How Red Hat killed its core product and became a billion-dollar business

“Red Hat Enterprise Linux, the bits, the ones and the zeros, are not free,” Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst told Ars. “The source code is free and it’s freely available. But we compile those bits and we make it enterprise-class.”

Most importantly for major customers, Red Hat creates a long-term support edition every two years. It commits to support this for a full decade, to the point of taking critical fixes from the Linux community and back-porting them to the older versions.

“If you’re the New York Stock Exchange, the last thing you want is rapid change in your underlying operating system,” Whitehurst said.

If all Red Hat did was give away software and sell technical support, “we’d be a tiny little company that is marginally profitable,” he said.

(Full Story: How Red Hat killed its core product and became a billion-dollar business)

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