Red Hat opens Network...now how about a community?

Red Hat has the chance to lead again by fostering a commercial open-source community around Project Spacewalk. Does it have the stomach for leadership?

Matt Asay Contributing Writer
Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.
Matt Asay
2 min read

Red Hat has been talking about open sourcing its Network for well over a year. Today, it finally did it.

However, code by itself is only moderately interesting. What we need now is a thriving community around "Project Spacewalk," as Red Hat calls the Network project.

Why? Well, because in some ways the commercial open-source community increasingly fragments as it matures financially. What is the first thing that MySQL and JBoss did to add value to their support subscriptions? Build networks. What, presumably, will be the first things that other open-source companies do? Build networks.

What is the result? A swamp of incompatible service-delivery networks.

Now consider the power for Red Hat if its Spacewalk actually served as a gathering point - an integration point - for the commercial open-source community? Powerful.

We haven't bumped into the problem yet because the open-source industry is still in its infancy, and there have been few mergers and acquisitions. But as Sun, Red Hat, IBM, and others acquire commercial open-source vendors, it would be nice if they could focus on the value of the companies they acquire, and not on integrating incompatible network products.

So, here's a significant opportunity for Red Hat with Spacewalk: Foster a community around it that includes a wide range of commercial open-source companies. Convince the world to build on the Red Hat standard.

Yes, Red Hat has traditionally been a difficult partner. But that has changed, and can change further. The benefits?

  1. Red Hat establishes itself as the center of the open-source ecosystem;
  2. The open-source industry consolidates around a service-delivery network standard, thereby increasing integration between commercial open-source projects and value to customers;
  3. Red Hat scores points with its commercial open-source peers by providing a shortcut to develop products that many of them will otherwise want/need to develop from scratch;
  4. Red Hat will see its RHN code improved by a wider range of companies with diverse interests and experience, which will make it better suited to a Red Hat future that includes things like databases, applications, etc., which might well make integration of other products easier for Red Hat to digest as it grows beyond the operating system.

This is an awesome opportunity for Red Hat. Will it take up the mantle of leadership?