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Robert Krátký: What sort of responses do you get about the "Truth Happens" campaign? Considering it's not really a regular ad campaign, what kind of a feedback did you expect and what do you really get?
Matthew Szulik: Yeah, it was never never anticipated to be an advertisement. It was intended to really speak about the values and the cultures, and the raison d'être of Red Hat. And when we used that, you could see that there was no promotional bend to it. It's simply and hopefully a dialog that we create with the viewer of the material that expresses the importance of both intellectual freedom, and the importance of the freedom and democratization of content.
2) So, do you think it actually works? Have you had any feedback?
MS: I have been around the world and I have had that video precede me in a number of presentations where I've had large groups of three or four hundred people in India stand up and provide a standing ovation. I have been on college campuses where students have actually applauded. It is certainly the most requested piece of Red Hat material we have. It's now available on podcasts, on iTunes. I think the overwhelming feedback, I'm sure largely because I think it tells a compelling message, has been positive.
3) A new version of the GPL is on the horizon. It is already clear that the mainline Linux kernel will not adopt the new license. Do you consider the GPLv3 a dead end? Is Free Software going to be able to stay competitive with the current license?
MS: Well, open source software in general has opened up the flood gates for many many new iterations of licenses. And I think, just like open source software, you will see the Free Software Foundation continue to receive feedback. I think people like Richard Stallman [interview] and Eben Moglen has both been receptive and certainly, like a good open source project, challenging and pushing to see if they can get the best ideas possible into GPLv3. The sensitive items are increasingly around DRM and I think some of the more media-centric activities, as well as the future iterations of the kernel. But I think for the markets that Red Hat is currently marketing to, the current implementation of the GPL has been satisfactory to most of our customers. And I think that the FSF and our legal team continue to work with Eben and his organization to try to work through to a positive outcome. But it's unclear right now.
4) About the DRM. Do you think it needs to be addressed by a license?
MS: The issue of DRM globally is a very thorny topic right now. You see implementations like YouTube popping up that I think are challenging a lot of historical conventions. You've seen the work coming out of Europe right now regarding challenging iTunes. There are certainly evolving media standards that are taking place in the marketplace. So, I think part of it is the ownership of the content and that is really a point regarding the Truth Happens video from a Red Hat perspective. The continued importance we feel for the societal benefits of free and unfettered access to content.
5) One of the buzzwords of the past few months is virtualization. Red Hat opened a Virtualization Resource Center and is planning to include its Integrated Virtualization solution in RHEL 5. Do you think the virtualization technology will be the driving force of future software development?
MS: I agree with you that virtualization has become an overused buzzword. The promises, the benefits of virtualization are inspiring to most of our customers that we speak to. The certainly better utilization of computing resource, potentially management. Potential ability to leverage a multithreaded environment as customers move to 64bit. All of those promises, that I think virtualization will eventually deliver, are compelling. Now the challenge, of course, is in introducing new ways of working, new ways of developing software, new security paradigms. And I think it will be multiple years before we start to see virtualization be deployed in a mainstream pattern across the enterprising and governement computing market.
6) The planned expansion of your development center in Brno, Czech Republic is set to make it the second largest in the world. What was the main incentive for choosing this region?
MS: Red Hat has, since its founding, always had close relationship with academic environments. We actually sit here right now, where this call is taking place, on the campus of North Carolina State University right next to its College of Engineering. So, we, in our strategies, wanted to continue to be close to academic communities. That's the roots of open source. We want to make sure that we have access to highly trained and motivated students and professors, and we were very impressed with the approach of the Czech government and the academic leadership and their commitment to open source software development, and its philosophies and teachings.
7) In a 2004 interview for BusinessWeek you praised the Chinese government for its support of open source. Had there been any discussion, prior to the opening of your Beijing office, of the level of the company's involvement with the government? Is it just business as usual, or do you see a line which you would not cross?
MS: Once again to the earlier question: we have a strategy and philosophy of partnering strategically with government and education across major geographies. That is part of our overall relationship when we enter a new market, like China, or Czech Republic, or Russia for that matter. So I don't believe that there is a line that we will not cross, as much as it is that when we go into these relationships, we think its essential to build strategic relationships with governement and education first. And once we have been able to validate our capabilities and work as a good local partner with government, we then begin to develop the economic model.
8) The Chinese government is not exactly friendly to things like the freedom of speech. Nevertheless, there are American companies that chose to comply with their censorship policies to be able to enter their market. Do you think Red Hat's behavior would be any different in such matters?
MS: Our behavior today, I think largely because we have sought to become a compelling local provider working in partnership with government and education and probably because the technology is at the infrastructure level, it's probably a catalyst for the delivery of content more than how the content is presented, or what the content communicates to the user. So I don't think that our business and our technology approach really is relevant to some of the censorship issues that Google and others have faced.
9) Open source and Linux seem to be at the height of their popularity. The software industry feels their presence more strongly than ever before. Aren't you worried this might be another bubble in the making? What if the hype outpaces the code?
MS: Well, you know, it's funny, I have seen the highest of highs and lowest of lows over the almost ten years at Red Hat. I haven't seen that bubble yet and I certainly hope that we're not at the height of popularity. I hope what you're seeing is that the market forces have now decided who will be the short term leaders and winners. And I think that Red Hat and open source have got to prepare themselves with both the industry leadership, with the development of an equal system and investment structures for future Red Hats. And most importantly, the benefits of the technology are compelling that the customers would want to spend their money for. I think what you're witnessing is that open source software both as a development paradigm and most importantly for the value that it creates for the customer is really producing shocking results positively on behalf of customers worldwide. And Red Hat is approaching a million customers under service right now.
In 2001 the marketplace and the industry pundits were questioning whether Linux and open source would ever make it into the enterprise market. To achieve this kind of market penetration in such a short period of time to a very demanding global customer base, as I have mentioned, validates the quality of software that comes out of the open source community, the benefits our customers are receiving. It's certainly the economic model that Red Hat has been able to innovate.
10) Where do you see Red Hat in ten years? Is it going to be just more subscribers, or do you plan a move in a different direction?
MS: Well, I believe that over the next ten years governments and enterprises will spend over two hundred billion dollars upgrading and modernising their worldwide computing infrastructure. So we are faced with and unprecedented opportunity as these markets begin to evolve their older and ageing Unix systems, their older and ageing mainframe systems, the education of next generation of technical talent and software development talent around open source software and the development skills that come with it. So I believe that our current focus on the existing enterprise as well as the government marketplace is the marketplace that is fertile and largely untapped.
But I would also add that we continue to do innovative work around activities like the one laptop per child, around the technology that we presented in Nashville, Tennessee at our summit two months ago, around Mugshot which really is a crossover opportunity to get into the social networking and the consumer marketplace with an idea that we continue to advance. So I think that from the philosophy of making content available, working in a collaborative fashion with global communities of users and continuing to focus on the benefits to the customer as well as short financial benefits to the enterprise, I think our future looks very bright.
11) What about open source hardware or media content? Might Red Hat be interested?
MS: Absolutely. You know, we've worked really hard with a number of open source providers. Both on the legal side as well as on the strategy and deployment side. I sit on the board of the OpenCourseWare project at MIT which we think is a very compelling idea. So yes, I think we want to continue to drive home the importance of free and unfettered access to content. As the numbers of creators around the world have access to devices, as more of the world becomes networked and contributes to an integrated networked society, we think that open source software has a compelling role and Red Hat has a compelling role in that space as it relates to media.
12) Let's say you would have the chance to employ Linus Torvalds. First, would you like him to be part of the family? And second, in other words, what do you think of the current kernel development model? Would Red Hat be able and willing to take the reins sometime in the future?
MS: Well, you know, asking whether we'd like to have Linus Torvalds is like asking a basketball team whether they'd like to have Michael Jordan. The answer to that is obvious. I think both Linus' value systems and also clearly his technical competency are compliment to any organization. And his leadership and his vision for the Linux kernel and the open source software has always been inspiring to me.
In terms of the Linux kernel development method, I think people like Alan Cox and Ingo Molnar and a variety of contributors around the world have clearly communicated that the open source model in the kernel development methodologies along with the tools and other components will live long after the current maintainers move on to do other interesting things. And that's really been the history and one of the great promises of open source software that it's not dependent on a single individual. So, I think we've continued to see very strong improvements in the Linux kernel since the 2.4 kernel release. I think that Red Hat has always worked in support of upstream releases and working in tandem with the community. And you'll see another further evidence of this with the release of virtualization and how it leverages a lot of the multithreading capabilities in and around the Linux kernel.
13) Looking at your successful IPO one has to think about VA Linux. In your opinion, where did they go wrong? What did you do right?
MS: The IPO, it's a long time ago. I think most people've forgotten it. I really don't know. They were a hardware company first and foremost, trying to sell Linux hardware at a time when Dell, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and certain organizations that were considerably larger in scale and resource were selling an integrated Red Hat Linux combination with Intel and AMD chips in competition with VA Linux. So you'd have to start first by questioning the economic model of the company. And then it becomes, of course, all of those other traditional activities like recruiting and hiring and a day to day, hour to hour execution. But most important, as in any technology company these days, is an absolute commitment and understanding of your customers' interests and behaviors. And I think I have mentioned that a customer in an enterprise or government marketplace had a choice to select Dell or HP or IBM hardware versus VA Linux for running Linux. It was probably challenging for VA guys to create a clear and differentiated position.
14) And last but not least: Did you ever get a chance to wear a red hat?
MS: My head's too big. My physical size... I have an Eastern European head. So I always had none of the standard sizes which red hats come with. I'm also very large, I'm six foot five inches tall, so if I had a red hat on my head I'd look like a lolipop.
RK: Well, that was the last of my questions. Thank you very much.
MS: I'd also like to tell you how impressed we have been with the quality of the people and the energy of the government and academic leaders we had the pleasure of working with in Brno. I myself, along with our vice-president of engineering, did all the research to investigate where we wanted to build a strategic development location. And how impressed we were by the entire process and the quality of people that we dealt with. It was unuasal, it was motivating to us, and we're very happy with our selection.
RK: I'm very happy to hear that. Thank you for your time.
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