat’s Patent Promise). What is fundamentally more important is that innovation can move ahead without any form of friction.

Here’s a set of questions you should ask if you (as a start-up) is being asked to patent your innovations:

  1. Would these patents be actively licensed out?
  2. Would there be cross licensing of patents with others?
  3. Would the patents be offered into a patent pool?

If the answer to 1 is “no”, “maybe”, “don’t know”, don’t patent it. Publish it publicly in a corporate blog so that it will become part of prior art and can never be patented.  if the answer is “yes”, what is the timeline? How would you actively do so? If you have no plans or are ambivalent, don’t patent.

If the answer to 2 is “no”, “maybe”, “don’t know”, go back to question 1. Why are you bothering to go down a path that you are wasting good money (spent on expensive lawyers, the patent process etc etc etc) and not actively trying to gain any form of return? If the answer is “yes”, how would you do it? What is the timeline? What happens if you can’t cross license? Would you not be better off focusing on getting the product to market than these patent games?

If the answer to 3 is “no”, “maybe”, “don’t know”, stop patenting things. Learn about patent pools. Learn about the value of coming together with other innovators and build real, sustainable technologies for all of society. If the answer is “yes”, be quick and sign up with OIN. Run.

Stop the greed that clueless VCs push.

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“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” – Blaise Pascal


This. There was a time when I was so happy to be able to connect to the Internet with my mobile phone by dialing-in into the ISP. I remember on a trip to Tel Aviv, Israel in 2000, a colleague SMSed me from Singapore (remember SMS?), that there was a problem with name resolution of the service we were providing. He had updated something in the table and after that, the DNS was not resolving and could not figure out why. I was the CTO of that organization and it was cool to be able to fix operational technical issues.

I was in a cab on my way to a meeting when the SMS came in. I plugged in the Nokia proprietary data cable for my Nokia phone – 6210. The cable had a 9-pin RS-232 serial port which went into my laptop. With that setup, I then fired up minicom (the laptop was running Red Hat Linux 6.1 I think), dialed in the local ISP in Israel (as part of the “roaming” for ISP dialups), ssh‘ed into the server, checked the DNS named files, found the issue (a missing trailing “.” after a domain name), restarted named and viola, all’s well. What a thrill that was. Thousands of kilometers away, but still able to fix an issue remotely, via the mobile phone connection on a laptop, in a cab.

I was pretty pleased to have been able to make something happen successfully. I felt like a hero.

Why am I relating this story?

I do wonder how I would have managed this technical issue if I did not have Internet access the way I had then. Today, being on the Internet is the default. 24/7 is the norm. When are you not connected?

I have come across Blaise Pascal’s quote many times before, but today it made particular sense to me. As I have noted in a previous blog post – A Simple Life Hack – I turn off my mobile data on my phone when I am moving around – in a bus, car etc. I turn it on only when I need to. I have setup the wireless on the phone to connect automatically to Wireless@SGx, so when I am the MRT stations, I get connected to the net.

This disconnectedness is really wonderful. Some people go for “digital detox“. That’s not what I am suggesting. I am suggesting a deliberate and thoughful disconnection from the online world for shor durations of time. Eventually, by doing this, I’ve found that I am really not missing the constant barrage of chatter and information. I am (re)discovering the world around me.

I am able to revisit my own thoughts, roam around the place I am at, and be able to be in the moment, being mindful. I truly like that.

I like it because it is now a deliberate action on my part and I see and observe things around me that I would have missed. Lots of things are happening around you. If you choose to observe, see, listen, smell, you’ll learn some. You’ll probably smile. Not everything happens online – to state a truism.

If you do not get to sit quietly in a room and contemplate – heck, even navel gaze – I think Pascal’s observation will be spot on.

What happened today? Well, I have been trying to figure out how to use a regular scanner to scan photo negatives. negative-scanning-mediumIt was in the 30 minute bus ride home, disconnected from the Internet, that I came up with the solution.  I will write that up and post once I’ve built it.

If you are reading this on my mobile phone (thanks btw), go turn off your mobile data, put the phone back in your pocket, look around, be mindful and live in the moment.

Simple life hack


Turn your mobile data to the OFF as a default when out and about.

Why? Read on.

Since about October 2017, I’ve been quite conscious about how my phone connects to the data network via the mobile provider. There was a time I did not bother about it and having the instant connection to the Internet that I love and can’t live without, came at a price. The price of being constantly on and constantly distracted. It was getting to be too much. We see this everywhere.

I had to do something, if anything, for myself. My phone’s mobile data is now set to default OFF when I am out and about.

The advantages are:

  1. You get back your time. You can then enjoy the world around you.
  2. You have control as to when you can be contacted. My family knows that I will turn off the data when I am outside and turn it on only when needed. If there is anything they need to contact me on, they can first SMS (remember that feature?) and then I can turn on the data and do what is needed.
  3. Your mobile data usage is not going to surprise you by being excessive. In face, my average for the last 1 year and a bit of doing this, has been just about 1GB.

Remember, there is nothing so important that you must have your mobile turned on at all times. If you can’t be reached, there are other means if it really matters.

I would be remiss if I don’t also mention that turning off the mobile data as a default is also driven by the fact that there are now plenty of wifi hotspots that one can access. In my morning commute from home to the office which takes about 35 minutes or so by bus, I come across two spots where Wireless@SGx is active. As the bus enters those zones, viola, my phone connects automatically (yes, Wireless@SGx works flawlessly for me on my Android and Fedora systems). If the bus was around these hotspots for long enough, I get messages coming in and I can choose to do what I want. Most times, it is those that are quite superfluous and would have distracted me otherwise.

When I travel, I do not subscribe to the expensive data roaming plans that Singttel offers. They have a stupid way to compute and I do two things: a) use wifi where available and b) get a local SIM (data only if possible, else the usual types). Fortunately, I do not have any need to be reached on my Singapore phone number and if needed, I can be reached by other means first and I can then get on to a voice call using many of the tools out here like Jitsi, or Signal, or Telegram. I have VOIP set up as well via LinPhone on my mobile and laptop, so I am pretty much covered if I really need to do a voice chat.

NASA Space Apps Challenge 2018 – Singapore


It was wonderful that Red Hat’s Open Innovation Labs is a sponsor of this year’s NASA Space Apps Challenge event that is being held in Singapore. It was held at LEVEL3‘s offices at the Mapletree Business Park in Pasir Panjang.

At the briefing session held on Tuesday, 16th October 2018, there was a good turnout of more than 120 interested participants.

The briefing session featured four speakers, Bidushi Bhattacharya, Michelle Gillmour, Sandra Arps and Chirdeep Chhabra.

 

L-R: Sandra Arps, Michelle Gillmour, Bidushi Bhattacharya (via remote)

 

The Ocean Protocol by Chirdeep Chhabra.

This year’s Space Apps Challenge had a bunch of categories that were formulated by NASA which also included access to the vast amounts of data the NASA has accumulated about Earth and the cosmos.

The actual hackathon was held over the weekend (as any good hackathon would) of 20/21 October 2018  at the same location and, as is expected, the turn out of participants will always be lesser than those who showed up during the briefing.

Anyway, it is all about participation and I am glad that those who did eventually show up did a good job. The pitch hour was on Sunday at about 3pm and here’s the list of 19 who pitched.

In the end, the judging had to be done to come up with the overall winner and it was a tough process of choosing from a good set of pitches and teams.

The eventual winner was team Inferno (left) who gets S$1k and some Ocean Prototol tokens and the 2nd prize went to c10ud (right).


Congratulations all on this exciting hackathon.

I am glad that we were able to mentor the participants around Lean Canvas that the OIL uses as part of our consulting and mentoring work.

Next year, I would want to take part in this myself with a team for at least this can be my long unfulfilled dream of doing something about Space since watching on a black & white TV, Neil Armstrong jump off the ladder from the Apollo 11 Lunar Module and stand and walk on the moon in 1969. I still want to go to the moon (and thanks to Kelvin for locating the talk from 2007).

Not allowed to code? Really?


[image from: http://cdn.blog.safe.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/no-coding.png]

Lots of interesting, but not surprising, information is being made public about the Singhealth data breach.

The Commitee of Inquiry has been told that there was an IHIS employee who found a bug in the Allscripts “Sunrise Clinic Manager” EMR in 2014 who then made the loophole known to a rival of Allscripts, Epic Systems Corporation. Both of these vendors products are closed, proprietary and, IMHO, unnecessarily and excessively expensive products.

From this report (again, this is MSM reporting, so take it with two pinches of salt – you have to read the court transcript which I am not sure if available, yet, if ever), says that the IHIS employee was “unhappy” that he could not do coding in the job role he was doing and so, he then decided to contact Epic to tell them of the issue so that it could “… leverage the vulnerability to gain a larger market share” (emphasis mine).

Larger market share? How so? The hospital clusters in Singapore are about evenly locked-in between these two proprietary vendors. Moving from one to another is not a simple thing. And one bug does not even start the thinking process. Who knows if the Epic product has similar issues?

Not being able to ascertain if the reason offered by the former IHIS employee is indeed valid, I find that it seems to be a fluffy afterthought. Having been caught out, the former IHIS employee is offering excuses.

Not Allowed To Code?

I find that reason to be intriguing. Did the job that the IHIS exmployee took on involve coding? No indication in the report. If that was what the person wanted to do, why not channel the skills an open source project that could use help? No one will stop you from doing that, unless, the terms of employment of IHIS says that a developer “cannot work on any software project other than what is part of the job”.

I have no insights on what the terms of employment are, but here is an example of an enlightened and correct way to encourage developers:

“Participation in an open source project, whether maintained by the Company or by another commercial or non-commercial entity or organization, does not constitute a conflict of interest even where such participant makes a determination in the interest of the project that is adverse to the Company’s interests.”

– taken from page 3 of https://investors.redhat.com/~/media/Files/R/Red-Hat-IR/governance-docs/code-of-business-conduct-and-ethics.pdf

Software developers are artists. Software development is an art form. One would not constraint a painter, so why would one shackle a software developer?

Bug Reporting, Fixing and Regression Testing

If a bug is reported – whether it is a “the button is of the wrong shape” or “this option dumps out the entire database”, assuming that proprietary vendors have a bug reporting process – nope, they don’t – then things can be moved along without too much excitement. All software have bugs. If a vendor (open or closed) does not offer a way to report bugs, you have to demand that there is a way to do it.  Red Hat has both bugzilla.redhat.com and access.redhat.com to submit bug reports on all of the open source projects and open source products (go here for an understanding of the differences between open source projects and an open source products) that Red Hat is involved in and makes available to paying customers (access.redhat.com).

Maybe there is a some place at Allscripts and at Epic Systems that one can file bug reports, but it is not immediately evident.

Regardless of being able to report bugs, I do wonder how these vendor organizations manage bug reporting/fixing and regression testing. I have to assume that they do it properly (for some definition of properly) but it is telling that a trainer of Allscripts said this:

“Another witness, however, called the loophole “perfectly normal”. Mr Loo Yew Tuck, senior lead analyst at IHiS’ clinical care department, said that he had seen an Allscripts trainer demonstrate its use and method previously.”

Really? There is a “perfectly normal” loophole? Or did he mean, backdoor (of the NSA type)?

I particularly concerned with this paragraph – as reported in another MSM report

“… She also did not know the details of the alleged loophole. Neither did she ask her staff for it to be verified. She also assumed that the problem would be rendered “irrelevant” as IHIS had just upgraded the EMR system architecture”.

If the bug is not reported, how would one know if it was really an issue and if so, if it was indeed fixed? Granted, we cannot all be on top of things all the time, but if there isn’t a process to track issues, what then?

“… did only what … was asked to …”

Leadership and empowerment failure. Whether it is real or otherwise it is hard to tell. Perhaps there is a culture of empowerment but not everyone got the memo. Of maybe not. I can’t tell.

A healthcare IT foundation built on gooey clay


Today, there was a report from the Solicitor General of Singapore about the data breach of the SingHealth systems that happened in July.

These systems have been in place for many years. They are almost exclusively running Microsoft Windows along with a mix of other proprietary software including Citrix and Allscript.  The article referred to above failed to highlight that the compromised “end-user workstation” was a Windows machine. That is the very crucial information that always gets left out in all of these reports of breaches.

I have had the privilege of being part of an IT advisory committee for a local hospital since about 2004 (that committee has disbanded a couple of years ago, btw).

Every year, budgetary proposals for updates, new versions etc., of the software that the advisory committee gets for consideration and possible approval. Almost always, I would be the exception in the committee in questioning the continued use of expensive proprietary software for these healthcare systems (a contributory factor to increasing health care costs). But because I am the lone contrarian voice, inevitably, the vote will be made to approve and hence continue, IMHO, the wasteful path of spending enormous amounts of monies in these proprietary systems.

I did try, many times, to propose using open source solutions like, for example, virtualization from KVM. This is already built in into the Linux kernel that you can get full commercial support from Red Hat (disclosure: I work for Red Hat). You pay a subscription and we make sure that the systems are running securely (via SELinux for a start) and that enterprise can focus on their core business. But no, they continued with VMware.

I did propose open source solutions like OpenEMR and many other very viable solutions for the National Electronic Medical Records system – but none of them were accepted. (It has been brought to my attention that there are plans to mandate private sector healthcare providers to use the NEHR. There is considerable opposition to it both from the hassle (from their point of view) and added costs since the solution is proprietary and expensive).

There were some glimpses of hope in the early years of being on the committee, but it was quickly snuffed out because the “powers that be” did not think open source solutions would be “good enough”. And open source solutions are still not accepted as part of the healthcare IT architecture.

Why would that be the case?

Part of the reason is because decision makers (then and now) only have experience in dealing with proprietary vendor solutions. Some of it might be the only ones available and the open source world has not created equivalent or better offerings. But where there are possibly good enough or even superior open source offerings, they would never be considered – “Rather go with the devil I know, than the devil I don’t know. After all, this is only a job. When I leave, it is someone else’s problem.” (Yeah, I am paraphrasing many conversations and not only from the healthcare sector).

I recall a project that I was involved with – before being a Red Hatter – to create a solution to create a “computer on wheels” solution to help with blood collection. As part of that solution, there was a need to check the particulars of the patient who the nurse was taking samples from. That patient info was stored on some admission system that did not provide a means for remote, API-based query. The vendor of that system wanted tens of thousands of dollars to just allow the query to happen. Daylight robbery. I worked around it – did screen scrapping to extract the relevant information.

Healthcare IT providers look at healthcare systems as a cashcow and want to milk it to the fullest extent possible (the end consumer bears the cost in the end).

Add that to the dearth of technical IT skills supporting the healthcare providers, you quickly fall into that vendor lock-in scenario where the healthcare systems are at the total mercy of the proprietary vendors.

Singapore is not unique at all. This is a global problem.

Singapore, however, has the potential to break out of this dismal state if only there is both technical, management and political leadership in the healthcare system. The type of leadership that would want to actively pursue by all means possible to make healthcare IT as low cost and yet supportable, reliable and more importantly, be able to create a domestic ecosystem to support (not via Government-linked companies).

I did propose many times to create skunkworks projects and/or run hackathons to create solutions using open source tools to seed the next generation of local solutions providers. As I write this, it has not happened.

To compound the lack of thought leadership, the push in the 2000s to “outsource IT” meant that what remaining technically skilled people there were, got shortchanged as the work went to these contract providers (some of these skilled people were transferred to these outsourcee firms but left shortly after, because it was just BS).

This also meant that over time, the various entities who outsourced IT were just relationship managers with the outsourcee companies.It is not in the interest of the outsourcee companies to propose solutions that could lower the cost overall as it could affect the outsourcee’s revenue model. So, you have a catch-22: no in-house IT/architecture skills and no interest at all on the part of the outsourcees to propose a lower cost and perhaps better solutions.

I would be happy, if asked, to put together a set of solutions that will steadily address all of the healthcare IT requirements/solutions. I want this to then trigger the creation of a local ecosystem of companies that can drive these solutions not only for Singapore’s own consumption as well as to export it globally.

We have the smarts to do this. The technical community of open source developers are, I am very confident, able to rise to the challenge. We need political thought leadership to make this so.

Give me the new hospital in Woodlands to make the solutions work. I want to be able to do as much of it using commercially supported open source products (see this for a discussion of open source projects vs open source products), and build a whole suite of supportable open source solutions that are open to the whole world to innovate upon. It would be wonderful to see https://health.gov.sg/opensource/ (no it does not exist yet).

There are plenty of ancient, leaky, and crufty systems in the current healthcare IT systems locally. We need to make a clean break from it for the future.

The Smart Nation begs for it. 

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said the following at GeekCamp SG 2015 (video):

I believe in a #SmartNation with an open source society and immense opportunities; where everyone can share, participate and co-create solutions to enrich and improve quality of life for ourselves and our fellow Singaporeans.

And for completeness, the actual post is here (it is a public page; i.e., no account needed):

I am ready.  Please join me.

What I’ve learned in 15 years at Red Hat


[image credit: https://goldenageofgaia.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Spock-shades.jpg%5D

In September 2003, I was asked by Gus Robertson to consider joining Red Hat – essentially to kickstart the Red Hat office in Singapore/ASEAN. I was at that time running my own open source consultancy – Maringo Tree Technologies.

I did try to get Red Hat to acquire MTT, but that did not go far. Red Hat had just done a JV in India and was not looking to do another even as an acquisition so soon. In any case that JV was subsequently bought out fully by Red Hat in 2005.

I started at Red Hat as the Chief Technology Architect. I would not say that Red Hat was my dream company to be at, but most everything I did before was all about Free and Open Source Software.

Time Before Red Hat (yes, there was)

I had no direct interest in the notions of software licensing (see this post about the Singapore Ohio Scientific Owers’ Group from 1982 – yes, predates establishment of the venerable Free Software Foundation). Even my 1989 MSEE thesis (link to PDF) was about creating software but I never did consider the licensing of it because lots of it was given to me or copied from USENET newsgroups.

I, together with Greg Hosler, Mathias Koeber, Ng Hak Beng,  and a bunch of others, set up the Singapore Linux Users’ Group in 1993. That was about when Red Hat itself was setup. I was fortunate enough to have been in situations where I could help drive the conversation and technology forward. I helped by distributing diskettes of Soft Landing Systems, Yggdrasil, Slackware etc either via the LUGS or directly. I was more concerned with getting the code out there and people benefitting from it. LUGS even created our own distribution in 2000 called EasyLinux.

I wrote up some how-tos – IP Masquerade, IP Alias, DialD, and lots of other stuff – I can’t recall what else – but suffice to say, these efforts were unexpectedly “rewarded” by shares being offered when Red Hat was planning on an Initial Public Offering.

I recall receiving an email from Red Hat and eTrade in 1999 (unfortunately, I can’t locate that email) in which it said that I was being given some shares (I don’t recall how many) to acknowledge the contributions made to the community. The only reference to the thinking at Red Hat about this is in an article in the Linux Magazine of November 15, 1999.

July 1999: The Community

It was clear that Red Hat wanted all the open source developers who had made its success possible to participate in its public offering. Red Hat would be nowhere without the hackers, and the company knew it.

Red Hat Director of Technical Projects Donnie Barnes spent three weeks scouring the Internet, digging up all the contributor lists to all the open source projects he could find. Red Hat then had to craft a letter to this list of developers. The SEC has a complex set of rules about what companies can and cannot say when they offer shares to the public. If a company doesn’t stay well within the rules, the SEC can –
and regularly does — withhold permission to proceed with an IPO.

“I’m sure they have very important and well-researched reasons for implementing each and every one of these rules,” Young said. “But to the companies who have to negotiate these rules on their way to a public offering, they appear designed solely for the purpose of ensuring the mental collapse of anyone who attempts to navigate through them.”

For example, the SEC-imposed quiet period “was one of the more bizarre notions to a salesman like me,” Young said. “How can you sell shares in your company if you are not allowed to promote your company for three months before your IPO or for a further month after your IPO? This letter to developers could describe the offer, but not mention any reason why anyone should want to accept the offer. That would be
promoting the shares in the quiet period — a big no-no according to the rules.” Red Hat ended up with a letter which, while legally acceptable, was “sufficiently badly worded to end up alienating a significant percentage of the developers we mailed it to,” Young said.

The SEC has a set of rules governing who is eligible to purchase shares in an IPO. First, you must be a U.S.-based taxpayer to buy IPO shares that are listed on an American exchange. This eliminated about half of the developers on the list from participating in the offer, according to Red Hat.

The SEC also has a set of rules designed to protect the public from scam artists who use public stock offers to con inexperienced investors out of their money.

“In effect the SEC deems IPO offers to be extremely high-risk investments, and therefore buyers of shares in IPOs must prove that they are experienced investors who can afford to lose the money they are being asked to invest,” Young said.

Unfortunately a significant percentage — about 15 percent — of the developers to whom Red Hat offered shares were either students or otherwise inexperienced investors by the SEC’s standards.

“And of course this offer was not being made by the SEC — it was being made by Red Hat and E*TRADE. So when members of the development community that we had extended the offer to found themselves declared ineligible, they initially naturally blamed Red Hat and E*TRADE,” Young said.

The final result was that well over one-fifth of the developers on the list were interested, eligible, and able to participate in the Red Hat IPO.

(extracted from http://www.linux-mag.com/id/348/)

I accepted the shares from Red Hat and I guess I was part of the 1/5th.

For the record, I think I did sell the shares later (along with the shares that I later received from VA Linux when they IPOed). It was a very nice gesture on both Red Hat’s and VA Linux’s part and I am thankful.

When Red Hat offered me a position in 2003, I was very aware that this is a business that is trying to do the Right Thing.  While I was trying to figure out the value of such a move, I was provided with the relevant employment documents to sign. In one of them, a particular paragraph stood out for me.

In the Red Hat Code of Business Conduct and Ethics (a PDF from https://investors.redhat.com/corporate-governance/governance-documents), this paragraph was pivotal:

Participation in an open source community project, whether maintained by the Company or by another commercial or non-commercial entity or organization, does not constitute a conflict of interest even where you may make a determination in the interest of the project that is adverse to the Company’s interests.
(from the bottom of page 2 of the PDF)

I did not, then, have to think twice. I signed.

With that stoke of the pen, my tenure at Red Hat started officially on 8th September 2003. I still had Maringo Tree Technologies and I had to find a way to exit it and eventually I did.

Fifteen years is a significant amount of one’s lifespan to be spent with a single entity (assuming a 30-40 year work career). Red Hat is the 7th organization I am with: CSA Group (1st job, employee, Singapore), Microsoft (intern, employee, USA), Sembawang Media (management Singapore), Brokat (technical management Singapore/Germany), Inquisitive Mind (co-founder/management/technical Singapore) and Maringo Tree Tech (founder/management Singapore),

Each stint provided experience and exposure to different aspects of the business/technology world. Perhaps the most challenging was to be your own boss at Maringo Tree Tech. While the time spent at MTT was relatively short, I am proud of what I was able to achieve. I suppose the work at MTT  was the lead-in into Red Hat for I had approached Red Hat as my own business even though, technically, I was an employee.

The thought process that says that the place you are employed is your own business, instead “it is just a job”, is a very powerful and empowering mental state. I want to make open source wildly successful and I was using Maringo Tree Tech as the vehicle to make that happen. When Red Hat came knocking on the door, it made immense sense to me that I should hitch on the Red Hat branding to drive my conviction forward.

I, had, at the back of my mind (and perhaps still valid today), that should I ever decide to part with Red Hat, I will still be doing the exact same thing but under a different label. That would be just fine.

What does 15 years at Red Hat mean for me? First, it is testimony that it is a growing organization and will continue to define how technology should be created, curated and consumed. That, the pursuit of fiscal goals has to be in congruence and cadence with ensuring the health and wealth of the commons. The commons comprise people from around the world who, once empowered by technology, are able to display and benefit from their talents and skills that can only but move the needle forward positively.

My early years at Red Hat were spent making sure the ONE product we had, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (2.1 and 3) were being made available to customers. I was tech support, sales, order entry, delivery person, spokesperson, evangelist, keynote speaker, community pointman and the go-to-for-everything-open-source-and-Red-Hat in South East Asia person.

It was not until late 2004 that Red Hat decided to re-draw the sales organization for Asia Pacific in creating an APAC HQ in Singapore for sales and marketing, Red Hat Brisbane to be the APAC engineering HQ, and to create six regions within APAC (ASEAN, ANZ, India, Korea, Japan, China). This change meant that we will have new Red Hatters focused on the selling of products and services but who might not have cut their teeth in free/open source software but were from the dark side, aka, proprietary software vendors. This is a necessary “evil”, but something that can be managed with the right amount of training and exposure. That was what happened when Red Hat University was setup in 2006 and I was asked to head that up for APAC, or more specifically the Sales College (which was the only college under RHU in APAC then).

I think, my time with the Sales College and especially in running the week-long Sales Boot Camp, was a very important personal challenge. Through the Sales Boot Camp, I helped transform a whole lot of open source migrants to become champions of open source. Not all of them got to their open source a-ha moment, but those who did, were sold on it. They could not do anything else as the fact that we are not shortchanging our customers by promises and handwaving but with solid and independently verifiable technology was not something to be walking away from.

In the meantime, our product portfolio started to grow. JBoss came on board in 2006, Qumranet in 2008, Makara and Gluster in 2010, CEPH in 2014, Ansible in 2015 and CoreOS in 2018 just to name some major acquisitions.

My sales quota in 2003 was US$100k and Red Hat’s revenue then was about US$126.1 million. Today, 2018, revenue is at US$2.9 billion. That’s a whopping 23x growth in revenue in 15 years. In the 60 quarters I’ve now been with Red Hat, every quarter has been better than the previous.

While the business grows with a plethora of products and service, where in the scheme of things does Red Hat understand how the open source community of projects are faring? These projects become open source products that our customers consume (via a subscription). The incredibly fine balance of open source projects and open source products is something that I’ve speak about because there is still an insufficient appreciation of what an open source project is when it become a product that a corporate entity has to be held accountable for.

Wtih the fine balance of project vs product, it is just as important to be able to gain insights into the open source projects that feed into the products. This was what lead me to start an internal project “Prospector” project in 2012. In 2017, Prospector became part of the CHAOSS Project of the Linux Foundation. Much work continues to be needed and I am working on many fronts to make that happen.

Which in a meandering way, brings me to today, 8th September 2018.

What would the next 15 years bring? What I know for sure is that it will be based on a widely distributed and decentralised world built on free/open source software and open hardware.

This will be a world that will bring the remaining unconnected 3+ billion members of the human family into the digital world, The tech flavours of today (AI, Machine Learning, Distributed Ledgers), having been built on free/open source software, will blaze the trail into new applications to better the human condition and the planet’s health.

The future is so open and bright, I need shades!