Red Hat’s Controversial Decision: Splitting the Open Source Software Community


In Raleigh, North Carolina, Red Hat, a leading open-source software company, made an announcement that created a divide within the open-source community. This article dives deep into Red Hat’s controversial decision, exploring the reasons behind it and the impact it had on the community. From the internal conflicts to the emergence of competitors and partnerships, we explore the various perspectives surrounding this polarizing issue.

1. The Decision that Divided the Community:

Red Hat’s commencement of paywalling Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) left many within the open-source software community feeling shocked and disappointed. The article discusses the reactions of community members and the internal turmoil experienced by Red Hat employees.

2. Addressing Emerging Competitors:

Red Hat’s Vice President, Mike McGrath, explained that the decision to paywall RHEL was driven by the emergence of competitors copying RHEL, including its code mistakes, and offering these replicas to customers for free. The article provides insights into Red Hat’s perspective, emphasizing the importance of maintaining fair competition within the market.

3. A Difficult Choice between Community and Business:

While Red Hat’s decision served as a protective measure against undercutting rivals, it raised a debate between prioritizing community and business interests. The article explores the complexities of this dilemma and presents various viewpoints on whether Red Hat made the right choice.

4. Customer Reactions and Available Alternatives:

Customers relying on one-for-one versions of RHEL were left with three options: continue using downstream distributions, find another provider, or pay for Red Hat’s services. The article examines the implications of these alternatives and sheds light on the challenges faced by customers in adapting to the new policy.

5. Prominent Partnerships and Support:

Despite the initial backlash, Red Hat managed to secure significant partnerships after the RHEL decision. Salesforce, Oracle, and Cohesity are among the high-profile companies that have migrated to or expressed support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux. We delve into the impact of these partnerships on Red Hat’s standing within the industry.

6. Red Hat: The Evolution of Open Source:

Taking an in-depth look at Red Hat’s history and the evolution of Linux, we gain a broader understanding of the company’s rationale for its divisive decision. The article evaluates the changing nature of open-source software development, highlighting the shift from hobbyist contributions to payment-driven initiatives.

7. Red Hat’s Reach and Criticisms:

Red Hat’s market dominance is showcased by its impressive user base, with 90% of Fortune 500 companies utilizing the company’s services. However, the article also acknowledges the criticisms regarding Red Hat’s compliance with the GNU General Public License (GPL), reflecting the concerns raised by open-source advocates.

8. The Battle for Open Source’s Soul:

The article concludes with a poignant quote from Mike McGrath, suggesting that the romanticized notion of hobbyists driving open-source development is fading. This statement sparks a debate within the open-source community about the values and principles that should guide the movement.


Red Hat’s decision to paywall its flagship product, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, divided the open-source software community and generated mixed reactions. This article sheds light on the various perspectives surrounding this contentious issue. As the open-source landscape continues to evolve, it is crucial to strike a balance between nurturing the community’s values and ensuring sustainable business practices.

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