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Software Development

This Week in Programming: IBM’s Red Hat Buy for Developers

Nov 3rd, 2018 6:00am by
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By now, we’re sure you’re tired of reading about how IBM’s acquisition of Red Hat is the 107-year-old company’s clear path forward into the age of the cloud. The PR machine has been grinding away dutifully to hammer out this message and we’re all receiving it, loud and clear.

But what about you, the developers? What do these headlines with hopeful quotes and astonishingly large dollar amounts mean for those of you who built the very product that Red Hat has surrounded with its rather valuable business model? And those of you who rely on it to build other software? And who use the tools and standards thus far created, supported, or otherwise influenced by a company synonymous with open source practices and ethos?

One blog post on the topic comes to us from Donald Fischer, TideLift CEO and co-founder, as well as former Red Hat Enterprise Linux product manager, who looks at why Red Hat got $34 billion and you got $0.

“Red Hat saw, earlier than most, that the ascendance of open source made the need to pay for code go away, but the need for support and maintenance grew larger than ever,” Fischer writes. “Thus Red Hat was never in the business of selling software, rather it was in the business of addressing the practical challenges that have always come along for the ride with software.”

While the post ends up primarily as a pitch for his own company, it highlights the problem nonetheless — this open source software was created and maintained by countless contributors who get none of that whopping $34 billion. Perhaps, Fischer suggests, “now that you know, next time you can get paid, too.”

Moving on from the potential implications on how open source contributors attempt to get their slice of the pie, there are numerous concrete effects we may see in the world of open source software and programming languages. For example, WSO2 CEO Tyler Jewell examines what this acquisition means for open source, writing that “IBM’s commercial- and patent-first culture will erode Red Hat’s open source and innovation advantages” and that “this acquisition is a disaster for the Kubernetes and Docker communities.”

“While IBM has participated in significant open source projects, it’s always been with a me-first mindset that works to exploit the positive advances of the open source upstream community,” Jewell writes. “Open source, at its core, advances when the commercial vendors that participate do so in a manner that shows selflessness by investing in the upstream’s goals, even if those goals conflict with the commercial interests of the vendor.”

Not only that, but the acquisition, he says, is “a loss for the mature, but essential, Java market where Red Hat and IBM are two of the top contributors.” Indeed, Application Developer Times also takes a look at the effects the acquisition will have on Java, rounding up several opinions on the matter. After all, “Red Hat is, in fact, the largest contributor to the OpenJDK next to Oracle.” One source tells ADT that, while the deal will certainly be good for the shareholders, “the reality is that the outcome for customers and the Java EE ecosystem may not necessarily be so rosy. It will likely mean less options for Java EE users and less market competitiveness.” Another source wonders “In terms of Java, does this mean Red Hat products will start shipping with the IBM Java VM?”

Of course, if you ask IBM about it, “developers are the winners” in this deal, with the company touting “more than 1000 IBMers active in open source with 78,000 IBMers trained to participate in open source” among other stats it says puts IBM in the “Top 3 in the world along with Google and Red Hat.”

Final word on the topic before we look at what else has been going on this past week in the world of programming — for more context on the topic of what the Red Hat acquisition will mean for open source, make sure to check out this week’s Context podcast here on TheNewStack.

This Week in Programming

  • Merge Complete: Speaking of multibillion-dollar tech acquisitions, GitHub pithily announced this week that Microsoft’s acquisition was complete, with the headline “Pull request successfully merged. Starting build…” The post goes on to offer many assurances that the company’s offerings will only change in good ways for developers, such as the continuance of the paper cuts project and “core scenarios like search, notifications, issues/projects, and our mobile experience.”
  • Testing Rust 2018: The Rust community would like to enlist the help of its members to help test Rust 2018, which is the latest “edition” of the software. “Editions,” they explain, “are a way to capture the progress delivered incrementally by our ordinary six-week release cycle – and focus Rust libraries, tooling, and documentation cohesively around it.” This year’s edition is themed to focus on productivity and there are just six weeks left before it ships.
  • Kotlin 1.3 Adds Coroutines, Contracts: Your favorite Google-endorsed Android programming language, Kotlin, has announced Kotlin 1.3 Released with Coroutines, Kotlin/Native Beta, and more and InfoWorld offers up a quick synopsis on what’s new in Kotlin 1.3, focusing on contracts. According to the article, “contracts are an experimental addition meant to enrich the type information available through the function system with additional meanings useful at the call site.” But the additions don’t stop there, so make sure to read on for the full list of features.
  • What Happened to GitHub? On another note, GitHub, you may have noticed, experienced a little bit of downtime last week and the company is now ready to offer its in-depth post-incident analysis. Interestingly enough, the entire affair resulted from “routine maintenance work to replace failing 100G optical equipment [that] resulted in the loss of connectivity between our US East Coast network hub and our primary US East Coast data center. Connectivity between these locations was restored in 43 seconds, but this brief outage triggered a chain of events that led to 24 hours and 11 minutes of service degradation.” For the interested, the post goes into explicit detail on the how and why of what happened and what the company is doing to fix it and prevent it from happening again.
  • Fifty Years of BASIC: I’m not entirely sure what the kids are up to these days, but I somehow imagine you didn’t spend your youth poring over the BASIC manual. Well, I did (along with a whole generation or two), so this week’s retrospective in Time Magazine on Fifty Years of BASIC, the Programming Language That Made Computers Personal really strikes a chord. We can only lament that the BASIC creators didn’t succeed in their initial attempts at creating another language — DOPE (Dartmouth Oversimplified Programming Experiment). Wouldn’t that be… dope?

Red Hat is a sponsor of The New Stack.

Feature image: IBM’s Angel Diaz and Todd Moore discuss the Red Hat acquisition.

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