- The freedom to pass the software on to anyone that needs it, even with your own enhancements -- including your staff, suppliers, customers, and (in the case of governments) citizens. This is bigger than it sounds. It means that instead of policing "software assets" on behalf of your suppliers to avoid a backlash from their trade-association enforcers, you're free to have anyone use the software they need. Unless you're making changes to open source software, license compliance is not a user issue.
As its CEO Jim Whitehurst hints, Red Hat's success has come from delivering those valuable freedoms. When software users are deciding which suppliers to deal with, they need to know whether their software freedoms are being respected and cultivated, not out of a sense of philosophical purity but because their budgets and success depend on it. All the values that differentiate open source for the CIO are derived directly from the seemingly abstract concept of "software freedom."
This is why I believe it's appropriate for procurement policies to prefer open source. It's not just a development methodology; it's also an indicator that the CIO is the one in control of the business relationships, not the suppliers. Open source is the software that lowers costs, avoids lock-in, and enables unexpected future uses of data and software. It's not a matter of angels on pinheads or out-of-touch geek obsession. It's exactly what the enterprises need today -- and Red Hat's billion-dollar revenue proves it.
This article, "Red Hat's $1 billion proves value of software freedom," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of the Open Sources blog and follow the latest developments in open source at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.