As a journalist, I get perturbed when I see talking heads on TV (on issues political, technological or otherwise) “attack the messenger” when the message they’re delivering isn’t something they agree with. The theory is, of course, that if you can discredit the person, then the public will not focus on the message — however legitimate it is to the conversation — and your position will win out.
I hate this. Reminds me of immature schoolyard antics from grade school. I know you are but what am I, etc. In the land of adults, which many of us presently inhabit I hope, I see no place for this kind of discourse. It leads to stagnation, and I’m fond of progression.
Today, I took another look at Ron Hovsepian’s keynote address from LinuxWorld last week, and his message of “expanding, extending, and enlarging” the Linux operating system. Was the message tainted a bit by the fact that Hovsepian is a businessman at the head of the number two commercial Linux distributor in the world? Sure it was, but there were points to be gleaned from his talk that I think the Linux community would be apt to mull over for a bit before they jump on the Microsoft hating bandwagon.
Red Hat’s Michael Evans, vice president of corporate development at the company, didn’t get that memo. Speaking to InfoWorld, Evans said he liked the idea but at the same time expressed doubts about the effort since Hovsepian was involved. “Personally, that he’s the guy that did the deal with Microsoft, I’m suspicious of things he says,” Evans told InfoWorld.
I’m not sure I agree. If this is true, shouldn’t we not also be suspicious of what Red Hat executives say, because they’re also trying to make a buck off of Linux? Maybe “paying a premium for Linux support” from Red Hat because it’s the best in town deserves a deeper look, eh, Oracle? Should we outright dismiss what Red Hat has to say about Oracle Linux whenever Oracle fires off a press release about another big name customer making the switch to that which Ellison has wrought? Obviously not. If we’re suspicious all the time, then we’re not doing work. We’re getting complacent — which was one of the pillars of Hovsepian’s keynote. Ironic, don’t ya think?
These personal attacks muddy the issue, which I am going to assume is exactly the point. They also do little to advance intelligent conversation (and this is where I’ll concede that my blogging may also fall into this category). Why is Red Hat attacking Novell so much these days anyway? Aren’t they currently kicking ass in the commercial Linux market? Last I checked it was bad business to even acknowledge the competition when you’re so far ahead in the standings.
Hovsepian’s keynote focused, as I said, on the expansion of Linux. He used phrases like “vendor neutral” to describe his ideas, and never once implied that Novell (or Microsoft) should be the one driving the ideas he put forth. Unlike many of the LinuxWorld keynotes last week, Novell’s was refreshingly lacking many of the self-aggrandizing remarks that plagued those of eBay and Amazon.com. Note to Amazon — we get it, you have a new SaaS initiative coming out, thanks for the advertisement for it in the middle of your keynote. Novell’s keynote did see a product pitch or two, as Hovsepian took some time in the middle there to gush about ZENWorks. It seemed out of place in a keynote full of general ideas about expanding Linux, but that doesn’t mean we should ax the entire speech en masse.
Aside from his moment of ZEN, Hovsepian seemed to be about promoting ways to take Linux past the enterprise success it’s enjoyed for the past five years or so. Linux is mission critical, sure, but there now exists the danger of complacency both with its developers and its corporate handlers.
Some points to address:
Today, if an ISV writes an application on Linux, it might run everywhere, and it might not. Even if it runs on multiple Linux distributions, the market desires that it be certified on multiple distributions. We need to work more on standardization. The Linux Standards Base is doing incredible work, but does anyone out there agree that there could is something more to be don? In a vendor neutral kind of way? Maybe you don’t agree with that. Why?
Sounds *somewhat* sane, right? Well it’s basically paraphrased from Jeff Jaffe’s blog over at Novell. So now it’s suddenly not worth pursuing or discussing at all?
Jaffe also calls for sacrifice, reducing fragmentation of Linux, and unification (standardization of ISV applications). But we should ignore them all because his company now has a newly created position for working with Microsoft? Maybe the LSB is doing great work, or maybe just good work. There’s now at least one major company out there that thinks more could be done with standards and certifications. Ignoring that opinion, and going along on the road to status quo feels like something to me. I can’t quite put my finger on it… oh wait, that’s right, it’s complacency.
Ultimately, we must remember that this was a keynote, meant to garner a few headlines and begin the brainstorming process–not solve any major problems. But to simply dismiss the message outright because you disagree with a company’s business plan seems kind of reckless to me. Don’t rest of your laurels just yet, Linux, there’s still much more to be done.