Red Hat, Is IBM Making a Desperate Grab?

CentOS, Fedora, Ubuntu, which comes to mind first. Even in the world of servers, the likely answer is Ubuntu which is debian based and not Red Hat based.

There are a few enormous reasons why Ubuntu and debian are winning the battle for Linux supremacy.

  1. Ease of Use
  2. Widely supported
  3. Extremely configurable
  4. Open source all the way through and thus FREE
  5. Popular, both an upside and a downside
  6. Ubuntu is a leader in developing distributed computing systems
  7. Ubuntu works with Amazon and others and will continue to do so unless it is sold

These are only a few of the reasons Ubuntu and debian constantly top the list of popular Linux distributions.

The same cannot easily be said for Fedora or CentOS. The lag in support alone costs time and money while frustrating users. While most aspects of the operating system are the same, Ubuntu has some serious advantages in a rapidly changing world.

The main advantage given for using CentOS is security. However, put in another way CentOS often lags behind in terms of support for various packages to allow a testing phase.  This might mean that a small undetected security breach leaks all of your files to a hacker while being quietly patched by a developer. It also means installing some cutting edge technology from source. CentOS may not be more secure at all.

Furthermore, when developing security applications or building extremely small packages, Arch Linux is typically the operating system of choice.

Fedora is definitely an unstable release as it tends to be where testing occurs for Red Hat.

Now, consider some of the other downsides which start to resemble a loop:

  • less popular operating systems tend to receive less support
  • operating systems that were once popular may be out of reach of many when starting to sell commercially (a concern for startups)
  • IBM is notoriously behind the times and seeing revenue decline
  • IBM has failed to capitalize even when it has a market advantage by years
  • commercial products restrict usage, further limiting the user base

With an increased likelihood that Red Hat distributions will suddenly stop being made available by Amazon and used by Oracle, Red Hat’s competition could be seeing purchase offers and a huge boost. However, if Ubuntu remains free, it’s already nascent popularity could spike a little.

There are trends which might break this loop. Commercial products always receive support. Commercial products are also pedaled in schools like drugs are to doctors. The last point is more mute as degree seeking students in non-business technical classes (where databases/operating systems/more technical math are taught) tend to shun anything that costs them money and Oracle and Android have an advantage everywhere else.

Basically, in the specialist, educational, and enthusiast markets, consumers and professionals may well start to shy away from Red Hat in fear of tying themselves and their products and wallets to IBMs.

All things given, why then, would IBM buy Red Hat for over $30 billion. They make $3 million per year.

  • Improve and modernize their own systems – at $30 billion?
  • Acquire talent that might improve their future product offerings to compete with Microsoft, Amazon, and the open source community – at $30 billion?
  • Spend even more money to build a business operating system to compete with Windows to try to attract Microsoft customers (Linux users don’t use Windows for the reasons they won’t use Red Hat now)

I am sure that the last point is fairly mute with Microsoft’s decades long technological leap over IBM.

Perhaps I am not seeing something but the conclusion seems to be that IBM’s lag in the AI space after an early lead has left it desperate and that, with the actual decline of Red Hat’s popularity and stock price over the last year mirroring the growth of other systems over the last 10 years, two dying animals are trying to combine their strengths.

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