It is said Mahatma Gandhi once said:
“First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. And then you win.”
Although it has been shown that Gandhi never actually said this phrase, that doesn’t take away its relevance in the world. My previous company, Red Hat, used this quote as a statement for open source. And open source software certainly followed this trend.
I was first introduced to the Free Software movement when I was working at Lockheed Martin. I was frustrated with a Microsoft product and asked rhetorically out loud, “Isn’t there a Unix for the PC?” An intern asked me if I had ever heard of Linux. This was my first introduction to the Open Source operating system back in 1996. I was so impressed by the license that I started pushing it throughout my company at the time.
At first, most people just ignored it.
Later, I would read reports about Linux as a child’s operating system written by amateurs, and nobody took it seriously. People would laugh at the thought of using Linux in a production environment. But then it took hold, and we had executives calling Linux a cancer and such. There were lots of companies fighting to destroy Linux, but due to its open source nature, it could never be defeated. At least not on a technical platform.
Today, most people have accepted that Linux is the go-to operating system for servers and embedded devices alike. Basically, Linux has won. But I would like to extend that quote with “And then they join you.” As those that this quote attributes to, it was never about defeating others. It was about showing people a better way. This goes with both Gandhi as well as the Open Source methodology. That means once you win, those that once were against you will now join you.
For the last 10 years I have been employed by Red Hat. I have really enjoyed my time with them, and they have always taken open source seriously and maintained an “Upstream First” mentality, where changes should always be pushed upstream before they are incorporated into their own products.
I have left Red Hat to pursue a new adventure. I have joined a company that is known more for its proprietary software than its open source contributions. This company that I am now at, VMware, is taking open source seriously. By hiring myself and others, VMware is not just talking about open source, but wants to actively take part in the community.
Actions speak much louder than words. Linux and open source have won, and it’s here to stay. Linux is now a key part of enterprise software and companies like VMware acknowledge this. They are making an effort to join and become a productive member of the open source community.