TLWIR 21: NASA, Fedora 16, and Red Hat’s Strategy

by Rex Djere on October 10, 2011


NASA and Red Hat are each causing free software’s progress, but they are doing so from very different angles. NASA is a U.S. government agency that is following government directives to save money, make itself more open and transparent, and to stop building its software from scratch. What sense does it make to keep building software from scratch when so much of the work has already been done by others? NASA’s International Space Apps Challenge is one way for the agency to work smarter, and not harder, in an era of declining federal budgets. Red Hat is a corporation that is on track to become the world’s first billion dollar Linux company. Red Hat has accomplished this by quietly providing a far cheaper service, at a very high quality level, to businesses. Red Hat uses a tool that proprietary software companies are having a very hard time competing with: free software. Here are the stories for The Linux Week in Review 21:

  • NASA Launches Contest To Develop Open Source Weather Application
  • A Preview of Fedora 16
  • Red Hat’s Billion Dollar Strategy

NASA Launches Contest To Develop Open Source Weather Application

NASA cares a lot about weather conditions, so much so that it is hosting a competition to create an open source weather application to meet its needs. The new contest is called the International Space Apps Challenge. The challenge is just the latest example of NASA embracing free software and open source. Since 2009, NASA has attempted to follow the Obama administration’s Open Government Directive, which calls on the U.S. Federal government and its agencies to be more open, transparent, and collaborative. The International Space Apps Challenge is the latest NASA project to bring this spirit of openness to NASA’s software development.

The International Space Apps Challenge won’t just be about weather. It will focus identifying problems on a global scale, and finding solutions. These problems include climate change and declining global resources. NASA is now a member of a growing international community that appreciates that collaboration, trust, sharing, and openness are a good formula for success in the 21st century and beyond.

The International Space Apps Challenge will actually occur on yet-to-be-determined dates in 2012. NASA will coordinate the event with space agencies all around the world. You can periodically check with this website for more details and updates:

A Preview of Fedora 16

I, for one, am at a loss as to why Gnome 3 is so controversial. I understand that people often hate change, but I have used Gnome 3 since the release of Fedora 15, and I find it to be a wonderful computing experience. I find Gnome 3 to be much cleaner and clutter-free than previous Gnome iterations. In fact, Gnome is just one of the many reasons that I remain committed to the Fedora desktop. Yes, Gnome 3 does not make it as easy for power users to use their advanced techniques, but underneath the surface, all of those advanced tools are still there. I recently wrote a bash shell script in Gedit, and ran it perfectly through the Gnome terminal. If you want to get your hands dirty in Gnome 3, you still can.

Fedora 16 is going to demonstrate some very nice and very innovative technology that will eventually make its way into Red Hat Enterprise Linux. For example, Fedora 16 will feature the latest release of Gnome, version 3.2. It will also have much better support for cloud deployments due to the recently incorporated HekaFS. HekaFS is basically a cloud-ready version of the Gluster File System. Gluster is an open source file management company that was recently purchased by Red Hat. Fedora 16 will also support KDE Plasma Workspaces 4.7, a creative desktop and netbook operating environment.

The alpha and beta versions of Fedora 16 were recently released, and development is ongoing at a fast pace. The deadline for final changes to the OS is October 24, 2011, and the final release is currently scheduled for November 8th, 2011. Fedora 15 was one of the best Fedora releases ever, and I am anxiously looking forward to Fedora 16.

Red Hat’s Billion Dollar Strategy

North Carolina-based Red Hat is on a course to become the world’s first billion dollar Linux company. Almost two decades of blood, sweat, and tears have led to Red Hat’s meteoric growth since the company was founded by Bob Young and Marc Ewing back in 1993. How did Red Hat use Linux to turn itself from coal to diamonds in such a short period of time? The answer is twofold. A combination of good management, and a burning desire on the part of consumers for better solutions led to Red Hat’s success. One of the key innovations of Red Hat was its Red Hat Network. For one set price, business customers were given access to a broad range of tools. This was in great contrast to other big companies that wanted the customer to pay fees for each service rendered, and licensing fees for EVERY computer used. In short, Red Hat allowed customers to save money…and a lot of it. Businesses continue to flock to Red Hat to escape the madness of proprietary vendor overpricing and lock-in.


So who is saving money using Red Hat’s software and services? A lot of people. Many of the world’s stock exchanges have switched to Linux because it has proven itself more reliable and secure than the alternatives. Red Hat serves a big percentage of the companies that have switched. I recently learned that the streaming music service Pandora is one of Red Hat’s customers. The fact of the matter is that Red Hat has become too big to fail. It’s course to becoming a billion dollar company is set in stone because so many business are coming to rely on them. Red Hat has a very bright future ahead of it, and their success furthers the success of GNU/Linux in general.


Conclusions: The Obama administration has been the subject of a lot of criticism due mostly to the current global economic malaise. However, one area in which it is very difficult to criticize them is in the area of the advancement of free software and open source. I have never seen the movement towards freedom progress so fast! I believe that the Obama administration has created an environment where free software not only survives, but it thrives and prospers. NASA is one of the U.S. government agencies that is leading the way, and open source companies like Red Hat are helping to fundamentally change our economy. The protests on Wall Street and throughout the United States are fundamentally against corporate greed. The open source and free software communities have a completely different conception of profits, and the business’ relationship with its customers. Open source companies communicate and collaborate with their customers. They do not just drop a fee on their customers without consulting with them first (as Bank of America just did). Free software is changing how businesses relate to their customers, and I believe this: if more corporations would adopt the principles of free software, they would be better perceived. They would not have the reputation of being greedy because one of the fundamental tenets of the free software movement is that you do NOT unilaterally make decisions without making your customer a part of the conversation. This idea is not exclusive to software development, it just makes good common sense. As “greedy” corporations continue to see companies like Red Hat increase their profits quarter after quarter, they may begin to take a hard look at how they do business. That is a good thing!


Thank you for reading TLWIR 21. I look forward to seeing you in The Linux Week in Review 22. Have a great week!



D. (2011, September 26). NASA’s open source space applications challenge. The H Open. Retrieved October 8, 2011, from

Gilbertson, Scott. (2011, October 04). Fedora 16: linux home for lost ubuntu gnomes. The Register, Retrieved from

Red Hat. (2011, October 7). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18:12, October 8, 2011, from //


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